By Kathi Bliss
County growth and property development is causing headaches for the Caldwell County Commissioners’ Court.
During a brief meeting of the county’s governing body on Monday morning, the Commissioners were asked to consider granting a variance request allowing a property owner in the Mustang Ridge area to sell a portion of his property, despite the fact the sale would take the property out of compliance with current subdivision rules.
In short, the owner expressed an intention to sell an acre of land in the Austin Skyline Subdivision facing Longhollow Road. The sale would effectively land-lock the owner’s property, leaving only a 10-foot permanent easement for access to the property.
Such land-locking is against the county’s current subdivision rules.
According to area surveyor Linda Hinkle, the nature of the Austin Skyline Subdivision left the owner no way to sell a portion of his property and still be in compliance with the rules. However, Hinkle suggested, because the subdivision was created before the county had existing subdivision rules, the current owners should not be punished for the mistakes of past owners.
The property is located in Precinct 3, and the property owner said he discussed the situation with Commissioner Neto Madrigal. However, Madrigal was absent from the meeting and was unavailable to make his thoughts on the variance known.
Kasi Miles, who oversees the county’s subdivision rules, said she was not thrilled with the prospect of the county knowingly creating a land-locked property without road access, but agreed it seemed unfair to hold current owners to impossible standards based on the original subdivision of the property.
Commissioner Joe Roland, who admitted the property owner had the court “over a barrel,” moved to allow for the variance, but added the caveat that the property owner could not subdivide the remaining property any further.
As the Commissioners neared an agreement on Roland’s proposal, the property owner spoke up, announcing he had the intention of selling another one-acre tract, effectively backing the Court into a corner to allow the second variance.
Commissioner Tom Bonn spoke passionately against allowing the variance, suggesting there is no point to having subdivision rules if the Court means to allow variances to help people get around those rules. He then voted against the measure.
Roland, Commissioner Charles Bullock and County Judge HT Wright grudgingly voted to allow the variance, although Wright did comment he was concerned about future property owners “deciding they don’t get along and shooting at one another when they drive down the [access easement].”
In brief news:
The Commissioners heard from Lockhart Animal Services Director Melanie Tucker regarding an interlocal agreement wherein the city will provide animal services for the county. Although a verbal agreement for the services has been in place for years, Tucker suggested a written agreement should be entered, for the sake of clarity with regard to the services. Expressing concerns about the cost of animal services, the Court opted to take no action on the agreement, and will revisit the issue before the next budget cycle.
The panel voted to leave the outdoor burning ban off for the time being, as recent rains have brought the county into a “safe” range on the Keetch-Byram Drought Index for the first time in nearly two years.
The Court was meant to discuss the ongoing controversy regarding the lease at the Caldwell County Fairgrounds. However, because District Attorney Trey Hicks was not present to give a report regarding his negotiations with the Caldwell County Fair Association’s attorney, the Commissioners voted to table the discussion.
They also tabled discussion about a preliminary plan for three phases of the proposed Valor Creek Subdivision on Homanville Trail.
The Court met with attorney Eric Magee with Allison, Bass and associates in executive session regarding pending or contemplated litigation. No formal announcement or public discussion about that meeting was offered.
The County paid bills in the amount of $134,154.68, which included $9,302.02 in payments for indigent legal defense.
The Caldwell County Commissioners meet on the second, third and fourth Monday of each month at 9 a.m. in Room 100 of the Caldwell County Courthouse. The meetings are open to the public and citizens are encouraged to attend and participate.