Council eyes calendar for special election


By LPR Staff

As the pressure of the March 2 primary election bears down on candidates running for county and state offices, the Lockhart City Council is preparing for a special election to fill the void left when the mayor resigned to pursue higher political aspirations.

According to Lockhart City Secretary and election official Con

nie Ortiz, the resignation of Lockhart Mayor James “Jimmy” Bertram on Jan. 4 triggered the need for the city to hold a special election to fill his seat. Bertram”s term would have expired in November 2011.

“If the term had been up in November of this year, it wouldn”t have triggered the “resign to run” rule,” Ortiz told the council on Tuesday evening. “But since there is more than a year left on the term, we have to hold a special election to fill the unexpired term.”

Ortiz also suggested Bertram is legally obligated to remain in his position until the votes from a special election can be canvassed and a new mayor sworn into office – regardless of the outcome of the March 2, 2010, primary, in which he is seeking a nomination.

Ortiz did not present an order to call the special election on Tuesday evening. However, she suggested an order would be prepared by the next council meeting, and expects the filing period for that special election, which will be held on May 1, 2010, to run from March 16 – 31, 2010.

The only issue currently planned on the May 1 Special Election Ballot is the election to fill Bertram”s unexpired term as mayor. The winner of that election will be sworn in, but will have to run again in November 2011 to hold on to the seat.

In other business, the council moved forward with a process that may result in significant changes to the city”s current Historical Preservation ordinance.

City Manager Vance Rodgers reported to the council on Tuesday that he and other members of the staff, acting on a request made by the council in December 2009, had spoken to property owners affected by the current ordinance, many of whom said they disagreed with certain aspects of the current rules, but who “avoid speaking out for fear of reprisal if they need to bring something before… the committee.”

In answer to those concerns, Rodgers reviewed the current ordinance and suggested that several existing rules be removed or altered, specifically with regard to the current need for a Certificate for Alteration approved by the committee.

“In my opinion, this is an excessively broad grant of power to a local commission,” Rodgers said in a memorandum dated Feb. 1, 2010. Specifically, while Rodgers said the commission should be involved in granting CFAs in certain situations, such as the demolition of an historic building, there are several requirements Rodgers said are no longer necessary.

Among those provisions Rodgers said might interfere with individual property owners” rights are restrictions regarding the installation of windows, awnings and doors, as well as renovations to the interior structures of the buildings. Rodgers” memo reflected repeatedly his opinion that although the need to maintain the historic “look” of structures is important, those things that are not readily recognizable as “not historic” should not be a matter of discussion for the Lockhart Historic Preservation Commission. For instance, he said, if a property owner wants to replace rotten yellow pine with Hardiplank material, he or she should be able to do so without asking for permission from the commission, because, once painted, the material is indistinguishable.

Although the council did not make changes to the ordinance on Tuesday evening, they unanimously voted to allow Rodgers to move forward with drafting a revised ordinance that made the concessions he discussed.

After extensive discussion the council opted not to overturn an issue on appeal from the Planning and Zoning Commission.

A property owner approached the council asking for a specific use permit to allow for two recreational vehicles (one motor home and one travel trailer), which are currently parked on a piece of property he owns within the city limits and occupied by employees of his business.

The property owner, who was originally cited because of plumbing and electrical issues with the recreational vehicles, was informed that, even if he brings the property up to code, it was not legal for people to stay overnight in a recreational vehicle in the city of Lockhart. When he made the initial request to the Planning and Zoning Commission for a specific use permit to use the property as an “RV Park,” the property owner was denied.

On appeal, he asked the council to overturn the commission”s decision, and was supported by City Planner Dan Gibson, who said he understood the property was not meant as a public RV park, but could find no other zoning permit that would allow habitation of the recreational vehicles.

Gibson also said the property owner had agreed to correcting all of the code violations on the property if the specific use permit was granted, and that the property was only intended to be used as an RV park for a short time.

However, in a narrow vote, the council defeated the appeal and upheld the decision of the Planning and Zoning Commission.

In brief news:
The council approved bids from two area contractors to install utility sleeves under the right of way for the incoming construction of State Highway 130.

They discussed an upcoming Citywide Cleanup, which will be held during April, as well as a Household Hazardous Waste Collection event, which is currently scheduled for April 10.

The panel approved rezoning for two pieces of property, in an effort to allow property owners to develop businesses on their land.

They approved a lease agreement with Caldwell County Christian Ministries for the lower east wing of the Old Hospital Building.

The Lockhart City Council routinely meets on the first and third Tuesday of each month at 7:30 p.m. in the Glosserman Conference Room of Lockhart City Hall. The meetings are open to the public and televised on Time Warner Digital Cable Channel 10.


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