Annexation hearing raises downtown questions
By MIKE EDDLEMAN
The Liberty Hill City Council held the first of two public hearings on three different voluntary annexations totaling roughly 40 acres, but it was the 14.8 acres downtown that raised concerns among a pair of local residents.
At the center of the issue is what future developers have planned for the property.
“I hope to get some clarity of what is going on at 601 Stubblefield Lane,” said resident Chris Pezold, addressing the Council during the voluntary annexation public hearing. “How much more traffic is acceptable in Old Town? It appears to me that the question before the Council is how many more apartment units they would like to have in Old Town — 50, 150 or 300?”
Pezold said he understood the owners are seeking to have the property rezoned.
“Currently about five acres of this tract is inside the city limits and is zoned SF3 (single family) and is 10 units per acre, that’s 50 units,” Pezold said. “If the Council chooses to annex the remaining 10 or so acres of that tract they, too, would become SF3 and then we are looking at 150 units. On the ninth of December the Council will be voting on whether to zone this tract MF2 (multifamily), which would yield 300 apartment units.”
Mayor Rick Hall confirmed that the developers were seeking the zoning change to Multifamily 2, but at press time he was unsure of whether the zoning hearing and discussion would be included on the Dec. 9 council agenda.
The maximum density for Multifamily 2 is 20 units per acre.
Pezold said he heard the developer is not planning on developing the property until Stubblefield Lane improvements are made, and he questioned whether the Stubblefield project was even still under consideration.
Hall said the project is still planned, but is being altered from the original plan shelved earlier this year.
“Stubblefield Lane has not been taken off (the plan),” Hall said. “A couple of sections of Stubblefield have been done away with and one of them is the section through the (Fellowship) church’s property. What the Council has agreed to do is wait until the County has decided whether they will build in the SH 29 Bypass from 1869 over to CR 279 and instead of taking Stubblefield all the way to 279 we will connect it into the 29 Bypass.”
He said once the County begins that project the City will start the Stubblefield project.
Pezold asked the Council to hold off on annexing the property until the Stubblefield improvements are made and traffic impact is known.
“If this is done sooner I feel it opens the door wide for 150 to 300 apartment units to be built in Old Town,” he said. “If the roads and traffic concerns were addressed I would not have an issue with this project, but annexing at this point with no plan that has been made public for traffic improvement is unhealthy for this community.”
Mark Spinner, another resident of the downtown area also opposed the planned rezoning, arguing that infrastructure as it is would not support it.
“Three hundred, or even 100 apartments behind me will be a disaster,” said Spinner. “It’s Old Town, we need to keep it old. Adding more to something we don’t even have infrastructure for is a disaster. Annexing property for someone to develop something, we need put a no on it. If we’re going to develop we need to put it on a major thoroughfare, not in the middle of town or in an area that has a one-lane road.”
The second public hearing is scheduled for Monday’s regular Council meeting.
Following up on discussions at the Nov. 11 Council meeting regarding the makeup of the Liberty Hill Parks Board, Council members took up the discussion again Nov. 25 to decide who would stay and who would go, and how many members the board should have.
Board member Liz Branigan, who Hall had suggested removing to substitute with a current member of the City Council, made her case for remaining on the Board during public comments.
“Since 2012, it has been both an honor and a privilege to serve the community on the Parks Board,” said Branigan, a former City Council member. “We have been the most creative, most energetic, most innovative and most responsive (board) to the community the City has ever known.”
Branigan reminded the Council the Parks Board previously had seven members and she suggested rather than removing current members the Council should consider increasing the board from five to seven once again.
When the Council took up the issue, Council member Kathy Canady said she opposed increasing the Parks Board to seven members, fearing an inability to regularly have a quorum for meetings, but favored keeping Branigan on the Board.
“I would like to see the board have to have two members from the city limits on that five-member board,” said Canady. “We have one member right now who is in the city limits and that’s Liz Branigan. We shouldn’t put someone off the board who is our only person in the city limits. If we add a council member that would give us two people from the city limits on the board.”
Council member Tony DeYoung said he favored expanding the board to seven members, but Canady’s motion to keep the number at five and remove Mosby Hamilton rather than Branigan gained a second and was approved 4-1 with DeYoung opposing. Steve McIntosh is the Council member appointed to the Parks Board going forward.
Parks Board officers for the upcoming year were confirmed with Mary Lyn Jones continuing as Chair, Mike Wilson as Vice Chair and Branigan as Secretary.