The Kyle Report

The Kyle Report

Friday, December 30, 2016

Housing Authority Board meeting cancelled

Eight days ago I wrote, in a story about the Kyle Housing Authority Board, it had "guaranteed no one will attend its next meeting which it scheduled at the same time as two of the traditional New Year’s Day college football bowl games." A couple of days ago, the city’s website posted the notice that this meeting had been cancelled.

Do I think what I wrote had anything to do with this cancellation? Of course not. No way. No how. I don’t even think the meeting was cancelled because board members discovered no one would attend the meeting. Frankly, I don’t think the members of that board give a flying fig if anyone shows up for their meetings or not. These four board members come across to me as four professionals trying to get a job done and done well and who have absolutely no desire to be in the spotlight.

More than likely what happened is that one or more of these professionals checked their calendar and realized "What we’re we thinking when we scheduled this meeting for Jan. 2, the day many Americans will be celebrating as the de facto New Year's Day holiday? I’ve got other things I want to do that evening as well. Besides, it’s not like we’re shirking anything. We’ve been meeting every week for the last month. What other city volunteer committee can claim to equal that work schedule?"

Not only that, these professionals had the decency to cancel the meeting in advance, unlike members of the Board of Adjustments or the Planning & Zoning Commission who are too self-centered to act accordingly and, instead, simply don’t show up for a planned meeting, denying that body a quorum and wasting everybody else’s time in the process.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Give the prisoner, if not a pardon, at least an allowance

Question: What do City Manager Scott Sellers and the 422 inmates at the Kyle Correctional Center have in common? Answer: They are the only persons forced to live in Kyle.

Think about it: Every single Kyle adult resident, besides the above referenced 423, lives here because they chose, for one reason or another, to live here of their own free will. Only those locked in the hoosegow and the city manager live here because the law says they must.

Now you can try to argue, albeit unsuccessfully, that the city manager also had a choice — no one put a gun to his head and said he had to accept the position of city manager. By the same token, no one put a gun to the head of James Bernard McGary either and told him to kill someone, but that’s not the point because he was convicted of murder with a deadly weapon in Harris County back in 2001 and sentenced to life in prison. He now spends his days and nights at the private penal facility alongside I-35.

Sellers would have had a choice if his place of residence had been a condition of his employment; i.e., a portion of his employment contract subject to negotiation. But that’s not the case, although it should be. The city manager must live within the city limits of Kyle because the law (in this case, the city charter) mandates that the city manager live in Kyle. Look, there’s no law that exists anywhere that requires the President of the United States to live in Washington, D.C., let alone the White House. Yet the law in Kyle requires its city manager — and only the city manager along with the 422 inmates of the Kyle Prison Unit — to live within the city limits of Kyle.

And that presents a problem. And as proud as most of us who chose of own free will to live here, the truth is that the available housing stock in Kyle is severely limited. You have your basic start-up single family residences and then you have your multi-family three-story (at most) apartments. No executive homes. No garden homes. No zero-lot-line homes. No semi-high-rise luxury apartment complexes. An extremely limited selection of townhomes. What’s available here is your standard three-bedroom, two-bath home found in any subdivision in America listing for about $230,000.

And that might be just fine for those young-marrieds with two kids. But what about the more established family with, say, as many as six children? Where in Kyle can they live, especially if they want to stretch out on a larger home on a bigger piece of land? The answer is no such living accommodations are available here, so that family will have to live somewhere else. Unless they can’t. Unless the law sentences them to live in Kyle.

That might not be the exact circumstances, but it comes close to describing the predicament the City Council found itself in when it came to renegotiating an extended contract for City Manager Scott Sellers. To the credit of the council members, they recognized the dilemma and decided to actively and decisively deal with it. But then the green-eyed sheep that comprise the majority of the population here got their dandruff ruffled by a couple of deranged shepherds spreading all sorts of rumors, innuendos and misinformation. The sheep stampeded City Hall and the council got out of their way, albeit with a nifty bit of aplomb. Council members couldn’t admit they were wrong in deciding to provide a future residence for this and all future city managers, because the decision wasn’t wrong. It was smart. It was wise. It could have produced the most valuable asset on the city’s ledgers. But there’s no reasoning — it’s fruitless, perhaps even life threatening — to employ logic and common sense to stop a herd of stampeding sheep. So they engineered this carefully crafted masquerade by having the city manager take the hit and announce to all the world "You know, this house idea was really not in my family’s best interests, so let’s forget about all that for the present." And the sheep returned to grazing in the grass.

So what happens now? One thing is obvious: That provision must be stricken from the charter. If the City Council wants to make in-town residence for a city manager a condition of employment it has every right to do so. But there’s a distinct difference between a negotiated condition of employment and a mandate. The charter states, in Section 13.08, "The council shall review the charter every two years to determine if any amendment should be considered." Last year, a council-appointed Charter Review Commission made some changes to the document, all but one of which were accepted by the voters. But does that count as a "council review"? That’s probably up to the lawyers to decide, but I could argue, by the strictest definition, a charter review by an independent commission is not the same thing as a council review and it’s been more than two years since such a review took place. I know because I’ve attended every dang council meeting for the last 26 months and a council review of the charter has not made an appearance on any City Council agenda during that time.

So the council should grant the city manager a pardon by scheduling a two-year council review of the charter for the sole purpose of amending it to return to its original language on this subject which was: "The city manager need not reside in the city when appointed but shall thereafter, within a reasonable period of time established by the council, reside within Hays County or an adjoining county." Incidentally, if you do a search for "City Charter" on the city’s Web site, that’s the language in the charter that pops up. (Section 7.01)

If the city is not willing to grant the manager this humanitarian pardon, it should at least have the decency to establish a housing allowance that’s renewable at the beginning of each fiscal year to provide the manager with some sort of financial housing assistance. The city was planning on reducing the manager’s salary by, as I recall, something in the neighborhood of $27,000 per year which would count toward the manager’s lease payments on the house. Instead, make the housing allowance $27,000 a year. That’s much less than that $550,000 plus closing costs the council was planning to shell out this fiscal year for the manager’s new residence. You could give the manager a $27,000 housing allowance for more than 20 years before the $550,000 level is reached. And, as any well-meaning, fair-minded observer can attest, the council definitely owes the manager at least this perk to make up for how badly the communications on the residence proposal were managed.

I bring all this up now because, according to the agenda for the City Council’s meeting planned for 7 p.m. Tuesday, it plans to retire into executive session to discuss the city manager’s contract. I would like to be a fly on the wall to learn whether the above-mentioned options or others that actually address and solve the housing issue are addressed.

