By Kathi Bliss
In a split vote, the Caldwell County Commissioners chose on Monday to actively deny development in Caldwell County.
Through a series of proposed amendments, some passed, some ignored, to the Caldwell County Development Ordinance, the majority of the court voted to impose a permitting fee of $2,650 for all commercial developments with a construction value between $10,000 and $1 million.
An additional fee of $2.50 per $1,000 of construction cost will be incurred for any site upwards of $1 million.
Commissioners Joe Roland and Neto Madrigal suggested the permit fee increases were appropriate, citing the City of Lockhart’s road impact and wastewater impact fee structure as an equivalent.
However, while the City of Lockhart’s impact fees are specifically allocated to future infrastructure projects, Madrigal suggested that the County’s fees could “be applied where we need them,” without giving any concrete plan as to the allocation of the permit fees.
However, despite the assurances that the fees are in line with other areas, independent research revealed that Travis County, for instance, has a site development fee for commercial construction is $1.35 per $1,000, suggesting a $20,000 commercial development in Caldwell County will now cost the builder $2,650, while the permit for the same development in Travis County would cost $27.
County Judge Tom Bonn questioned whether the proposed increase was spurred by anticipation of a boom in commercial development. Roland, who proposed the amendments to the development ordinance, despite noting that he had originally voted against the ordinance altogether, said he was “not sure what is coming up the pipe, but we need to be prepared.”
Commissioner Fred Buchholtz said he was concerned about such a large jump in the fees, and reminded Roland that, although the proposed changes were targeted at the 130 Environmental Park, the increases could have a more far-reaching impact.
Roland bristled at the notion that his proposed amendments were targeted at any specific development, to which Buchholtz fired back, “isn’t that what we talked about?” Buchholtz suggested the measure should be tabled, allowing the Court the opportunity to review the fees further, reminding his colleagues that the fees should be reviewed annually, anyway.
Commissioner Alfredo Munoz, who was not seated on the Court when the Caldwell County Development Ordinance originally passed, declined to participate in the discussion.
In the end, the Court voted 3-2 to approve the fee increase, with Bonn and Buchholtz standing against.
In other business, the Court voted to provide a key to a tour guide, allowing access to the Caldwell County Courthouse on weekends for public tours.
Robert Brewer, a volunteer tour guide who has in the past given Courthouse tours to as many as 50 people per day, relinquished his key last year, when the renovation project at the Caldwell County Courthouse began. Now working with the Tour Lockhart Committee, Brewer said he would like to start giving the tours again, from noon – 2 p.m. on Saturdays.
The Court expressed concern about public access to the Courthouse when staff was not on hand, and suggested formal agreement with Brewer, which would address security and liability issues, should be entered before Brewer could be issued a key.
An agreement was reached among the Court, wherein for the time being, Brewer will check out a key on Friday afternoons, allowing courthouse tours to resume.
In brief news:
The Commissioners voted to cancel their regular meeting scheduled June 9, 2014, in order to allow court members to travel to a conference in South Texas, and took steps to allow bills to be paid that week without a vote from the Court.
They heard reports from several county departments, and received the “Building a Better Texas” award from the Texas AgriLife Extension.
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. Their next meeting will be held on Tuesday, May 27, 2014, at 9 a.m., having been rescheduled due to the Memorial Day holiday. The meetings are open to the public and broadcast at ww.co.caldwell.tx.us.