Council continues to grapple with private parking
By Miranda Rogers
For the third time on Tuesday evening, the Lockhart City Council considered changes to the city’s zoning ordinance that would “provide flexibility” with respect to vehicle parking in residential neighborhoods.
The wording of an amendment proposed by City Planner Dan Gibson would provide for the use of alternative s
urfaces for new driveways or expansion of existing driveways to accommodate vehicles that are being parked in roads and yards
Gibson said that in some areas, vehicles parked on the grass kills the grass, which “doesn’t look good,” and impacts property values.
The current all-weather standards require that either concrete, asphalt or masonry pavers be used anywhere a vehicle is driven or parked. Under the proposed amendment, older, established driveways would be grandfathered, and permanent borders will be more clearly defined.
The last meeting on the issue resulted in a 3-3 vote, and Gibson hopes to make the changes more affordable for citizens to comply and give staff more flexibility in enforcement.
After he explained the current ordinance is generally enforced on a “complaint basis,” Gibson said he’s seen an increase in reported violations recently.
The council eventually voted to send the amendment as worded to the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) for their review and recommendation, but not without intense discussion back and forth between council members.
“If people really care about the yards, they will park in the driveway anyway,” Mayor Ray Sanders pointed out. He said it seemed silly to him to prevent people from parking in the grass, but rather to make them pour driveways over the same grass.
Mayor Pro Tem Paul Gomez was worried that, if council rejected the wording, dozens of people would be cited under the existing ordinance, to which District Four Councilmember Richard Banks fired back, “nobody ever gets cited around here.”
Banks said he believed passage of the amendment would lead to micromanagement by city staff, and District Three Councilmember Lew White reminded Banks that the ordinance already exists.
At Large Councilmember Angie Gonzales-Sanchez asked City Manager Vance Rodgers for clarification that the intention of the amendment was not only to make things more cost-effective for the citizens, but also to make the ordinance what she called more “user-friendly.”
Banks, along with Councilmembers Juan Mendoza and John Castillo voted against sending the amendment to P&Z for review, while Sanders, Gomez, White and Gonzales-Sanchez voted to approve the change.
In other business, Rodgers presented additional information to the council regarding the upcoming US 183 Corridor Improvement Project, which was approved for funding by the Texas Transportation Commission last week.
The massive construction project, which must be presented for bid before August 2013, will require the City of Lockhart to relocate utilities, including electrical, water and wastewater, at an estimated cost of $3.1 million.
Under Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) rules, utilities may not be under any portion of the “travel path,” except where they transverse the highway. In the near future, a complete survey of the construction area will take place, describing exactly where the utilities are located, and helping the city to determine which lines need to be relocated.
Rodgers said he was exploring the use of certificates of obligation and State Infrastructure Bank (SIB) as possibilities. Unfortunately, he said, no local banks could handle the project at this time.
He said he expected to have a more exact figure as to the cost of the project in three to four months, as this very complicated detailed project requires a lot of coordination. There is no grant possible within the time limit set up.
The council also discussed, at White’s request, a recent notification from the Caldwell County Appraisal District (CCAD) about a proposed agreement with Caldwell County to become the 9-1-1 Addressing Office for Caldwell County, including the City of Lockhart.
The Caldwell County Commissioners decided to close the 9-1-1 Addressing Office due to lack of funding from the Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG), which had provided grant support for the 9-1-1 Coordinator position in the past.
Chief Appraiser Carlton R. Pape stated in a business letter that, “though financial support will soon be nonexistent, the responsibility will continue.”
Rodgers reminded the council that the addressing office is an essential function, and the city already works closely with the CCAD in that process. He said it would be an investment for the city to stay involved with the mapping functions, and to ensure there is a central addressing database.
Consideration is being given to the sharing of the salary for a staff member to perform functions for the 9-1-1 responsibilities as well as CCAD’s GIS development and maintenance. However, there is is confusion about whom the responsibility should fall under.
While White agreed that the county is passing the buck on this responsibility to fund those services, Gomez voiced his opinion that they were in a position where they could not refuse them, despite his disapproval of supporting it. He also stated that they would not have to pay more than anybody else, as the County’s share was 65 percent.
Ultimately, the motion failed 4-3 with Sanchez, White, Banks and Castillo opposed, believing that the county should take care of it.
Sanders called the vote “a shame,” and said he was amazed that they would curtail the issue over just a few thousand dollars.
In brief news:
The council discussed details about the Kart Racing Grand Prix proposed earlier this year. According to Rodgers, preliminary estimates of the cost to fund the event hover around $15,000. Of that, Rodgers said, $7,000 can be funded using hotel-motel tax dollars, with other portions coming from excesses in sales tax revenue, event sponsorships and advertising sales.
The event, now officially named the “BBQ Capital of Texas Grand Prix and Go Kart Racing” is slated to be held between Sept. 15 and Oct. 10, 2012.
Lockhart resident Dave Studer spoke to the council about the city’s impact fees, and suggested the council consider allowing a waiver wherein, “… a person who lives here for certain number of years be exempt.”
They approved an ordinance appointing Election Judges and Alternate Judges for the upcoming Nov. 8, 2011, election, and amended the interlocal agreement with Caldwell County governing that election.
They also approved the submittal of the Asset Forfeiture Report by Law Enforcement Agency of the Office of the Attorney General as required by the Code of Criminal Procedure, which allows seized funds to be held as an agency on behalf of the defendant. At discretion of the chief of police seized funds can be used for necessities, such as new vehicles for the police department. Taking from the forfeited funds instead of the General Fund saves taxpayers money on capital expenses.
The Council approved a bid from Schmidt and Sons, Inc., of Lockhart, to supply and deliver diesel and gasoline to the city of Lockhart for a price of 4 cents per gallon above “rack price” for gasoline and 5 cents per gallon above “rack price” for diesel.
Finally, the council adopted a National Incident Management System (NIMS) Training and National Incident Management System Compliance Assistant Support Tool (NIMSCAST) Policy. This is a new Federal Emergency Management (FEMA) requirement, and will increase the number of adequately trained and qualified emergency management and response personnel. The purpose of this procedure is to document the minimum processes that Lockhart City departments will follow in order to ensure that the appropriate personnel have timely received NIMS training.
The Lockhart City council routinely meets on the first and third Tuesday of each month at 7:30 p.m. in the Glosserman Conference Center at Lockhart City Hall. The meetings are open to the public and televised on Time Warner Digital Cable Channel 10.