Other items of interest on the agenda include:
  • An ordinance increasing Kyle’s water and wastewater impact fees by a whopping 67 percent making them among the highest in the region. Only New Braunfels and Austin would have higher fees. The impact fees in San Marcos, to cite just one example, would be $570 per connection lower than Kyle’s. Those fees are paid by developers and the only effect they have on residents is the higher the fee, the higher the cost of a new home.
  • An ordinance requiring all that all future hike and bike trails "be constructed of concrete and be no less than eight (8) feet in width." The use of the word "concrete" bothers me; I hope this allows for pervious materials to be used in the construction of most of these amenities.
  • Three rezoning items that are likely to face some resistance will most likely be postponed until the council’s second meeting in January at the earliest since the Planning & Zoning Commission will not decide on them until its planned Jan. 10 session. The delay is required because the council needs to deal with the next item which actually establishes the new zoning being requested.
  • An ordinance creating above-referenced new zoning standards along with changing residential building requirements that currently require a five-foot garage setback from the front wall of a house. This one is kind of tricky. Under the new proposal garages on new residences will still not be allowed to protrude from the front wall of the house, nor will they be permitted to be flush with the entire front of the house. Instead of requiring the garages to be set back from the front of the house, the new ordinance would require that at least part of the front of any new single family residence in Kyle be extended in front of a front-loaded garage entrance. Follow?
  • The consent agenda includes the approval of an interlocal agreement among Kyle, San Marcos and the Hays Caldwell Public Utility Agency to study the feasibility of constructing a wastewater treatment facility that would serve those areas from south of downtown Kyle to the Blanco River, extending east into Caldwell County, including Needville and the San Marcos Municipal Airport. Kyle and San Marcos would each finance about a quarter of the study’s cost with the rest being paid for by HCPUA.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Planning & Zoning finally coughs its act together

Tonight’s Planning & Zoning Commission meeting adjourned 16 minutes later than it should have. That’s because it took 16 minutes for the commission to have a quorum present. That’s because commissioner Mike Torres had to be coaxed wheezing and coughing from his sick bed to drive to City Hall to join Brad Growt, Dex Ellison and Irene Melendez to become the fourth person present at tonight’s two-minute meeting to consider the galaxy’s first and only one-item consent agenda that was not acted upon as a consent agenda. That’s because a one-item consent agenda must, by being one item, be considered individually. And even though the agenda failed to notify the community action would be taken on the item, action was taken. That’s because that’s how things are done in the political world of a one-horse town where rules and parliamentary procedure are abandoned in lieu of the cowboy code.

Yippie ki yay!

Friday, December 23, 2016

P&Z schedules weird special meeting for a single, non-action consent item

Consent agendas are handy items, especially for municipal legislative bodies such as a city council or a planning and zoning commission. They provide the means to package routine committee reports, board meeting minutes, and other non-controversial items not requiring discussion or independent action as one agenda item. This allows that legislative body to decide the fate of anywhere from two to 200 agenda items with one vote. However, that means a consent agenda containing one item is an oxymoron, like plastic glass, liquid gas, original copies, etc.

But that’s just what next Wednesday’s Planning & Zoning Commission agenda consists of: One single item and it’s listed as a consent agenda item, which it can’t be since it must be, by definition, considered individually. Not only that, planning commissioners are being dragged to City Hall at 6:30 p.m. for a special called meeting to consider this item.

At least I think that’s the reason this special meeting is called. It’s hard to tell, because the agenda doesn’t specify exactly what the commission is supposed to do with this item. Consider it? Approve it? Recommend the City Council approve it? Admire its many cul-de-sacs that will go a long way to reducing safety and increasing road wear and tear in this proposed new home development on the south side of 1800 Windy Hill Road? I have no idea because the agenda doesn’t specify what, if any, action the commission is supposed to take.

And, if they do decide to take any action, would that even be legal since the agenda doesn’t mention that any action might be taken?

And why call a special meeting in which commissioners are not asked to take any action? That seems like a strange thing to do in a regular meeting, but in a special one????

I’ve posed these questions to city staff, but it’s the holiday season so no telling if I’ll receive any kind of reply.

The whole thing seems rushed, to me, not all that well thought out and quite likely an unnecessary interruption in the holiday schedule of the planning commissioners.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Former San Marcos mayor named interim head of Housing Authority

The Kyle Housing Authority Board appointed former San Marcos Mayor Frank Arredondo to be the authority’s interim director this evening and guaranteed no one will attend its next meeting which it scheduled at the same time as two of the traditional New Year’s Day college football bowl games.

Frank Arredondo
Arredondo, who lost a bid last year for re-election to the San Marcos City Council, will assume his new position in Kyle on Tuesday. He will succeed Vickie Simpson, whose administration of the authority came under fire from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees public housing projects. Within hours of the HUD criticism being made public, Simpson submitted her resignation effective Dec. 31.

Perhaps ironically, Arredondo is a retired HUD employee as well as the mayor of San Marcos in the 1970s. He made housing, both low-income and executive housing, a principle plank in his unsuccessful run to return to the San Marcos City Council last year.

"I oversaw several programs within HUD in West Texas and Northeast Texas," Arredondo told me shortly after the board made the announcement of his appointment. "I’ve been chair of the San Marcos Housing Authority as well. I served there for three years after I retired from HUD. I have time on my hands and I have the resources and the experience to share to help Kyle out with its housing authority."

Arredondo said the first item on his agenda will be to try and meet with each resident living in Kyle’s two complexes managed by the authority. He also said he is anxious to look into the authority’s financial ledgers and "the way the operations are set up."

He also said he would "most definitely" attempt to arrange a meeting with Simpson prior to her departure.

"She probably has more in her head than is in writing when it comes to the housing authority," Arredondo said.

He said his only interest right now is being the interim director and it "depends on how much I can get done" as to whether he will seek the position permanently. "I want to see what the possibilities are and whether this needs more time than I’m willing to give. We’ll see in the next 60 days."

The authority set the dates for its next four meetings during the next two months, the first one of which is scheduled for right about the time the Rose Bowl game between Southern California and Penn State is due to end and the Sugar Bowl contest between Oklahoma and Auburn is scheduled to begin — 6 p.m., Monday, Jan.2 The next three meetings are on the books for 6 p.m., Friday, Jan. 20; 6:30 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 2; and 6:30 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 23.

