UDC discussion continues

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By MIKE EDDLEMAN

The City’s Unified Development Code (UDC) was back on the council agenda Monday night, and though no action was planned, the discussion implied that there is a ways to go before the issue is settled.

A number of questions have been raised about the new proposal, including rules for development in the city’s extra-territorial jurisdiction, and the rules for parks. But in the end, Monday’s focus came down to where in the adoption process the city is in considering the UDC.

Speaking in support of the proposed new guidelines and the openness of the process from the beginning, UDC Advisory Committee chair and Councilman Jon Branigan defended the work of the panel.

“I keep saying it, but we’ve published all of our meetings, there were lots of opportunities for the public to come out and speak on any concern they had,” he said. “We are a group of individuals who all care deeply about the community, and the decisions that we made to effect the UDC were not light decisions. The changes that we made only make this city better, and I can’t tell you how many times we’ve talked about it and discussed it, and now we are having discussion like it was brought up all behind closed doors. That’s not the case.”

Councilman Ron Rhea, in his comments about the status, acknowledged the work and effort of the committee, but said that was only part of the process as he saw it.

“The UDC (committee) is working on behalf of the city council,” he said. “We know the meetings were published, but I think it is impractical to think the whole city is going to come out while work is in progress.

“I, and the rest of the council, appreciate the hard work that the UDC committee committed themselves to do. The council appointed the UDC (committee) as a work in progress and what they recommend to be approved comes back to the staff and council. We agreed to 73 percent of what was in that. I would hardly say that we’re not appreciative of what the (committee) has done, but I don’t think we should rubber stamp things,” said Rhea.

Three members of the UDC Advisory Committee spoke in support of the proposals, with Wes Griffin opening the comments by addressing the need to reduce regulations.

“I’d just like to speak in support of the work we’ve done and bring some understanding to some of the basic philosophies, and that was that in my work, as an architect, in dealing with the regulations of cities and states regarding accessibility and these issues, there’s a world of regulations out there,” he said. “Every city that piles more on to people who are already dealing with the massive amounts they are, are just creating an atmosphere of difficulty for the builder, for the developer, for the property owner who just wants to do something simple.”

Clyde Davis and Chris Pezold each addressed the questions that have been raised in the last month regarding regulations on park frontage, parkland in the flood plain and water utilities at parks.

“When a developer comes into town, they have to give up eight percent of their property, or eight percent of the cost of it, so if they buy a million-dollar piece of property they are giving up $80,000. That’s on top of their purchase price,” Davis said.

Davis is a real estate broker and chairs the Planning & Zoning Commission.

Pezold warned that having to have amenities like bathrooms at all parks – specifically smaller ones – would create a future burden on the city and taxpayers to maintain those facilities. He also mentioned a number of popular, well-used parks in neighboring communities that are built in the flood plain.

Pezold and Branigan are developers, and both own residential developments inside the city limits.

Speaking again to keep the park dedication rules as they are currently written, Parks & Recreation Board Chair Mary Lyn Jones said the Board would prefer to make exceptions on a case by case basis rather than to relax the rules.

“We’re always willing to visit with a developer and also make exceptions to some of the rules, so our feeling was we would rather make exceptions, rather than making the exception the rule,” she said. “We would like to keep the parkland dedication guidelines like they are.”

She also reminded the Council that having large portions of the City’s parks in the flood plain would detract from its value.

“If we accept 100 percent (of the land) in the flood plain, that reduces the value of the land and that hurts us when we apply for grants,” she said.

Mayor Connie Fuller said after the meeting that the plan was to come up with a way to review the concerns in the proposed UDC changes in future meetings.

“We’re going to bring it back,” she said. “We have an ordinance with a whole bunch of different sections. We want to be able to discuss these sections by themselves instead of just passing the whole thing as it is.”

She added that, logistically, it would be an overwhelming challenge to discus it in its entirety at one meeting.

“We would like to be able to discuss a portion of it at a time, and we’re going to talk about that at our strategic planning meeting (Feb. 22-23) and see how the Council would like to do it. A lot of it is really good, but there are some objections to it. I just want the public to have the proper amount of opportunity to talk about it,” she said.

One-way streets
The Council voted 3-1, with Branigan opposing and Wendell McLeod absent, to approve the change of six streets downtown to one way.

The plan will make Aynsworth, Munro and Myrtle streets one-way south, while Fallwell and Grange streets will be one way north. Barton will be one way north, toward RR 1869, where a divider will allow traffic to go either direction on RR 1869.

The cost of the project, to include signage and necessary street improvements at intersections, is $36,522.50.

Branigan’s opposition was based on previous concerns raised regarding whether Barton should remain two way, at least temporarily.

Parks Foundation formed
The Council voted unanimously to approve the creation the Liberty Hill Park Foundation, a non-profit established to help the City in the development of park space and amenities. It is intended to help the City in efforts to win grant funds. The Council appointed five directors for the foundation, to include Garrett Martin, Mayor Fuller, City Administrator Greg Boatright, Parks and Recreation Chair Mary Lyn Jones and Janet Oliver.

Lift Station improvements
Prota Construction was awarded the bid Monday for Lift Station No. 1 improvements for $542,666. Seven contractors bid on the project. Improvements include the cost of creating a bypass during the work, safety improvements, and three new pumps. Prota’s bid was the low bid, with the highest of the seven coming in at $777,350. Prota is currently finishing up similar work at the MUD 19 lift station.

Salaries
The Council met in executive session Monday to discuss the salaries of Public Works Director Wayne Bonnet and Police Chief Maverick Campbell.

After reconvening, the Council voted unanimously to increase the salary for each, as part of the previous plan passed in December 2017 to raise staff salaries to market median. The increases Monday were to correct calculations made previously, according to Boatright.

“The percentages were what the Council intended to adopt,” he said. “What did not get adopted correctly was the salary to match the percentage of increase.”

The increase will be reflected in a 6.5 percent increase in each of the next two years – 2018 and 2019 – for Bonnet, ultimately bringing his salary up to $101,670 in 2019. The same was done for Campbell, but at 7.5 percent in each year, to raise his salary to $112,070.40 by that time.

Mike@LHIndependent.com

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