Council amends parkland ordinance



Over the objections of a developer, the Liberty Hill City Council voted unanimously Monday to amend an ordinance requiring residential subdivisions of 12 or more single-family or multi-family units to provide parkland or pay a fee in lieu thereof.

Breck Kean of Georgia-based Prestwick Development, which was awarded federal housing tax credits to construct a 68-unit apartment community for senior citizens on Bailey Lane, said the existing ordinance did not apply to his development. He questioned the timing of the change suggesting the City of Liberty Hill was targeting Liberty Manor. His comments were made during a public hearing on the change. No one else addressed the Council.

“I feel strongly that this ordinance is being pushed through targeting Liberty Manor,” Kean said. “The existing ordinance did not apply and the new one makes us pay. You’re changing the rules in the middle of the game.”

Before the amendment was adopted Monday, the ordinanace called for parkland dedication from subdivisions of more than four single family lots. Kean said the wording did not apply to the proposed apartment complex because it was multi-family housing.

Following an executive session that continued for one hour and 20 minutes, City Attorney Natasha Martin said the intent of the original ordinance was for all residential developments to provide parkland or provide a payment that would help the City develop more parks.

Councilmember Elizabeth Branigan said she requested the ordinance be changed to more accurately define those subdivisions effected.

On August 28, the Planning & Zoning Commission addressed the issue and voted 2-1 with five members present to recommend the language change.

Kean questioned Monday whether the vote was legal considering two members abstained from voting.

“That is not a majority,” he said. “I question the validity of whether this truly passed.”

The City’s attorney said the P&Z vote was valid as a quorum of members was present and voting.

P&Z members Clyde Davis, who also serves as chairman, and Chris Pezold abstained from the vote because of a perceived conflict of interest. Davis owned the property sold to Liberty Manor and Pezold is developing another multi-family rental community on Stubblefield Lane.

Chief Financial Officer Amber Lewis told The Independent that the parkland fee applicable to Liberty Manor is about $60,000.

“We’re here to bring a great senior housing development to the community,” said Kean. “I thank you (the City Council) for your support (in the past), but don’t change the rules in the middle of the game. This will directly effect the amenities and the quality we are able to offer.”

In the past, Kean said the two-story facility will offer one and two-bedroom apartments. Inside the complex, residents would have access to a fitness center, business center, health screening room, an activities room with a catering kitchen and other amenities. He said residents would be age 55 or older with an annual income of $25,000-$30,000.

The City of Liberty Hill has one park on CR 200, which is used primarily by youth recreational sports leagues.

In other business Monday, the Council held its second public hearing on the proposed tax rate for fiscal 2014. No one spoke at the hearing, nor at the first of the two state-required hearings, which was held last month.

The Council has proposed a tax rate of $0.53426 per $100 valuation. While the rate did not change from the current year, property values increased, which will mean an increase in revenue. The proposed tax rate is higher than the rate at which citizens could call for a rollback election.

Prior to the regular meeting, the Council met for a budget workshop, but no action was taken during the workshop or the regular meeting.

Also Monday, the Council briefly reviewed a sample ordinance regulating mobile food vendors and requested the City Attorney to draft the ordinance for use in Liberty Hill. The document will be returned to Council for additional discussion and final approval.

City Manager Greg Boatright told the Council that he plans to present a financing plan and project schedule for the Bagdad water line during the regular meeting Sept. 22. He said the City is awaiting action by Williamson County Commissioners on county-proposed improvements to Bagdad Road, which will impact the placement of water lines in the right of way.

The placement of water lines along Bagdad Road will facilitate the City in obtaining its water from Lake Travis through the City of Leander.

“The water in Lake Travis is important because we have maxed out now,” Boatright said. “We are requesting an increase from 100,000 to 350,000 gallons per day from Chisholm Trail (SUD), and we are also hoping to negotiate a wholesale rate.”

Chisholm Trail SUD, which will become part of the City of Georgetown’s water utility, has an agreement with the City of Liberty Hill to provide water to city water customers as needed up to 100,000 gallons per day. With projected growth and current drought conditions, city wells do not provide enough water.

Director of Public Works Wayne Bonnet said last month’s water loss was 5.57 percent, which he said was lower than the month before.

“We can get that down considerably with time,” he said.

Councilmember Troy Whitehead was not present Monday.