The board also agreed to approve a contract for legal services with the same firm that handles the city’s legal affairs.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Number of executive sessions between now and the end of the year just got cut in half

I was part of a team of writers/reporters put together from all over the country to go to suburbs southeast of Houston to cover the Apollo space missions for United Press International. I especially think about one of them this time of year, Apollo 8, the first mission to orbit the moon, which rocketed into space exactly 48 years ago tomorrow, circled the moon 10 times on Christmas Eve and finally splashed down in the Pacific on Dec. 27. At that time, there was a weekly magazine called Life and reporters and photographers from that magazine had exclusive access inside the homes of the Apollo astronauts. But the fawning public wanted every bit of news about the astronauts and their families as could be fed, so when I wasn’t at my desk at the UPI Space Center bureau, I was parked outside an astronaut’s home, just in case one member of the family left the house for any reason. Because if one of them left the house for any reason, that was news. One of my favorite Christmas gifts of all time was delivered to me late Christmas Eve of 1968, when Barbara Lovell, the then 15-year-old daughter of Apollo 8 astronaut James Lovell, walked out of her home and up to my car to bring me a couple of homemade cookies and a cup of steaming hot coffee.

Beginning with Apollo 11, the first moon landing, the returning astronauts were placed in quarantine for three weeks to make sure they did not return bearing some kind of lunar disease. For reasons too complicated to go into here, I was the UPI reporter chosen to remain behind after the missions were completed to cover the "astronauts-in-quarantine" period. Nothing happened while the astronauts were in quarantine. Nothing. There were no news announcements from Mission Control about what the astronauts were doing while quarantined and, frankly, even if there had been, I sincerely doubt anyone would have given a green bean. To put it mildly, there was nothing in my journalistic career more boring and totally non-eventful than covering astronauts in quarantine.

Except executive sessions.

Now, to be fair, I have to admit that although some of them seem like it, I never seen an executive session last as long as an astronaut’s quarantine. But executive sessions are also far more frequent. Between July 1969 and December 1972, there were a total of six — count ‘em, just six — Apollo moon missions and only half of those resulted in quarantines (Apollo 13 didn’t count, because it’s moon landing was aborted and the quarantine requirement was abandoned following Apollo 14).

So naturally I reacted with some measure of glee this evening when I learned the City Council’s Thursday specially called meeting, which was created just so council members could go into a prolonged executive session to hash out revised terms for City Manager Scott Sellers’s contract extension, had been cancelled and will not be rescheduled until some time in 2017, even after the Council’s first regularly scheduled first meeting of the year on Jan. 3. No date has been set, but I’m betting it was also be a special called meeting.

So that mean’s there’s only one executive session on tap for Thursday evening; however, I’m anticipating that one will be a doozy because during that time, the Kyle Housing Authority Board will be interviewing prospective candidates to be the authority’s interim director and then debating among themselves which of those candidates should be named to the position, starting Jan. 1.

As for me, I will be wistfully thinking about a Christmas Eve visit from an astronaut’s daughter, bearing homemade cookies and hot coffee.

Monday, December 19, 2016

City Council to meet Thursday to mollify the mob

The City Council has scheduled a special meeting at 4 p.m. Thursday so that it can huddle in executive session in hopes of coming to some sort of agreement on City Manager Scott Sellers’s contract that will keep Sellers in Kyle until he retires and possibly satisfy the uninformed lynch mob that scuttled an earlier innovative, forward-looking deal that was in the city’s best possible interest.

Don’t expect any details of the contract to emerge from Thursday’s meeting because all the discussions will take place in a closed, executive session and, according to the meeting’s agenda, "No action will be taken on items discussed in executive session."

So there.

What will happen is that if an agreement with Sellers is reached Thursday — and it would be in the best possible interest of the city if that happens — then the details of the deal (1) will be placed in written contract form, (2) will be posted for public consumption and misinterpretation and (3) acted upon at a council meeting early next year, hopefully as early as the council’s first available meeting date on Jan. 3.

About the only thing public that will take place during the session will be gaveling the meeting to order, roll call, the pledge of allegiance, and a citizens comment period, and hopefully the local loonies won’t make another appearance for that period. After that the council will relocate to the second floor of City Hall to work on the contract particulars in private. Before too many people get all in an uproar, closed meetings to discuss contract negotiations such as this are mandated by state law.

The council meeting will kick off what could easily be eight hours of executive sessions divided between the council and the Housing Authority Board, the latter of which has scheduled a meeting for 5:45 p.m. Thursday during which it will seclude itself to interview prospective candidates to serve as the authority’s interim director.

The road goes on forever and the party never ends.

Friday, December 16, 2016

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in our charter and a few of our citizens

By now, anyone reading this already knows that city buckled under political pressure today and City Manager Scott Sellers graciously and somewhat magnanimously declined the offer to dwell in a residence that the city was intending to supply for him and future city managers, leaving unaddressed two fundamental questions: 1. How did city leaders find themselves in this quagmire? and 2. Was today’s decision a smart one?.

I’m going to tackle the second question first because it’s the easiest to answer. If the question was whether today’s decision was an expedient one, the answer would be "yes." I might even agree to an affirmative answer if the question became "Was this decision a wise one." Was it the politically correct one? Perhaps. Was it a smart one? Absolutely not.

Remove Scott Sellers as the subject of the discussion. Remove a city manager’s house as the subject of the discussion. Then the debate becomes should the city invest taxpayers money into buying land. Here is one truth about land: "They aren’t making any more of it." Investment advisor Seth Williams recently wrote about this very subject in Real Estate Tipster: "Most people don’t think of vacant land this way, but the reality is land is an extremely valuable resource with limited quantities available. Especially when you purchase land in the path of growth, you will find yourself with a finite asset that a lot of other people want to get their hands on. Stocks, bonds, mutual funds and 401Ks all make sense in certain scenarios, and so does land. If you go into this with the intent of holding the right property for the long-term, it can make a lot more sense (and be a lot more profitable) than any other investment vehicle out there."

In the collective rush to mollify a bunch of loud-mouths who went over the top in their personal attacks, not only on Sellers, but also on his family, the City Council rushed to judgment today and passed up the opportunity to make a fiscally sound investment that would pay long-term dividends to Kyle taxpayers.

And, as has been mentioned previously, it diminishes the appeal of Kyle to future city managers. Everybody focused on the availability of a home a potential city manager might have waiting for him in Kyle, but totally neglected that part of the conversation about the financial wreckage left behind by those forced to move. A city hires a new chief executive and the city usually expects that person to occupy and work in that position within two weeks, three at the max. But what happens to the home that city manager leaves behind in his previous city of employment? There are only two alternatives: 1. It can be dumped in a fire sale in which the owner takes a horrific financial beating or 2. the owner can suffer the financial burden of having to pay the expenses of two different residences until a decent price can be negotiated for the one left behind. Imagine how Kyle becomes "a destination city" for future city managers if they know that’s an immense problem they won’t have to deal with.

