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Council clears way for new car lot

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By LPR Staff

Editor/POST-REGISTER

 

After a brief public hearing on Tuesday evening, the Lockhart City Council upheld the recommendation of the Planning and Zoning Commission, entering a zoning change that will clear the way for a proposed car lot on Highway 183.

The request, made by developer Coy Haynes, on behalf of the property owners, the

Tally Family Trust, addresses four lots bordered by Highway 183, Rosewood Street and Brazos Street. Currently, the property is home to the Guadalajara Bakery and Market, a vacant lot, and a residence with one outbuilding.

According to City Planner Dan Gibson, the changed use of the property is consistent with the future land use plan for the area. However, a neighboring church took exception to the idea of the rezoning.

“We aren’t against the property owners, but we don’t think it will be good for the neighborhood,” said Larry Hargraves, the longtime pastor of the Brazos Street Baptist Church, which is across the street from the subject property, in the largely-residential neighborhood on Brazos Street. “The back of the lot will face our church, and we’re worried that… the backs of properties are always where the junk collects.”

Although the council cannot order the property owner to fence the property to shield the view to the church, they did recommend that City Staff facilitate a meeting between the church and the developers, in order to encourage the new business to be “a good neighbor.”

Gibson said there was only one portion of the property where screening would be required, where the property shares a boundary line with a residential district. However, in his experience, new businesses are generally willing to work with the neighbors to encourage good relationships as they develop their businesses.

“Because of the weather, the developer was not able to get here,” said Delmar Tally, the current owner of the subject property. “But he wanted to make sure that I passed along to you that they are planning on building a facility that this town can be proud of, and that will help our tax base.”

Ultimately, the council voted 5-1 to approve the zoning change, with Councilmember John Castillo not offering an explanation for his choice to vote against the measure.

The council also engaged in extensive discussion about the City’s sign ordinance, specifically with regard to prohibited signs and exemptions.

The discussion was brought forth by Gibson after he reported hearing community concerns from business owners who are prohibited from using “inflatable objects, inflatable signs or tethered balloons,” to draw attention to their business.

Councilmember Jeffry Michelson said he was concerned about the wording of the ordinance, particularly because in his interpretation, it was written to prohibit businesses from attracting attention to themselves.

“I think we need to loosen this up, and allow business owners to use these kind of promotional signs all the time,” he said. Michelson also noted he would like the council to hear from other business owners regarding their opinions on the matter, prior to making a decision about any changes to the ordinance.

They voted to table the proposal until their next regular meeting, at which time they will suggest appointees to an ad hoc committee to review specific provisions of the sign ordinance, and explain how the positively or negatively impact businesses.

“It should come from the business owners, what works and what doesn’t,” said Mayor Pro Tem Angie Gonzales-Sanchez. “We’re here as a council to revitalize our downtown and we have to support our businesses in what they need to do.”

In a related item, the council voted to loosen restrictions on non-residential appearance standards for buildings within the City Limits, offering additional options for acceptable materials for outer cover of buildings.

For months, the Council has been working with Finance Director Jeff Hinson to chart a course of action with respect to the city’s seven retirees who are still covered under the city’s insurance plan.

The costs of the plan, currently offered to seven individuals who have retired from the City of Lockhart but who are not yet 65 years old, have grown exponentially in recent years, and Hinson has advised the council that they will need to make changes soon to avoid accruing even larger expenses in future budget years.

Many questions arose as to how to protect employees and keep the City’s prior promises, but to also protect the taxpayers in the face of rising costs. Presently, current city employees are paying insurance premiums that help offset the costs for the seven retirees, something that is also causing employee portions of the premium to jump.

Most of the council expressed concern about the city turning away from offering benefits to employees that had dedicated their professional lives to the city, but also had uncertainties about how to handle the issue in the future.

In the end, Councilmember Benny Hillburn moved to grandfather the seven current retirees into the plan as it stands, to inform all current employees that they will be eligible for post-retirement coverage only after the age of 60 and with 25 years of continuous service to the city, and that new employees hired after June 1, 2015, will not be eligible.

Without explanation, Councilmember Juan Mendoza voted against his colleagues, forcing the measure to pass with a 5-1 vote.

In brief news:

The Council heard a presentation regarding the 2015 Fiscal Year outside audit, which yielded a “clean opinion.”

Members of the Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG) approached the council to discuss possible EPA changes that run the risk of making the five-county Austin Metropolitan Service Area non-compliant with EPA air quality standards. There is little that can be done, at this juncture, to change or stave off the non-compliance designation, if the EPA standards are changed later this year.

They heard a report about the ongoing construction in relation the Highway 183 expansion project, which continues to move forward. However, City Manager Vance Rodgers noted the project has hit a hitch, as TxDOT is having difficulty scheduling a contractor to help relocate the water lines.

They voted to vacate alley space bordered by Leona, San Jacinto, West Prairie Lea and Maple Streets.

The Lockhart City Council routinely meets on the first and third Tuesday of each month at 7:30 p.m. in the Third Floor Council Chambers in the Dr. Eugene Clark Library Complex. The meetings are open to the public and broadcast on Time Warner Digital Cable Channel 10.

 

 

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