Judge speaks to the Caldwell County Subdivision Ordinance

From the Desk of County Judge Tom D. Bonn:

This topic has received a lot of attention since it was passed this last January. It had been discussed for the better part of the year by the previous court. Interestingly enough, by the time it was passed it was costing the county an hourly rate comparable to an attorney’s hourly rate while the changes and public meetings continued. We were on an hourly rate because we had already expended the budgeted amount for the drafting and public hearings.

Pressure increased from the same public members who continue to attend our court, crying not to pass a new subdivision ordinance. It was necessary to pass a new subdivision ordinance, as the existing ordinance was legally deficient.

With the known addition to Caldwell County of three new major subdivisions the urgency was indisputable. Not only were our old regulations legally questionable, but our fee structure was also totally inadequate. Our fee structure only allowed a fee of $750 for these new mega-subdivisions.

I told those who violently objected that I wanted to stop the hourly billings and that while not perfect, the ordinance was necessary. Our court could make changes to  lessen the severity but not to increase the standards to a more rigid regulation in the future.

Commissioner Buchholtz was asked by me to start his suggested revisions to address many concerns by the public. It has been a difficult task that has consumed weeks of his time, but many of the public concerns have not been justified.

Repeatedly I have asked for those who spoke out against this new ordinance to submit to me a written request of changes or corrections. I have yet to receive any written request! This is primarily due to factual inaccuracies that were being touted by those in opposition.

Having not received any requests for changes, I have elected to list some of the frequently asked questions concerning what requires a residential construction permit.

Do I have to get a Residential Construction permit to build any of the following?

Roof repair/replacement  – No.

Siding replacement – No.

Window replacement – No.

Construction of a deck – No.

Construction of a patio – No.

Construction of a sidewalk – No.

Construction of a driveway – No.

Construction of a storage building – No.

Construction of a chicken coop – No.

Construction of a dog house/kennel – No.

Construction of a corral – No.

Construction of stables – No.

Construction of a playhouse – No.

Construction of a tree house – No.

Construction of a windmill – No.

Construction of water tanks – No.

Construction of a well house – No.

Construction of a greenhouse – No.

Construction of a porch enclosure – No.

Construction of a 1-9 car garage or carport – No.

Construction of fencing – No.

Construction of a garden shed – No.

Construction of a tool shed – No.

Construction of a play shed – No.

Construction of an outdoor kitchen – No.

Tree removal – No.

Landscaping of any kind – No.

Construction of light poles – No.

Construction of a flag pole – No.

Construction of a mail box – No.

So then, what does require a residential construction permit?

Construction of a new residential structure.

Additions to existing residential structures that result in an increase in the number of bathrooms or bedrooms.

Installation of a manufactured home.

Reconstruction or rehabilitation of an existing residential structure damaged by fire or flood where the estimated cost of reconstruction or rehabilitation exceeds 30 percent of the pre-damage value of the structure.

Hopefully, this has corrected many misconceptions concerning what does or does not require a Residential Construction Permit under our new Subdivision Ordinance.

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3 Comments

  1. Susan K. Stewart says:

    I’m posting this response because I’m the person who has been speaking to county citizens about the Development Ordinance passed by the Court in January.

    I will address each issue based on what I have personally heard or witnessed. Unlike Judge Bonn who has never been to one of the public meetings, I will not base my rebuttal on hearsay or gossip.

    Bonn states that the previous ordinance was legally deficient. When pressed on this reason at the February meeting of Caldwell County Republican Women’s meeting, he said that there were some things the public didn’t need to know.

    The fee structure was brought up several times in court before the ordinance was passed. Then County Counsel Ron Heggemeier advised that a new fee schedule could be passed without an overall of the ordinance.

    At the January 10, 2011 Commissioners meeting, Commissioner Fred Buchholtz expressed his concern about the ordinance and asked for time to make some revisions before the vote was taken. Bonn did not ask Buchholtz. The judge did say that he would allow Buchholtz three to four weeks to work on the document.

    The public was also notified at that time to send in comments in writing with bullet points. It was expected there would be three to four weeks to review the final version and comment. Since that time several people have sent via email specific sections that are problems, in addition to speaking out at the Court meetings. It was not until September that Bonn told me that the comments had to be brought to his office.

