City to address Trinity Addition drainage problems
By LPR Staff
Plans for a 24 – unit residential complex gave neighbors cause for concern during the regular meeting of the Lockhart City Council on Tuesday evening.
Developer Paul Danna approached the council requesting a change in zoning for three tracts of property in the Trinity Addition near the corner of Trinity Street and Blackj
ack Street (FM 20) for the purpose of building a multi-family, energy-efficient rental complex. Neighboring property owners attended the meeting show strong objection to Danna’s plans.
“I’m not against development, but I want to see development that’s smart,” said Shannon Kloesel, who owns a home near the subject property. “We already have problems with traffic and flooding in our neighborhood, and I want to make sure those problems are addressed now, before we bring more people into the neighborhood.”
The flooding problems Kloesel mentioned stem from an ongoing problem with drainage in the neighborhoods bordering FM 20 east of Highway 183. Those concerns, City Manager Vance Rodgers said, have been pointed out to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), who is working to correct the problems.
“The real issue [that impacts the neighborhood] is out at Old McMahan Road,” Rodgers said. “The culverts there are too small for the water flow, and they cause backups throughout the system.”
Rodgers said TxDOT is working to address the problem, including relocating utilities along FM 20 East, to expand the drainage system, which should ease some of the flooding in the Trinity Addition.
Further, Rodgers explained, another project to improve drainage in the area is underway as part of an $8.5 million drainage improvement project presented to the council recently.
“What we need to do is utilize what we’ve got there, whether this development goes forward or not,” Rodgers said. “That’s still not going to mean that people’s houses won’t flood if we get ten inches of rain in three hours, but it should help with the normal drainage flow.”
In the wake of citizens protesting the development because of drainage issues and increased traffic in the neighborhood when vehicles have to be diverted off Blackjack for accident’s, the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission recommended denying the zoning change that would allow Danna to build 24 units. Under current zoning, he can build half that number by right in the area.
He told the council and the neighbors he intends to go forward with the project, one way or another.
“I haven’t got a full site plan yet, because I don’t know know many units I’m going to build,” he said. “But I will be building either the 12 or the 24.”
Danna assured the neighbors the development he plans will be a welcome addition to the neighborhood, in that they will be single-story, attractive and energy-efficient homes, which will not be government-subsidized, unlike the other apartment complexes in the area.
After a motion by District One councilmember Kenny Roland, the council opted to table discussion on the zoning change until Danna, the other area property owners and city staff can address not only the drainage problems, but the issues of parking and traffic. However, some councilmembers, including Mayor James “Jimmy” Bertram, expressed a degree of the support for the project.
“We need this kind of development,” he said. “And this council is charged with weighing the good of the entire community, along with the desires of the neighborhood. If you don’t want it in your neighborhood, then where should we put it – and how can we explain to the people there why it should be in their neighborhood and not yours?”
The council will revisit the measure in July.
In other business, the council heard a presentation from Austin attorney Alfred R. Herrera regarding the recent decision of Texas Gas Service to exponentially raise rates in Caldwell County and other areas in their South Texas Service Area.
Late last year, Texas Gas Service approached the council requesting approval of the rate increases. The City of Lockhart, along with the Cities of Luling, Gonzales and Cuero, among others, denied the measure, suggesting the increase of more than 150 percent in certain fees would be create a hardship for customers in those cities.
After the denial, Texas Gas appealed to the Texas Railroad Commission, asking for an approval of the rate increase. According to Herrera, little input from the affected communities resulted in the Railroad Commission granting the rate increase. However, an additional tariff is under appeal at the present time, and Hererra suggested the cities’ being involved as intervenors might sway the Commission’s decision.
“Because there are no other providers in the area, it falls to the cities to provide the voice of opposition, of a ‘competing company,’ for the commission,” Herrera said. “If the cities don’t appear and intervene, the tariff will be approved by nothing more than a rubber stamp.”
The council agreed to enter additional talks with Herrera’s firm and move forward as an intervenor, in hopes of staving off additional large increases in the future.
The council also responded to a request from the Lower Colorado River Authority regarding a grant in the amount of $25,000 received last year for the construction of a Skate Park in Lockhart City Park.
Rodgers said his office had been contacted by LCRA regarding the inactivity on the Skate Park project, and was granted an extension in March of this year. However, it was explained that, without significant completion on the project by September 2008, the city would have to return the grant funds.
The community organization involved with the construction of the skate park, On A Roll, does not have the funds to move forward with the project at this time, despite the LCRA grant and another $60,000 earmarked by the City Council in this year’s budget for the project.
The project is on indefinite hold, Rodgers said, pending a revitalization in community efforts.
In brief news:
Animal Services Director Melanie Tucker announced the City of Lockhart has been awarded a $100,000 grant to be used toward the purchase of property for a new animal shelter. Tucker said the funds can be used primarily only for purchasing land, but any monies left over after the purchase can be applied toward building a new shelter.
In her capacity as Emergency Services Director, Tucker also approached the council to discuss amending fees for EMS services in Lockhart.
The council considered construction to the wetlands mitigation site north of Lockhart on Highway 183, and approved the Caldwell County Commissioners’ Court’s suggestion of the “Plum Creek Wetlands” as the name for the site.
They considered updating city ordinances regarding buildings that are not condemnable, but have sat vacant for five years or more.
The Lockhart City Council meets on the first and third Tuesday of each month at 7:30 p.m. in the Glosserman Room at Lockhart City Hall. Meetings are open to the public and the public is encouraged to attend.