Citizens rail against annexation plan
By LPR Staff
In hopes of maintaining control of development as State Highway 130 is built through Caldwell County, the City of Lockhart recently announced plans to annex more than 2,100 acres of property to the west and northwest of the current city limits. The proposal, which the council should decide on during their Dec. 19, 2006 regular
meeting, came under heavy fire from area property owners during two public hearings this week.
“I am not against protecting the property, but I can probably protect my farmstead better than you can,” noted Charles Spillman, who owns a farm in the area to be annexed off FM 2001. “I understand your need to exert control, but I don’t know how you plan to protect my farmstead, and I’d rather not pay city taxes when I already have the services I need.”
Several other property owners echoed Spillman’s concerns, saying Caldwell County provides them with sufficient fire, EMS and law enforcement protection. Some asked if “opting out” of the annexation was an option.
“Any change in the annexation boundaries will require rewriting the metes and bounds description, which is done by the city engineer’s office,” said City Planner Dan Gibson. “We would not want to remove a property such that a “hole” would be created, whereby an un-annexed area is surrounded on all sides by [annexed property].”
Gibson suggested to the council that allowing property owners to “opt out” would be detrimental to the whole of the proposal.
District One Councilmember Kenny Roland also marked concern for property owners who use their property for agricultural purposes. Under current city ordinances, barbed wire fences can only be used in industrial and law-enforcement settings, and then only when the barbs are more than six feet from the ground.
“What if people need to repair a fence or change their pastures?” Roland asked. “Are we going to not let them do that because we have existing ordinances that don’t allow it?”
Roland, along with other councilmembers, asked Gibson to review any ordinances that might be relevant to the annexed property, particularly with regard to building fences and the use of firearms, and bring changes to the council prior to the Dec. 19 vote.
Should the annexation proposal pass the council, property owners will be subject to City of Lockhart tax levies effective Jan. 1, 2007. Those levies will be billed during the Caldwell County Appraisal District’s 2007 billing cycle.
In the meantime, Gibson noted, owners of the annexed property will have certain city services available, including emergency services and trash collection.
A main point of contention, however, is that city officials have publicly stated that there are no plans to provide water, wastewater or electricity services to the annexed areas in the near future.
“Water and wastewater in those areas is in our long-range plan,” said City Manager Vance Rodgers. “We just don’t have the funds to provide those services right now.”
Mayor James “Jimmy” Bertram tried to assure the concerned property owners that the City is concerned, not with legislating family farms and ranches, but with protecting development that might be spurred by SH130.
“We’ve heard from other cities that didn’t annex before they built the highway, and now they’re scrambling to catch up,” Bertram said. “We want to make sure that as development starts to happen, that our citizens and their homes have a reasonable chance of being protected.”
Despite public opposition to the annexation, it seems widely supported by the council.
In other council business, Police Chief Mike Lummus presented a proposal to allow for uniform traffic enforcement within the city limits.
“Right now, we don’t have any policy in place,” he said. “Enforcement is based largely upon the ‘best judgment’ of the enforcement officers. A uniform policy will alleviate that and make things equal across the board.”
Under the proposed policy, police officers will have specific standards under which they enforce traffic laws, including “grace periods” in the areas surrounding speed-limit signs and standards for judging when and how to issue citations for speeding.
According to Lummus, the policy is still in the planning phase. More information will be available to the council and the public as the policy nears completion.
In brief council news:
The panel approved a contract with Four B Paving of Spring Branch to hot-seal cracks in some city streets.
They approved the purchase of a public information electronic sign to be installed at City Hall.
The city discussed an agreement with GovDeals, an online auction company, for the public sale of excess equipment.
The Lockhart City Council meets on the first and third Tuesday of each month in the Glosserman Conference Room at Lockhart City Hall. Meetings are open to the public, and broadcast on Time Warner Cable Channel 10.