Land division raises council eyebrows, awareness
By LPR Staff
As another family came forward to ask the Lockhart City Council for a variance allowing them to deviate from the city’s existing subdivision rules, councilmembers started to gain awareness of a problem that could become more prevalent as the city limits increase.
The owners of a seven-acre tract of property on Trinit
y Street decided recently to divide their property into three parcels and gift one to each of their daughters. The decision sparked a conversation with the city, a hearing with the Planning and Zoning Commission, and finally the couple’s appeal to the City Council on Tuesday evening.
“We agree that when cities are developing they need to have rules to monitor growth and development and to plan out how they’re going to grow,” said Kerry Gaddis, whose wife inherited the property in question from her grandparents. “We aren’t arguing the letter of the law. I think that the intent was not intended for families to subdivide to give to their children, it is for developers to come in and build infrastructures.”
Under the existing ordinances, a “developer” is considered any property owner that creates a subdivision of two or more tracts of land. Under current rules, developers are responsible not only for infrastructure, including roads and sidewalks, within their “developments,” but are also required to donate five percent of their property, or pay a fee equal to five percent of the market value, to the city for future park use.
City Planner Dan Gibson said the rules are in effect regardless of the intentions of the property owners, and recommended the council not grant a variance which would allow the Gaddis family to keep the entirety of their property.
The family also sought a second variance, to a ruling that would have forced them to give a significant piece of the subject property to the city as right of way, in the event the city chose at some future date to build a thoroughfare between Neches and Trinity Streets, connecting First Street and Pin Oak.
The land acquisition, Gibson said, was in line with the city’s current thoroughfare plan, which hopes to eventually address what some call a lack of feeder streets in the neighborhood east of Trinity Street and north of Blackjack.
One of those proposed feeders, although no current plans for such a road currently exist, might wind up running across the Gaddis property.
“What we need to do, in accordance with our thoroughfare plan, is get this land from them now, while we can acquire it for free,” Gibson said. “This is the way most cities acquire right of way and do their infrastructure. They’re asking us for something, so we’re asking them for something.”
Gibson cautioned the council that waiting on the acquisition, should the city decide to build the street in the future, could cause headaches because the owners might build within the requested space, or the city would have to purchase the property from the owners.
Councilmember Dick Wieland led the charge in suggesting the council think about the way the current ordinances are written, as he said there should be additional consideration for family members who want to gift property to other family members, as opposed to actual residential developers who hope to sell land for a profit.
Councilmember Paul Gomez agreed, saying he didn’t feel comfortable labeling people “developers, just because they want to divide a piece of property.” He went on to say that in the circumstance before the council, he didn’t like the suggestion to “gut someone’s property, just because we might need it in the future.”
Ultimately, the council voted unanimously to allow the variances. Councilmember Richard Banks was not present for the meeting, and did not cast a vote on the issue.
The notion of subdivision of property among family members is one rarely seen within the residential districts of Lockhart, but may become a more common phenomenon as the community grows – particularly given the annexation of currently-rural properties in preparation for the construction of State Highway 130.
In other business:
The council reluctantly agreed to a plan with the Texas Department of Transportation and Central Texas Highway Constructors to build an emergency-only turnaround lane south of Plum Creek on State Highway 130.
During initial negotiations, the city had hoped to convince TxDOT to build a turnaround lane to service not only Crane Lane, but the businesses located near the creek, which will not be moved as construction progresses. The hope was to save residents and workers in the area from having to travel south on the access roads back to FM 2001 before having an opportunity to return to the northbound lanes of traffic.
However, the cost of such a lane proved to be prohibitive, with Central Texas Constructors estimating a change order to the tune of $2.4 million for the turn lane.
In brief news:
They appointed Councilmember Lew White to work as a liaison with the Brock Cabin committee.
The city will enter a joint resolution with the Caldwell County Commissioners’ Court to name the wetlands park on Plum Creek the HT Wright Memorial Wetlands Park.