But that’s not going to happen because the city kowtowed to the shrieking of a very small, but an extremely loud and vengeful minority chorus, stoked by a small group of malcontents who will go to any lengths to stop progressive thought and growth in the city because such thought and such growth reduces their sphere of political influence. (They might even reveal themselves through negative reactions to this article on Facebook.) What motivated this mob was not rational thinking (I don’t think it’s a coincidence that when I searched for stock brokers with offices in Kyle I came up empty-handed) but old-fashioned green-eyed jealousy. ("It’s just not fair that the city manager and his family can live in that nice a house and I can’t.")

By the same token, I’m not convinced a majority of Kyle residents favored the arrangement either. What I do believe is that majority simply did not care one way or the other. What they are concerned about much more than the issue of a city manager’s residence is who will be the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys following Sunday night’s game with the Bucs. After that comes "What’s for dinner tonight?"

But I guess that’s water under the bridge, If Kyle hoped to foster a reputation as a leader, an innovative thinker, those hopes were crushed this morning. Now all that’s left to determine is how the council will restructure Sellers’s contract extension. Personally, I hope the council, at the very minimum, offers him a salary increase equal to the cut he was willing to take as lease payments on the residence. The charade that was played out in council chambers this morning was Sellers falling on his own sword to save the city massive embarrassment. As a result, the city owes Sellers. Big time. And I, for one, hope council members realize this and act accordingly.

That still leaves question No. 1 and could provide a simple "exit strategy" for all concerned. At the risk of revealing closely held family secrets, I have learned through a series of conversations I have had with leaders in Kyle as well as those who worked for Sellers in Kilgore, the East Texas city where Sellers was city manager before coming here, that Sellers and his family lived in a home on a parcel of land that would be considered small by the owners of most ranches, must substantial by owners of any single family residences here in Kyle. I have also been told, but this I must admit I haven’t been able to confirm through more than one person, that Sellers found a comparable residence located in Kyle’s ETJ (another told me the plot was actually in or closer to Martindale). Regardless, Sellers was prohibited from securing a residence in either Kyle’s ETJ or somewhere close to Martindale) or anywhere else, for that matter, except inside the city limits of Kyle. Why? Because Kyle’s City Charter contains a requirement that the city manager must reside within the city limits. Human Resources Director Sandra Duran, I have been told, lives on a similar plot of land near Martindale and that’s OK, as well it should be. Only the city manager has this restriction placed upon him or her. Those types of homes don’t exist in Kyle. At least, not yet.

And that was a problem, a serious enough problem for Sellers’s family so that it ultimately put him in the position where he had to, however reluctantly, say goodbye to Kyle and accept one of the many opportunities that are flooding his way that don’t place restrictions on his freedom to chose where he wants to live. And where I come from, a person’s first responsibility is to his family. The council, in a desperate attempt to do whatever it could possibly do to keep Sellers in the job in Kyle, came up with the original, clever and innovative housing arrangement as a compromise offer.

But the reason I say this could provide an exit strategy is that provisions such as these imposed by other municipalities, when faced with legal challenges, have been struck down by the courts. Freedom of choice, as defined by the courts, "describes an individual’s opportunity and autonomy to perform action from at least two available options, unconstrained by external parties." The courts have ruled, quite obviously, such residency restrictions deny those constrained by them their freedom of choice.

A number of states have already recognized that fact and legislatures in four of them have enacted laws prohibiting municipalities from enforcing any kind of residency requirements.

Not only that, the charter’s provision is discriminatory. Most municipal laws of this type make residency requirements applicable to all municipal employees. In Kyle, however, those restrictions only apply to the city manager and that, by definition, is discriminatory.

I would hope city leaders huddle with their legal advisors and find a way for the city to simply ignore this provision on the grounds that, if challenged, the city would most likely prevail in any type of legal action. But even more than that, someone would have to be incredibly vindictive to even challenge such a move.

That’s not to say there’s not a despicable soul out there that could act vindictively just because he or she didn’t get their way. But I would also hope the city would look forward to squashing such souls. Vindictiveness has no place in our political discourse.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Board aims to name new Interim public housing head next week

Kyle Housing Authority Board Chairman Daniel Harper said tonight it is the desire of the board to emerge from its executive session at next Thursday’s meeting and announce the hiring of an interim director for the authority.

The authority’s embattled current executive director, Vickie Simpson, has submitted her resignation effective Dec. 31.

Depending on the number of candidates the board chooses to interview, that could make for an exhaustively long executive session next week. You would have to estimate a complete and thorough process would take at least one hour for each candidate interviewed.

Last week the board said it was considering a number of different options involving executive leadership at the authority, but tonight Board member Clara Rodriguez said the board has decided to go with the option of hiring an interim director and that she expected the city to post the position on its web site.

"Our No. 1 objective right now is to get an interim executive director," Harper said. "My hope is that at the next meeting we will have made the progress we need to make, do the interviewing we need to do with the candidates and be in a position to make a decision as soon as possible."

After the meeting was over, Harper elaborated even further.

"My hope is that my fellow commissioners will do the groundwork they need to do to have the most viable candidates in for executive session next Thursday and approve one next Thursday after executive session," he said.

Next Thursday’s meeting will be the third consecutive Thursday meeting held by the board and its final one for 2016, Harper said. Beginning next year, he wants the board to meet biweekly and then quickly move to monthly and soon after that quarterly meetings. No meetings beyond next week’s, however, have been scheduled. Harper said he would ask the board’s vice chair, Michelle Lopez, to survey board members to determine convenient days and times for them o meet and then to coordinate those schedules with the city secretary.

The board also approved a one-year contract with a San Antonio accounting firm to conduct its audit for the fiscal year that ended this past June 30, but delayed for a week a decision on whether to approve a contract with the same attorneys that currently provide legal services to the city. Currently the board is receiving no outside legal advice or guidance.

Budget gap widens as sales tax receipts continue to fall below forecasts

December’s sales tax receipts were $10,988.91 below forecasts, widening the city’s budget gap to $40,629.31, which is definitely not insurmountable but does raise some concerns because of where the city was at this same exact point last year.

Instead of being $40,000 in the hole at this time last year, sales tax receipts through the first three months of the fiscal year just ended had provided the city with a $187,932.03 surplus. However, by the end of FY 2015-16, the city was close to $282,000 below forecasts, which means that during the last nine months of the fiscal year, the city lost $469,000. A repeat of that would put the city in a half-million hole this year and that’s not exactly where it wants to be.

