Landowners, council clash over firebreak proposal
By Miranda Rogers
Farmers and land owners got fired up over a proposed ordinance that would change their firebreak requirements during a regular meeting of the Lockhart City Council on Tuesday evening.
The current ordinance allows for property owners to provide firebreaks either by plowing or mowing, but under the new requirements, owners would be require
d to plow a 30-foot firebreak to a six-inch depth for agricultural properties five acres or more.
This change is an action towards fire hazard deterrence in hopes of helping to eliminate surface growth along adjacent common property lines with properties where there are structures and/or fences within 75 feet.
City Manager Vance Rodgers, who assisted in Bastrop after the catastrophic fires, said he believes this ordinance will save lives and properties by giving the fire department more time to respond.
He said that it would be implemented as soon as possible and used at all times, especially during drier seasons, but he wants to work with property owners depending on the time of year and weather conditions.
Area rancher Justin Spillman began the argument against the ordinance, claiming that it was arbitrary and capricious, adding that the ordinance will not change anything. His main concern, he said, was the lack of enforcement in many areas where homeowners kept their grass above 12 inches and power lines that posed a fire hazard with dead trees surrounding them.
Likewise, Anne Clark voiced opposition to the ordinance, and offered new ideas to the council that would better aide the city as a fire deterrent, such as a grading system that is used in South Texas and chemical control.
Doug Spillman also came to the board with a notion that instead of 30 feet around one side of the fence, 15 feet could be plowed on eachside, suggesting, “neither one side or the other should bare all expense.”
The rest of the community showed their appreciation towards this idea with heartfelt applause.
The council, while hoping to resolve the issue quickly and not keep the citizens of Lockhart on their toes, was at odds on improving the ordinance or finding a compromise.
While continuing on a case-by-case basis was considered, Mayor Ray Sanders said he felt felt that many of the ideas proposed by the citizens were worthy of consideration. Many council members, and citizens alike, thought that the fires that occurred in Bastrop were being exaggerated into Lockhart, and that the ordinance was an over-reaction.
The resolution of the ordinance has been delayed to the next council meeting; Sanders asked farmers to bring communication to city staff as well as to bring more ideas to the board.
In other news, the Texas Lone Star Grand Prix may find itself winding through the streets of Lockhart next year, bringing with it go-karting enthusiasts from across the nation.
This event would be prior to the scheduled Formula One Race event November 2012, and is meant to draw go-kart racing enthusiasts.
The event has different age levels of racers, with the most experienced drivers operating go-cart vehicles that can reach speeds of over 100 mph.
When Lone Star Grand Prix representative Robert Miller emailed Rodgers about the possibility of bringing the event to Lockhart,he said,”… this is why I do it. Three generations spending the weekend together racing…Some of our racers have aspirations for racing careers but most of us are just out having fun.”
Miller said Lone Star Grand Prix will do all of their own promotion, as well as help with logistics, and they are completely insured.
There are two areas that are being considered as a possible 1.1-mile track for the race, the first being City Park. However, due to the necessity of paving and widening tracks, the downtown area, starting at Commerce and Market Street, is also being considered.
Barricades and hay bales will be used to line the tracks, and there is a possibility that local businesses would be able to advertise on these markers along with some nationally known supporters.
The event may be labeled “The Barbeque Capital of Texas Grand Prix at Lockhart, Texas.”
Five items from the Brock Cabin will find a temporary home at Ronda Reagan’s office at 111 E. San Antonio St., in hopes of bringing additional awareness to the Brock Cabin restoration project, and increasing historic tourism and interest.
Reagan, Chairperson of The Friends of the Brock Cabin, will be displaying a table, chair, ladder, box and flour bin at a museum in her real estate office until the cabin is restored or the items would be returned promptly upon written request by the City Manager. This would help raise funds for restoration and recruit volunteers and members.
The museum will also be selling cookbooks, T-shirts, the Brock Blend coffee and Lockhart postcards. They will be open Saturday and Sunday afternoons and by appointment. Reagan said that she will also be cross-promoting other museums, such as the Caldwell County Museum and the Southwest Museum of Clocks and Watches as well as direct directing visitors to other places of interest in the community.
In brief news:
City Planner Dan Gibson has opened a concern with the enforcement of the all-weather parking surface standards in the Zoning Ordinance. He has asked the council to regard a possible amendment change that will enforce proper vehicle storage.
Gibson said he has noticed that families are accumulating more vehicles, while their garages are being used for other space, which is a violation. He suggested driveways be widened with approved materials such as cement, asphalt or city approved pavers.
Council chose to table the measure until October, in an effort to research possible alternatives and lower-cost options.
A homeowner wishing to add on to the existing dwelling to accommodate an elderly relative on 321 Bois d’ Arc has received approval from the Council. Previously, the work could not be completed because the house was nonconforming under the current public/institutional zoning. Approval of the zoning change would not result in any change in the current use, and in fact would facilitate retention of the existing use, so there would be no negative impact to the neighborhood.
They approved a contract for street repairs, paving and drainage repairs with APAC-Texas, Wheeler Company of Austin with a bid price of $655,322.10. This company has a good reputation for doing good quality asphalt and drainage work in the Central Texas Area.
They named Benny Hilburn as the City of Lockhart City Council’s nominee to the Board of Directors of the Caldwell County Appraisal District for the 2012-2013 term.
The City of Lockhart will be adopting the amended Water Drought Contingency Plan as a requirement of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).
The City Council meeting of Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2011 has been moved to Wednesday, Nov.16, 2011 to meet the deadline for canvassing the City of Lockhart General Election of Nov. 8, 2011.