By Kathi Bliss
The Caldwell County Commissioners Court met on Monday in their first regular meeting of the month, and spent the bulk of the nearly three-hour meeting discussing the Caldwell County Development Ordinance.
After all that discussion, no action was taken, and the Ordinance was left in its current, embattled state.
Since it was introduced in summer 2010, the Caldwell County Development Ordinance has been the subject of harsh criticism from residents who believe that it restricts county residents’ private property rights, and allows too much freedom for developers. After months of “workshopping” the ordinance, the then-seated Commissioners’ Court passed the ordinance in late 2010, and it has been a document under fire ever since.
Shortly after taking office, Commissioner Fred Buchholtz volunteered to review the ordinance, in the hopes of making it easier to understand and more “user-friendly.” In the months since he made the commitment, Buchholtz has brought forth a limited number of revisions, most often telling his colleagues that he is “still working on” his revisions.
On Monday, Buchholtz brought forth seven pages of potential revisions, focusing specifically on the “Subdivision Platting Procedures” set out in the existing development ordinance, largely in response to recent criticism of the Ordinance from Commissioner Joe Roland, who has suggested loosening the standards as they apply to Family Land Grants.
After Buchholtz read his suggested revisions word-for-word, civil attorney Mack Harrison pointed out that sweeping changes to the ordinance would require another Takings Impact Assessment (TIA), at the projected cost of $10,000 to the county.
Harrison suggested that the Commissioners continue to discuss the ordinance, but hold off on taking any votes or making any decisions until the whole of the ordinance has been reviewed, thereby preventing the need to perform more than one additional TIA.
An impact assessment was performed in 2010 when the ordinance was initially introduced.
After hearing from Harrison, Commissioner John Cyrier suggested that the Commissioners continue to review and discuss the ordinance, and that perhaps the panel should set additional workshops in the future to allow for in-depth discussion and additional public input as to the Caldwell County Development Ordinance.
In other business, the Court held public hearings and took a vote with regard to naming or renaming a variety of roads throughout Caldwell County.
The hottest topic of discussion during the hearing was the possibility of naming a portion of Long Road near the intersection of SH-130 as Cherryville Parkway.
The road-naming suggestion was brought forth by the county’s 9-1-1 Coordinator, in an effort to assign addresses in the area that would be easier for emergency services to locate and respond to.
Representatives of the proposed Cherryville development, which will be located at the intersection of SH-130 and Highway 80, asked that the road be named “Cherryville Parkway,” because the name would draw attention to the development that would be otherwise unavailable because the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) does not install highway signs announcing unincorporated areas.
Opponents of the measure suggested that the Commissioners should not name county roads in an effort to advertise private developments, and Caldwell County Appraisal District 9-1-1 representative Matthew Allen said technically, the road does not currently meet the standards as a “parkway.”
However, the Commissioners finally voted to name the road Cherryville Parkway.
In addition, they voted to change the name of Silver Star Path to WAM Way, to change Westbook Drive to Meadow Trail Road, to correct the spelling of Jolly Road to “Jolley” Road, and to name the road leading to the H.T. Wright Memorial Wetlands off of SH-130 north of Lockhart to HT Wright Court.
The Commissioners also engaged in a stilted discussion about whether to change the polling place for early voting in the upcoming primary election from the Caldwell County Tax Assessor-Collector’s office to the newly-moved Caldwell County Election Administrator’s Office at the LW Scott Annex.
Despite the fact that both Election Administrator Pam Ohlendorf and Tax-Assessor-Collector Debra French supported the change, some commissioners were hesitant to move early voting because they fear that a change in location would confuse voters who might go first to the Tax Office expecting to vote.
It was only after 10 minutes of reassurances from the department heads that employees would educate voters about the change and promises from local media that the change would be well-publicized that the Commissioners finally seconded the motion made by Buchholtz and agreed to make the change.
In brief news:
The County received a donation of $500 from Jason Roberts and Zach Potts, the developers of the Highland Ranch Subdivision, as a good-faith investment in county parks.
They approved a budget amendment relating to the hiring of a temporary maintenance worker during the injury-related absence of another employee.
The Court approved a bid from Floors Plus in Lockhart for floor covering for the Elections Office, which will be located at the LW Scott Annex, 1403 Blackjack St. in Lockhart.
They heard information about the renumbering of some local precincts to complete the redistricting triggered by the 2012 census.
The Caldwell County Commissioners Court traditionally meets on the second, third and fourth Monday of each month at 9 a.m. in the Conference and Training Room at the LW Scott Annex in Lockhart. The meetings are open to the public and interested citizens and stakeholders are encouraged to attend.