This is also troubling because this fiscal year the city scaled back projected increases, forecasting almost a 5 percent less gain than they predicted last year. I asked the city’s crack Finance Director Perwez Moheet about this and he promptly replied "I do not have any theories as to why sales tax receipts continue to fall below forecast."

This is not alarming news because the city has plenty in reserve to cover this but it is disturbing because it appears to be a trend, but a trend of what remains a mystery. The first answer that comes to mind is that a recessionary economic trend is developing but I’m not sure I can buy (pardon the pun) into that theory since in actual numbers, sales tax receipts this month were $65,560.84.greater than they were for last December and for the year, to date, receipts are 12.74 percent higher than in FY 2015-16. So I’m simply going to go with the notion that the city’s outlook for its ciizens’ spending capacity was rosier than the reality,

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Planning & Zoning recommends city replace residential policy guidelines with a book of pictures

The Planning and Zoning Commission recommended last night the City Council adopt revised, less-stringent policy guidelines regulating the construction of single family residences in Kyle while, at the same time, recommending the council replace all these policy documents with a "style guide" for homebuilders.

The guidelines were originally adopted in reaction to concern raised over such subdivisions as Steeplechase and Spring Branch that contained homes with basically only four different floor plans and that were dominated by garages that protruded from the fronts of the home.

"They looked like places where people simply parked their cars at night, not like places where they lived," one city official told me. "We wanted to create actual neighborhoods in Kyle, places with character."

But the adoption of the written policy guidelines as well as subsequent revisions to that policy brought with them their own sets of restrictions. The restriction that raised the biggest concern was that the guidelines prohibited the construction of most upper-level "executive" housing. Kyle provided great opportunities for the first-time home buyer. After that? Not so much in the way of step-up housing.

"It’s gotten to the point where I view housing policy guidelines the same way in which one Supreme Court justice described pornography," I head one planning official say. "I don’t know how to define it, but I know it when I see it."

Thus, this caveat was included along with the revised policy guidelines (which you can read here) the commission recommended last night:

"Because the length and complexity of this policy has grown with each new edit, staff is considering (and will likely implement) the idea of replacing this policy document with a ‘style guide’. The style guide would feature architectural styles and accessory attributes consistent with that Kyle expects from quality structures, and development at-large. The style guide would provide direction for our home-building clients, and the resultant applications would be reviewed by the staff and confirmed by the Planning Commission for construction."

That should not be interpreted as P&Z must approve every new home planned to be built. The commission will review and most likely will be asked to offer its stamp-of-approval of the design guide before it goes to the council. What P&Z would then have authority to rule on is any significant deviation from that guide sought by a homebuilder, but rejected by the city’s staff.

Planning Director Howard Koontz told the commissioners last night he could have the guide ready for their review as early as March but that April was a more probable target date.

In other action last night, the commissioners postponed until their Jan. 10 meeting decisions on three residential zoning requests that would be directly affected by the revised policy guidelines and elected, by a 5-2 vote, Dex Ellison as the commission’s chair. He replaced Mike Rubsam, whose term expired last month.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

City Council to meet Friday to purchase city manager’s residence

The City Council is scheduled to gather in a special called meeting at 9 a.m. Friday to approve spending slightly more than $550,000 to purchase a home in Cypress Forest that essentially will become Kyle’s version of Gracie Mansion with the exception that, unlike the New York City’s mayor’s home, what will become the residence of this city’s current as well as future city managers is designated specifically and strictly as a residence.

Closing costs are expected to add approximately $6,500 to the purchase price.

Friday’s meeting agenda, which should last only slightly longer than the time it takes to casually eat one donut, consists of three items which should sail through without much, if any, debate: 1. A resolution accepting improvements to the Cypress Forest subdivision (and noting that it was accepted at a properly scheduled open meeting); 2. Approving an agreement with Scott Felder Homes to purchase a residence in that subdivision at a cost not to exceed $550,000 plus the closing costs; and 3. An amendment to the city’s budget to appropriate the $556,500 to cover the home’s cost and the closing costs.

Interestingly, the most expensive available home listed on Scott Felder's Cypress Forest website goes for $332,990, which is about $19,000 more than what he lists as his most expensive available plan for a new home in the subdivision. So I'm guessing right now the proposed city manager's residence is going to be a custom home not currently listed (something like this one Felder has for sale in Austin) or one of the higher-priced plans on a larger-than-normal-for-the-subdivision lot.

It turns out, however, according to Mayor Todd Webster "there are several homes being constructed in this ($550,000) range.  It is true that it is at the upper end but it is one of the floor plans they offer there. I expect it to be in the middle to upper range of the executive level homes in the neighborhood at build out. We considered price per square foot more than the overall purchase price but certainly considered both along with investment return."

The reason I don’t think there should be much debate over this item is because, quite frankly, is not only a smart move on the city’s part, but one I expect other city’s to follow in short order. Think about it: 1. The next time the city is in need of a new city manager, the pool of applicants will be much wider and deeper because those applicants will know that one major obstacle — the search for and acquisition of a place to live in a new location — has been removed. 2. The city can afford to adjust the salary demands of any potential city manager because housing costs — which probably amount to at least one third of a person’s personal family expenses — are eliminated from the equation (i.e., the purchase price of the home is more than repaid through lower city manager salaries). 3. The value of the property is only going to appreciate; in fact, it will probably be the most valuable piece of property on the city’s books before long.

Mayor Webster supported these assumptions.

"The city negotiated a price per square foot that is much lower than comparable properties and that made this a very good investment," the mayor told me early Wednesday morning. "Between the lease/reduced salary and very conservative prediction for valuation growth (2.5 percent/year), we expect a return of $240k-plus on the $550k by the end of the eight-year contract term.

"And, I think you are correct that should (City Manager Scott) Sellers leave or retire, the inclusion of housing in the compensation package should make Kyle very competitive for top tier city managers in any future recruiting effort," the mayor added. "The city manager profession is extremely transient, which makes the provision of housing something that should broaden the range and number of applicants in any future search.

"This was a very smart financial investment and a strategic decision that should earn an excellent financial return. Alternatively, we could have taken the traditional approach that would have resulted in a higher new starting base salary for the city manager. I think that approach may have been easier for the public to understand and accept, but it is hands down less advantageous for the city."