    I don’t know where Judge Bonn got the list of 31 items he asks if a residential construction permit is required, certainly not from my presentation. If Judge Bonn had actually attended one of the meetings he would know that I only talk about specific sections that affect individual private property owners; the residential construction permit being one of them.

    Anyone is welcome to look at the presentation slides posted at http://www.slideshare.net/skstewart/caldwell-county-development-ordinance. You will see the ridiculous list that Bonn printed is not there. The ordinance section begins at slide 36. (You’ll also see that this presentation has been online for two months, so changes have not been made to accommodate this posting.)

    Another presentation is scheduled for Monday, Nov 7 at the South Side Center in Luling from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. You are invited to attend. Judge Bonn may want to also attend to listen and get his facts straight.

    • I am surprised that Judge Bonn is not aware of the changes that his constituents have requested. There have been articles in the Post-Register and Luling Newsboy that specifically stated that citizens selling a few acres of their land do not want to be designated ‘subdivision developers’ having to fulfill the obligations that are required being labeled as such. Also, Tom Bonn (before taking office) was seated in the courtroom on the morning that residents filled the courtroom, the hallway, and spilled out onto the courthouse lawn showing their displeasure with this ordinance. During that Commissioners’ Court meeting, specific distainful ordinance issues were addressed and recommendations made. As I was one who attended that meeting and Tom was seated in the row in front of me, how is it that he not hear them and I did?

      Since that time, numerous specific objections and recommendations have been made repeatedly to Judge Bonn during later Commissioners’ Court Sessions, but (as one long time resident of Caldwell County stated in Commissioners’ Court), “You, Judge Bonn, have ears but refuse to listen.”

  2. Donna Voetee says:

    Thank you, Susan, for this excellent article. Much appreciated. Like you, I can only say what I have seen.

    I attended two of the Land Ordinance meetings that were held at the Courthouse. Appalling, smug arrogance best describes what I saw. When questioned about egregious errors by professional land surveyors and other parties who had diligently read the whole Ordinance, the response of the consulting company hired to write the Ordinance (Loomis) was, “We’re not grammar teachers.” No, but you’d think for $56,000 you would know how to finish a sentence and maybe sub-out some editing work. Land surveying is not like horseshoes and grenades; “close enough” does NOT count and could cost homeowners thousands of dollars.

    I saw a high-and-mighty attitude in Loomis Partners that is not seen in those seeking to serve. It’s found in those who have friends in *high* places and have a *mighty* poor reason to be open, honest, and humble. Their positions are usually secured in backroom deals without the need for favor and approbation from the electorate.

    Then I attended the Republican Women’s meeting where Judge Bonn attempted to explain why he passed the Ordinance against such thoughtful, reasonable objections from county homeowners, with promises to fix it AFTER the fact. “There are things the public doesn’t need to know.”

    That night, I did not see a Republican who understood that he was a representative of the People, and accountable to them. I saw a Socialist democrat, as defined over 100 years ago by French economist Frederic Bastiat:

    “The Doctrine of the Democrats”

    The strange phenomenon of our times…is the doctrine based on this triple hypothesis: the total inertness of mankind, the omnipotence of the law, and the infallibility of the legislator. These three ideas form the sacred symbol of those who proclaim themselves totally democratic.
    The advocates of this doctrine also profess to be *social.* So far as they are democratic, they place unlimited faith in mankind. But so far as they are social, they regard mankind as little better than mud…
    What is the attitude of the democrat when political rights are under discussion? How does he regard the people when a legislator is to be chosen? Ah, then it is claimed that the people have an instinctive wisdom; they are gifted with the finest perception; their will is always right…
    But when the legislator is finally elected~~ah! then indeed does the tone of his speech undergo a radical change. The people are returned to passiveness, inertness, and unconsciousness; the legislator enters into omnipotence…Mankind has only to submit; the hour of despotism has struck.

    Yes, that is what I saw. A legislator who thought we were brilliant enough to vote for him, but too stupid to understand him explain to us why he made decisions we hired him to do. I didn’t like what I saw then, and it has only gotten worse.

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