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Property rules top Court talks

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By LPR Staff

Editor/POST-REGISTER

Property sales continued to cause headaches for the Caldwell County Commissioners Court on Monday as an owner returned for clarification on the county’s rules for division and sale of rural property.

Cynthia Caka approached the Commissioners for the third time this week to discuss being allowed a variance to sell four acres out of

a 32-acre tract on County Road 169. She made the original request in September, prior to the Court passing new subdivision rules, and returned with a concrete plan last week.

On advice from the Court’s attorney, Ron Heggemeier, the Court reconsidered the action this week, since their decision last week not to grant the variance was made under the new rules, but the initial request was made under the “old” rules. That being the case, he said, he advised the Court to consider the request under last year’s standards.

What used to be a routine decision continues to be laced in controversy, as the Court grapples with a means to make sure property owners stay in compliance with the rules, but are able to sell property how and when they need to.

Caka said she wanted to follow the rules, but was confused as to what the Court was asking of her, both when she made her initial request, and when her second request was approved last week.

Initially, she asked the Court for a “blind” variance, with the knowledge that she was going to sell a portion of the property and a home on that property, but not knowing how much of that property would be sold, or the configuration of the property. In September, the Commissioners denied that request, saying they could not approve a variance until they knew exactly what would be cut out of the existing tract.

Last week, she returned with a sketch of four acres, including the house and outbuildings, for which she has a contract for sale. At that time, the property had not been surveyed, as she said she was waiting for the Court’s approval before moving forward.

Caka said she wanted to save the expense of surveying the property until she knew she would have the Court’s “permission” to sell it. Her hope, she said, was to be able to avoid the cost of surveying the property twice.

After extensive discussion about not only the property in question, but other rules including septic regulations and the new subdivision requirements, the Court opted to grant the variance conditionally, based upon final approval of the survey, which will be required to contain the entire septic system and field and show that the driveway meets county requirements for distance and visibility. Additionally, Commissioner Fred Buchholtz asked that the septic system be put in working order before the final variance was approved.

He also suggested this would likely be the last such variance the Court might grant under the old subdivision rules.

In other business, the Court heard a presentation from the Caldwell County Community Supervision and Corrections (Probation) Department regarding the Pre-Trial Release program.

The Pre-Trial program, introduced two years ago in an effort to reduce jail crowding, offers a means for low-risk offenders who might not be able to secure their release after arrest by normal bonding measures to be released from jail while they await trial.

Last year, 109 jail inmates were released from custody under the program. Of those, only 13 failed to appear in court, and 11 did not meet the conditions of their release and were put back behind bars, suggesting a more than 80 percent success rate for the program.

The cost for the Pre-Trial Release program hovers near $52,000 for Caldwell County, but reaps a minimum of $171,000 in savings for inmates that do not have to be housed in the jail.

Additionally, the program has been successful in easing overcrowding, resulting in

additional savings because the County does not have to seek alternative placements for inmates.

The Court approved the report as presented, and though they have not entered budget talks for the next fiscal year, committed to continue funding the program.

In brief news:

The Court will hold two public hearings on March 14, 2011, during their next regular meeting. The subject of those hearings will be two proposed subdivisions, one off Plant Road and the other near Sierra Drive.

The Commissioners voted to lift the outdoor burning ban, but urged residents to use caution when burning brush or trash outdoors.

They approved a request to install “handicap doors” at the Caldwell County Tax-Assessor Collector’s Office.

County Judge Tom Bonn asked Commissioners Neto Madrigal and John Cyrier to review requests from a number of non-profit agencies for donations in the coming fiscal year.

The County paid bills in the amount of $91,447.59, which includes $18,772.60 in indigent legal defense fees and $9,786.39 for indigent health care.

The Caldwell County Commissioners Court meets at 9 a.m. in the conference room at the Scott Annex, 1403 Blackjack St., in Lockhart. The meetings are held the second, third and fourth Monday of each month, and are open to the public.

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