One other thing that wasn’t clear when I first learned of the emergency meeting was why this action couldn’t wait until the council’s Jan. 3 regularly scheduled meeting. I originally thought it might have something to do with the expiration date of Sellers’s contract, but Mayor Webster informed me that wasn’t the case. The pressing issue, according to the mayor, is the seemingly innocuous first item on the agenda. Apparently perhaps as many as a half-dozen potential homebuyers were going to be denied the opportunity to close on their purchases in Cypress Forest because a final plat on the first phase of the subdivision wasn’t in place

"The other items were tacked on," Mayor Webster said.. "The other items could have waited if we weren't already going to have a special meeting."

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Planning commission to consider zero lot line home zoning

Proposed zoning change would allow homes like this in Kyle

The Planning & Zoning Commission will consider Tuesday redefining the requirements for the city’s R-1-A zoning designation, replacing detached homes with comparatively small attached homes for these areas. The owners of two lots near downtown and the owner of one in East Kyle that apparently wish to build these types of homes on their properties have asked the commission to delay their zoning change requests until the new zoning designation has been approved.

Because Tuesday is election day, the normal 6:30 p.m. start for the commission’s meeting has been pushed back to 7 p.m.

The new language for the ordinance the commission will consider recommending to the City Council allows for properties zoned R-1-A to contain single family attached residences as small as 1,000-square feet.. Detached residences will be allowed in R-1-A only as a conditional use and "may only be approved after a public hearing is held by the City Council after having received a report and recommendation from the city planning and zoning commission concerning the effect of the proposed use on the adjacent and neighboring properties and neighborhoods."

The proposed ordinance change will also reduce the minimum square footage for townhome lots from 2,844 to 880 square feet, making it the smallest single family residence lot allowed in Kyle.

The ordinance will also create a R-1-3 zoning category that will allow detached homes as small as 1,000 square feet.

All three of the zoning change requests on Tuesday’s agenda — the three requesting delays that are most likely to be granted — are seeking changes to R-1-A zoning so it would appear they intend to build attached, not detached, residences on those properties.

Public hearings accompany the three likely-to-be-postponed zoning change requests as well as to the item to consider the zoning changes. Here’s hoping the commission doesn’t botch these hearings as badly as it did during its Nov. 22 meeting. This past Tuesday’s City Council meeting was example of how to almost handle it correctly (the only error Tuesday was one of the public hearings was mistakenly closed and then immediately, albeit illegally, re-opened and left open, but I doubt the public meeting high sheriff is going to come down on this one too hard since no action was taken that would force litigation of any sort. At least the mayor at Tuesday’s meeting not only allowed, but encouraged those who wanted to speak on the items to be postponed speak during the citizen comments section of the meeting, unlike the chair of the planning and zoning commission who tried to deny those citizens their rights of free speech.

The two properties seeking the zoning change near downtown are located about five blocks south of West Center Street, just east of South Old Stagecoach Road and extend south to Scott Street, between West 2nd Street and Park Place. Together they comprise about 86 acres. The largest of the two properties, owned by Blanton Family Limited Partnership, is currently zoned Central Business District in parts of it and single family residential R-1-2 in most of it. The smaller property, 7.6 acres owned by Thomas Kaminsky, is currently zoned single family residential R-1-2 as well. The third property seeking this zoning designation is a 53-acre parcel located between Beebee Road and a block south of the Amberwood Loop. It is also currently zoned R-1-2

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Another one that doesn’t pass the smell test

I may be in the minority here but, still, I don’t like the idea that the City of Kyle is using taxpayer resources to promote a pair of privately owned athletic teams that so completely irrelevant even the local newspaper doesn’t report on them.

I posed this question directly to the city and here’s the reply I received from city spokesperson Kim Hilsenbeck:

"This is all part of Kyle's effort to be a destination city. We entered into a relationship with the soccer team in July; their home field (Gregg-Clarke Park) is a city facility. These games have the potential to bring in teams and visitors from other cities including those who may need an overnight stay in a hotel.

"While they are in town, they shop at stores, eat at restaurants and get gas.

"The same is essentially true with the Stallions, as they also draw in other teams and guests from out of town.

"Below is one of the quotes from Mayor Pro Tem Damon Fogley in July when the city welcomed the Central Texas Lobos; we held a news conference/event and Mr. Fogley said this:

"‘Becoming a recreation and event destination in Central Texas is one of Kyle’s top priorities to support our city’s economic development,’ Mayor Pro Tem Damon Fogley said at the event Thursday at Gregg-Clarke Park soccer complex, according to a city press release. ‘Because of this, we are very excited to be the hometown of the new Central Texas Lobos’."

If some of that was true — and much of it isn’t — that would be excellent reasons for the Kyle Chamber of Commerce to be using its resources to promote these teams, but there is still no rationale for the city to be doing it.

I posed a somewhat similar question to the cities of El Paso, Austin, San Antonio, Houston, Texarkana, Killeen — even the tiny burg of Somerset south of San Antonio — some of the cities that are the homes of the 11 other ABA franchises that are in the same division as Kyle to see if they devoted sections of their city’s web sites to these privately owned operations that charge patrons for admission. The response was a unanimous "no."

Typical was this response I received from Bryce Bencivengo, senior public information specialist for the City of Austin: "I checked around our office and with a few other folks around the City and we are not aware of any public funds or resources spent on (Austin’s semi-pro basketball team) the Austin Bats."

In other words, Kyle is the only one of the 12 cities in the Southwest Division of the American Basketball Association that is using public resources to promote its entry. I didn’t waste my time seeking out responses from cities in other divisions of the ABA because I’m sure the answer would have been the same.

(Updated information added here) And what do those cities know that Kyle doesn't. Perhaps they've seen the studies that show athletic teams have absolutely no impact whatsoever on local economies: Michael Leeds, a sports economist at Temple University, studied Chicago, the home of five major league sports franchises and found that if every single one of them deserted the Windy City the impact on the local economy would be a fraction of 1 percent. And those are major league franchises. You can only imagine the absolute negligible effect semi pro franchises have on the local economy.

Apparently the reason for this lack of contribution is that money spent on going to see a team like the Stallions or the Lobos are simply entertainment dollars that would have been spent elsewhere in Kyle. According to Vic Matheson, a sports economist at Holy Cross University, most people have a limited entertainment budget, so the dollars they are spending when they go to a game is money they would have spent elsewhere, maybe even at a restaurant or small businesses where more money would have stayed in the community. In fact, it turns out that when the Los Angeles Lakers left the Forum, located in the Inglewood section of Los Angeles, and relocated in the downtown Staples Center, sales tax revenues from that part of Inglewood actually increased. (End of updated section.)

