Court gridlocks on development changes

By Kathi Bliss

Editor/POST-REGISTER

 

Despite several weeks of discussion on the matter, the Caldwell County Commisssioners Court remains reluctant to pass sweeping changes to the Caldwell County Development Ordinance without collecting still more information on the purpose of the changes.

After hearing advice from the County’s legal counsel, Doug Young, who has been working with contracted engineer Tracy Bratton on the proposed changes, which could potentially impact development near flood plains, some members of the Court expressed discomfort with the nature of the proposed changes, possibly spurred by harsh words from an attorney for Green Group Holdings prior to the discussion.

Although Roland has not said so specifically, it has been suggested that the changes, which require increased setbacks in flood plain areas and drastically increased fees, are aimed at blocking the 130 Environmental Park development, which includes a landfill.

Attorney Brent Ryan suggested Roland had introduced the amendments as “a pawn in a scheme to protect the interests of a handful of people,” and stated outright that action taken by the Court in an effort to derail Green Group’s progress through ordinance changes would likely result in litigation.

Roland, however, insisted he was introducing the changes for the best of the community on the whole, rather than a small group of special interests, and said he would continue to work toward protecting the community.

Commissioner Alfredo Munoz did express concern as to which constituents, if any, had been involved in the process of drafting the amendments to the development ordinance. Roland said he had worked with Bratton to develop them; however, an email included in a prior introduction of the amendments reflects that Austin environmental attorney Marisa Perales had also reviewed the changes prior to their introduction to the court.

Munoz said he was uncomfortable passing ordinance changes that could have such a dramatic impact on economic development throughout the county, and suggested the Court schedule a workshop to discuss the changes, not only amongst themselves but with interested members of the community.

That workshop will take place after the special-called meeting of the Commissioners’ Court on Sept. 4.

The Court also engaged in extensive discussion about the Sheriff’s recent statement he would stop housing Federal inmates if the Commissioners did not allocate the third step of the five-year pay increase plan in the coming fiscal year’s budget.

Commissioner Neto Madrigal brought the discussion to the table, hoping to strike a balance between the needs of the County and the desires of its employees. However, County Auditor Larry Roberson noted there were flaws in Madrigal’s plan of allocating the incoming funds toward pay increases.

“That money is already allocated for paying expenses that operate the county,” he said. “And we have to pay our bills. If we budget an increase over the baseline, that’s a dangerous thing to do, because who can say what it’s going to do next month?”

Munoz noted it was difficult to discuss future allocations until the Court knows whether the US Marshal is going to grant an increase in the per diem payout for housing the inmates.

The Commissioners will revisit the discussion in three months, on Nov. 10, 2014.

In brief news:

The court paid bills in the amount of $185,951.75.

They heard departmental reports from the Building Maintenance Department, the Texas AgriLife Extension Service and the Caldwell County Environmental Investigator.

They held a brief public hearing regarding the creation of Caldwell County Emergency Service District 3, in the Martindale area. Only one individual spoke during the public hearing, and he expressed support for the creation of the ESD.

On the request of Emergency Service Director Martin Ritchey, the Commissioners opted to leave the outdoor burning ban in place. Ritchey suggested that with the growing danger of wildfires, it was possible that he would ask the Court to enact an emergency order banning “hot work.” He said conditions had not proven this dangerous throughout Caldwell County and the rest of Central Texas since Labor Day weekend of 2011.

They approved the budgets for the Caldwell County Appraisal District and the Caldwell County Juvenile Probation Department.

The Caldwell County Commissioners Court routinely meets on the second, third and fourth Monday of each month at 9 a.m. in the Conference and Training Center at the LW Scott Annex, 1403 Blackjack St., in Lockhart. However, the next meeting, a special called meeting, is scheduled at 3 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 4.

kathibliss@post-register.com

 

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