Projects moving forward in Liberty Hill

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By Christine Bolaños

Several projects are moving forward that will help shape Liberty Hill’s growth after the City Council gave its approval on Monday.

A new Public Improvement District was created for Liberty Parke to replace the original district, which omitted three acres from the legal description.

“It was kind of flux at the time the PID was created,” City Administrator Greg Boatright told council members.

The project encompasses about 150 acres of real property inside the city limits near Classic Bank. It is located south of State Highway 29, west of CR 213 and is bordered on the south by railroad tracks.

Public improvements will include wastewater collection and treatment, stormwater drainage and detention system, parks, open space and landscaping and public streets.

According to the notice informing taxpayers of the PID, estimated cost for public improvements is about $6.42 million. However, the PID recreation petition requested that the City of Liberty Hill issue up to $7 million in bonds payable from “special assessments” levied on property located in the PID. Approval and creation of the PID does not force the City to provide funds to finance public improvements.

Annexations

At the meeting, the Council also approved annexation of certain properties into the city limits as requested by owners. There was a public hearing regarding this item but no one chose to speak. The newly annexed properties will be included in the city’s official zoning map.

Restaurant moves forward

Council members accepted the site development permit for Bella Sera Restaurant.

City and restaurant officials agreed the project is a long time coming and fills a need in a growing community like Liberty Hill. The Italian eatery will be located at the corner of Highway 29 and Brown Bridge Road.

“It’s been a long time coming and we’re super excited about these guys getting started and getting moving,” said Sally McFeron, city planning director. “There’s going to be lots of improvements on that particular site.”

These include paving and expansion, she said. The existing building is 2,068 square feet. The restaurant will expand the facility by 800 square feet to make room for a kitchen.

John Villarreal of JV CADD, the agent for property owners Ahmet Usaj and Vebi Mustafa, also addressed council members. He echoed some of McFeron’s comments.

“It’s been a long time coming as Sally said,” Villarreal said.

He shared that the owner has restaurants in Copperas Cove, Kerrville and Marble Falls among other communities.

“I’ve been involved with the project since November of 2014,” Villarreal said. “We’re excited to come to the city of Liberty Hill; we’ve worked on this for a while.”

He said those involved with the project believe Bella Sera Restaurant will be a draw in that corner as well as an improvement for the city.

“I know the community as a whole is looking forward to Bella Sera coming here,” Villarreal added.

He said the restaurant will be designed in Mediterranean style ambience. He said the owners envision expanding the facility if it opens successfully.

“Welcome,” Mayor Connie Fuller told the owners and Villarreal. “We’re glad to have you. I know your food is good because I’ve eaten at your Marble Falls restaurant a number of times.”

Orchard Ridge

The Council approved amendments to a development agreement between the City and Orchard Ridge Subdivision under construction on Highway 29. The agreement also adds land and assigns the city as retail wastewater service provider to all customers located within the 228-acre tract.

The “all-natural” community is slated for a summer opening. According to its website, the development, a “stately grove of classic Texas oak trees stands at the center of a new master-planned community in the Texas Hill Country.”

Orchard Ridge will reportedly embrace healthy living, connectivity, stewardship of the land and a strong foundation of home and family.

According to liveorchardridge.com, “Orchard Ridge is an amazing collection of amenities and scenic expanses inspired by the past — with an eye toward the future.”

Oaths

Mayor Fuller, and Council members Wendell McLeod and Ron Rhea took the oath of office during the meeting, officially re-instating them for a new two-year term of office. All candidates were unopposed, and the City cancelled its election this month. The council re-appointed Liz Branigan as its Mayor Pro Tem.

Buffington

The council met in closed doors to discuss Lennar Buffington Stonewall Ranch, L.L.P. involuntary bankruptcy petition and receive an update from its attorney. According to City Secretary Barbara Zwernemann, once back in open session, the council agreed to the city attorney drafting a letter and the city administrator giving a letter to Lennar Buffington to inform of failure to comply with payment.

LUEs

The City of Leander requested to purchase living unit equivalents (LUEs) resulting in an addendum between Leander and Liberty Hill. Leander is purchasing 170 LUEs of wholesale wastewater service from Liberty Hill. The neighboring city is paying Liberty Hill $2,950 for a connection fee and applicable surcharges. Liberty Hill’s approval followed Leander City Council’s decision Thursday to approve the agreement.

Burn ordinance

During the public comments portion of the meeting, Liberty Hill resident and developer Jon Branigan brought up concerns about the city’s burn ordinance.

According to Branigan, the city’s ordinance follows closely with guidelines of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. He said the ordinance details what can and can’t be burned as well as how to burn and other pertinent information.

“But there is a current ban on burning in the city,” Branigan said. “In the ordinance there’s no rules there’s nothing you guys as a city council have done to prohibit burning.”

He said the current city administration told the fire department no one can burn.

“I can certainly see the safety issue behind burning,” Branigan said.

He recommended the city make it clear to residents what “vehicle you use to prohibit burning,” or “allow the citizens of the town to burn as outlined in the city ordinance.”

“As long as citizens follow the rules and regulations I can’t see why you would prohibit it,” Branigan said.

Later on at the meeting, the council approved an ordinance to “further define and amend Chapter 5” of the city’s code of ordinances.

“In our provisions here there’s exceptions that we can allow outdoor burning,” said McFeron. “In our current ordinance it’s for land clearing.”

People can apply for this exception by contacting the city administrator and the fire department who are involved with measuring.

“It has to be within 300 feet away from any structures basically,” McFeron said. “Whether businesses or houses or fireplace or even public right-of-way that can have a negative impact to surrounding people.”

She said there is not any place within city limits that an individual could burn without negatively impacting someone else. Citing public safety as the reason, she recommended the city council approve taking the part of the city ordinance related to land clearing out.

“Still maintain some of the other exceptions being fire training, domestic outdoor fires, disposal fires, disease and animal carcasses as methods of controlling disease, and veterinarian with disposal of animal remains,” McFeron said.

Before the council approved the motion, Boatright expressed his agreement.

“When we sign up on a permit basically what we’re saying is, ‘Yeah, go ahead and burn,’” Boatright said. “And then if something tragic were to happen whether it be a structure that burned because of that, or in this case, someone’s health being affected, we open ourselves up.”

Strategic planning meeting rescheduled

Due to missing the legal requirement to post notice of the city’s strategic planning meeting within 72 hours of the meeting, the City Council decided to reschedule it. The gathering is now scheduled for Monday, May 16, and will coincide with the city’s final push for more extra-territorial jurisdiction applications.

That meeting should help set the tone for the city’s future, Boatright said.

“We’ll have our staff outline a plan to accomplish things you outlined for us,” Boatright told council members. “And get a path to succeed based upon what you outline. There’s going to be a lot that we’re going to need to put into it, but most importantly, we want you all to help us and put your thinking caps on to really give us directions.

“I think with the help of your staff and your outside consultants,” Boatright added, “what we want to try to accomplish for our city can certainly be done.”

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