I have nothing against Kyle becoming a destination city, but I do have a problem with the city using taxpayer funded resources to promote private companies, especially ones that obviously will have minimal-to-no effect on Kyle becoming that destination city leaders are striving for. Want a more likely candidate to attract visitors? How about the Texas Pie Company? Why isn’t that mentioned in the city’s website and in its weekly newsletter. I would bet the Texas Pie Company attracts far more out-of-towners than the Kyle Stallions. Has anyone been to Evo lately, even on a Saturday morning? Now that is a destination. I guarantee it is responsible for more sales tax revenues for the city than either of the two semi-pro athletic teams. But I don't think the city should be promoting that entertainment center on its web site either. What about the Kyle Conservatory of Performing Arts? Doesn't the city think that might deserve a mention as a possible destination? I remember one City Council meeting in which city staff made a big deal about promoting the Katherine Anne Porter house. But, so far, not a word about it on the city's Web site.

Enter the Kyle Stallions or the Central Texas Lobos in Google News’ search engine and the only hit you’ll get is a mention of the teams making Kyle their home that was telecast last month on KXAN. But has anyone read one single game story about the Stallions in particular in the Hays Free Press? Does the newspaper even print the ABA standings each week? No. And that’s not a criticism of the Hays Free Press. The paper does a far more than just adequate job of covering local sports. In fact, the Hays Free Press even had a photo and coverage of a football game between the Kyle Police and Fire departments. The newspapers of Austin, Laredo, San Antonio, El Paso, Killeen, Texarkana and Houston totally ignore their semi-pro teams as well. Why? The obvious reason has to be there is no interest, they are simply not attractions.

I’d be willing to bet more folks come from out of town to see a Lehman High School home basketball game than come from outside Kyle to see a game played by Kyle Stallions. I would even bet that’s true when Lehman hosts a game against Hays High School because more Buda residents will show up to see that game then will come to that very same gymnasium to see a Kyle Stallions home game.

Way, way back, in the summer of 1962, I was a reporter for the Seguin Gazette. Seguin, at the time, had two semi-pro baseball teams, the Seguin White Sox and the SMI Steelers. I remember the ace pitcher for the White Sox was a young hurler named Ed Kuempel, who, during the regular collegiate season, pitched for Texas Lutheran College in Seguin. I’d be willing to bet that is the same Ed Kuempel who went on to represent the Seguin area in the Texas Legislature from 1982 until his death in 2010. The only out-of-town games these teams played were in San Antonio and I remembered the "luxurious" travel conditions of those road trips: everyone crammed into three or four automobiles owned by the players themselves, an after-game dinner we paid for ourselves at a drive-in burger joint on the way out of town (we never even got out of our cars to eat), no overnight hotel stays. I remember it because of the hilarious fit Kuempel would pretend to throw when the massive order of hamburgers didn’t arrive within 10 minutes of ordering them. Fun, it was. A significant financial investment in the town we visited, it was not.

But that is the way of semi-pro sports. It’s called "semi-pro" because the athletes on these teams are not paid a salary high enough to live on. They must have other jobs. Most, if not all, the players for SMI were employed by the team’s namesake, Structural Metals, a Seguin-based operation which used furnaces to melt scrap metal into reinforcing bars. Today SMI is known as CMC Steel and distinctively colored SMI 18-wheelers with green cabs containing shocking pink lettering no longer prowl the Texas highways.

But I digress. The point is I know from first-hand experience the games played by these teams rarely even drew the family members of the players on the team, let alone people traveling from hundreds, or even dozens of miles away — even from the outskirts of town, for that matter. As far as I can tell, these two Seguin baseball teams no longer even exist.

So, yes, I don’t like the idea that the City of Kyle is using taxpayer resources to promote a pair of privately owned athletic teams. I especially don’t like the idea that Kyle appears to be the only city I can see that uses its municipal web site to promote these teams. I’m not saying the city is doing anything illegal. I’m not even claiming that the city is throwing large chunks of money into this effort; we’re probably only talking about the small amount of time the city’s communications guru takes to place these items in the web page and to toss gratuitous mentions of the teams in the city’s weekly newsletter. It’s just that using any city resources at all to promote a for-profit, privately owned business doesn’t pass the smell test.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Not so public meeting of Public Housing Authority Board

The newly formed Kyle Housing Authority board is playing it pretty close to the vest.

In the second meeting of its existence last night, four members of the five-member board showed up (the fifth position is listed on the city’s website as "vacant’) and within eight minutes of being called into order, recused itself into an executive session that lasted an hour and 10 minutes, six times longer than the entire public meeting, a meeting which was newsworthy only because of who was on the agenda to appear, but didn’t.

That no-show was the authority’s embattled, but soon-to-retire, executive director Vickie Simpson, whose management of the authority here in Kyle recently came under severe criticism from HUD, a criticism that quickly led to the formation of the committee that met last night. The agenda called for Simpson, whose resignation is effective at the end of the year, to present a "General Overview," an agenda caption that is, in itself, far from specific and provided an umbrella under which she could have gone on about anything from Old Town Kyle gentrification to the effect the appointment of Dr. Ben Carson as the new housing secretary will have on public housing.

Instead we learned from board chairman Daniel Harper that Simpson "was not available to be with us today. Instead, me and commissioner (Michelle) Lopez were able to meet with her yesterday. It was a good discussion. She gave us an idea how the Housing Authority functioned and I’m looking forward to a good transition as she goes into retirement."

And that was it. No mention of any sort of accountability or explanations or rebuttals to HUD accusations , just a simple "She gave us an idea how the Housing Authority functioned."

So much for a "General Overview" for public consumption.

As of this writing, neither Harper nor Lopez have responded to my written request seeking more information about their meeting with Simpson. If and when they do, I will update this report. (Harper ultimately responded by email to my request on Monday, Dec. 12, but was not any more forthcoming, illuminating, informative or revealing about the meeting with Simpson. "The meeting allowed us to start a dialog with Ms. Simpson on the history of the Housing Authority, the current ‘day to day’ operations and the challenges faced," he wrote. "We also discussed her retirement and the transition between executive directors. We were appreciative of the time Ms. Simpson gave us." No mention of why she has refused to give her time in a public forum, as well.)

As far as replacing Simpson as the executive director, board members Clara Rodriguez and David Salazar were appointed members of a subcommittee tasked with leading the search for Simpson’s successor.

"We’re looking at the possibility of all different options," Salazar said. "One possibility might be the appointment of an interim executive director after our current executive director leaves. Second would be the engagement of a management firm to make sure our residents are being taken care of. The last option would be to actually hire and post the position possibly with the consent of the City of Kyle and using their resources to help us find a suitable candidate so that we can take care of our residents."

