Council approves purchase of Fowler building, considers PID assessments

2017-01-05 - City Hall Inaguration-03093-20-web

City Council members were joined by staff and members of the Liberty Hill Chamber of Commerce as a ceremonial ribbon was cut at the new City Administration Building Jan. 5. City staff more than 100 attended an open house and took tours through the new facility. (Alex Rubio Photo)

By Sarah Silberstein

The City Council voted Monday to purchase the historic Fowler building downtown for $225,000, and approved proposed public improvement district assessments for properties within Liberty Parke subdivision.

Following a 25-minute executive session, the Council voted unanimously to approve the purchase, which will be made with revenue generated by tax notes.

Council member Elizabeth Branigan said the City intends to restore the historic building at 1000 Loop 332 to its original state and plans to use it for offices and meeting space with the possibility of a small museum showcasing sketches and artifacts from the 1976 Liberty Hill International Sculpture Symposium that was organized by Mel Fowler from his art studio there.

City Administrator Greg Boatright told The Independent in December that the first floor of the building would house the Liberty Hill Chamber of Commerce and the City’s Economic Development Corp. The second floor would be home to the symposium museum.

A Conflict of Interest form was filed on behalf of Mayor Connie Fuller. Mayor Fuller, a real estate agent with RE/MAX Town & Country, had no role in the sale of the Fowler Building and did not benefit personally from the sale in any way, but filed the form because of her ties to the real estate firm.

The Council held the first of two public hearings Monday on Liberty Parke Public Improvement District (PID), a 147.23-acre development located off State Highway 29.

PID bonds will be issued by the City of Liberty Hill to the Liberty Parke developers in the amount of $6.57 million. The funds will be used toward construction of the entryway, landscaping, open space, trails, and improvements to the roads, water distribution system, sewer system and storm system.

The assessment, which determines the amount to be repaid by each homeowner in the subdivision, needed to be adjusted due to projected cost increases based on current market conditions, city officials said.

LGI Homes has begun construction on 27 lots in Phase 1, however, the approved assessment needs to be in place before the sale of the homes as the assessment cannot be levied retroactively.

According to Boatright, the new assessment was reviewed by City Engineer Curtis Steger who agreed the adjusted costs were appropriate.

The Council approved a resolution to adopt the revised assessment plan and instructed staff to notify applicable parties and to hold another public hearing regarding the Liberty Parke PID during the next council meeting on Jan. 23.

Other items on Monday’s agenda that concerned Liberty Parke PID were tabled until Jan. 23.

The council met in executive session to consult with legal counsel regarding the PID assessments, but took no action in open meeting.

Also Monday, the Council discussed safety concerns brought to their attention by community members regarding the proposed speed increase on Bagdad Road, the speed limit on SH 29, and the possibility of adding bike lanes or trails to connect parts of the city.

Mayor Fuller appointed council members Branigan and Wendell McLeod to work with Boatright to create a resolution that will be sent to Williamson County and Texas Department of Transportation addressing these concerns.

“[Discussions like this] shed light on the glaring hole in our overall planning [regarding] our transportation, included in that is bike and pedestrian,” Boatright said. “The staff realizes that and we are working on getting a plan together to present to Council that will help us close some of the gaps that we have.”

Boatright also spoke to the Council about the open house Jan. 5 at the new City Administration Building.

“Citizens can see the city is active in the community,” he said. “There were good conversations about Liberty Hill and where we’re going.”

Boatright informed the Council that staff should be ready to provide recommendations for a suggested firm to design the City Park swim center, and walking trail at the next meeting. Boatright also informed the Council that renovations at the Municipal Court Building have fallen behind schedule and are not expected to begin until the beginning of March.

Mayor Fuller presented a certificate to Bobby Mabry of LHISD and council member Ron Rhea of Fortis Academy in recognition of the dedication of educators and to commemorate School Choice Week, which is Jan. 22-28.

The next council meeting and public hearing will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 23 at the Municipal Court Building located at 2801 Ranch Road 1869.