The board also heard from two representatives of the San Antonio-based accounting firm that will perform the authority’s audit, which the representatives said will be submitted by the end of the next June, and from Kyle Chief of Staff Jerry Hendrix who said the attorneys being retained by the city could be made available to the board for legal consultation and advice.

The board is scheduled to meet again next Thursday at 5:45 p.m. in the council chambers.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Council gives city manager 8-year extension, pay cut, new house

The City Council announced today it had concluded two months of contract negotiations with City Manager Scott Sellers that has culminated in the city’s CEO agreeing to remain in the position until Dec. 31, 2025, a salary reduction of almost $30,000 a year and a half-million-plus dollar new home in the Cypress Forest subdivision that will be owned by the city and become the residence of all future city managers, but which will be significantly financed through Sellers’s salary cut.

The council voted 6-0 to approve the contract (council member Becky Selberra was excused from attending the meeting for medical reasons).

The news that the city plans on keeping the person most government officials I’ve talked to outside the city rank as one of the four or five best city managers in the state overshadowed the other major news coming from the city council’s meeting, which included council member Travis Mitchell’s "First Year On Us" plan to offer tax reimbursements as an incentive to attract more small businesses to Kyle and an emergency meeting held today after the regular one adjourned to set aside $25,000 to cover the costs of emergency repairs for the bridge failure that has closed Lehman Road between Goldenrod and Steeplechase Park.

And, no, that wasn’t a mistake when I said the council made its announcement today. It came shortly after the council emerged at 1 a.m. today from a three-hour and 32-minute executive session.

"This is going to be a very good deal for the city and it’s also going to be a very good deal for Mr. Sellers," Mitchell said in outlining some of the terms of the deal which includes the construction of "an executive-level house not to exceed $550,000" and a reduction in the city manager’s annual salary from $181.000 to $152,459, beginning with the next fiscal year, which kicks off Oct. 1, 2017, and is also when the new city manager’s residence is expected to be ready for occupancy. I’m assuming Sellers agreed to that reduction largely because that difference is what he would pay in total housing costs per year anyway, costs neither he nor any future city manager who decides to live in the home, will have to incur. The new contract does include a built-in 5 percent per year performance increases.

"Our desire was to extend him here through his retirement so we can have some stability," Mayor Todd Webster said. As part of this, the city agreed to pay for Sellers’s gap insurance, the health insurance he would need to fill that period from when he retires as Kyle city manager to when he is eligible for Medicare. Those payments, Webster said, would be in lieu of some future salary increases.

The contract includes provisions for future extensions as well as a 12-month salary severance package and a 12-month continuation of health benefits should a future council decide to terminate Sellers before the end of 2025, both of which the mayor described as "pretty standard arrangements."

Webster added the contract included "a market adjustment in 2021 where there will be an analysis performed related to the total compensation, including the value and benefits as compared to surrounding cities and an adjustment in 2021."

"It’s a real solid deal," Mitchell said, "and I’m excited about it. I’m excited about the possibility of keeping the city manager here for the long term."

"Scott, from where I sit, you’re a very good city manager," Webster said. "My objectives were I thought it was important to have that security for the long term, knowing the planning the city needs and the kind of stability that the city needs in the long term that continue to take the city in the direction that it has been going since you have come here.

"I am very happy that you were willing to do this,’ the mayor added. "I know it’s a pretty serious thing talking about the entirety of your career into retirement. I hope this sends a message to staff that the stability and the direction that we’re taking Kyle will continue."

Later the mayor added "This is very much a win (for the city manager) and a win for the city." He called the city manager’s future residence "an investment property that’s going to be the only asset that we have that appreciates" in value.

Council member David Wilson called the contract "a public handshake that we have with you that we want to keep you long-term and we believe Kyle is going in a positive direction. Anybody who looks around knows that is happening."

Is Sellers worth all this fawning praise? Let me try to answer that by mentioning something that transpired earlier in the evening and that was the council approving a deal Sellers initiated and stitched together that saved the city almost $1 million in infrastructure costs relating to a significant new business development being located just north of the Home Depot.

After the Sellers contract extension was announced, the council adjourned at 1:22 a.m., and immediately reconvened in emergency session to discuss what actions could be taken to fix the Lehman Road closure. During the discussion over possibly expediting the Lehman road bond project, Sellers and Public Works Director Harper Wilder huddled and came up with the idea of either installing a rail car or some unused box culverts to serve as a temporary bridge until a more permanent fix can be arranged. I have tried to contact the city today to learn which, if either, of those alternatives were employed and when Lehman may be reopened, but, unfortunately, I’m stuck with Spectrum as my internet provider and its local email server, like Lehman Road, is currently closed for repairs.

In his presentation on small business incentives, Mitchell said "Commercial incentives paved the way for us to reshape I-35 and because of these partnerships I think we have the nicest interstate corridor when compared to our neighbors to the north and to the south." There was a "however," that accompanied his praise. "With all the good brought about by Kyle’s economic development policy, I believe we failed to place enough value on smaller businesses."

Mitchell said master-planned commercial districts compels developers to ask "top dollar" for the pads and so they only seek out the chains, like Wal-Mart, H-E-B, McDonalds, etc., who can afford to pay those high amounts to fill those pads.

"Just look at those developments and ask yourself how many mom-and-pop small businesses are there," Mitchell said, "versus how many national brands and chains. These chains can afford to pay for the premium sites and reap the rewards through their economies of scale."

He claimed the successes of those business attract additional chains which drive land costs even higher.

"That’s good for them and good for the city but it creates a barrier to entry for small businesses who perhaps have a good model but are woefully under-capitalized and inexperienced," he said.

He said he spent months looking at what other cities have done and even programs Kyle once had in place and concluded they were either "ineffective, ceremonial or not so much partnering with small businesses as much as subsidizing them."

"So, my primary goal with this proposal is not to subsidize the small business community," Mitchell said. "Rather I want to give them a square deal, something like what the major developers get and something measurable in terms of ROI to the city. If they invest in us, I want to invest in them.

"So the conclusion I’ve come to is that I think we should build a program that is essentially a mini-developer agreement using the same type of reasoning we apply for large developers only super simplified on a much smaller scale outside of our already-incentivized development areas. The first and most logical phase of this plan and the one thing I’m going to propose tonight should be a property tax-based incentive that is measurable in terms of ROI to the city."

Mitchell said under his "First Year on Us" plan, "owner-occupied businesses may apply for a one-time tax credit of up to $5,000 for improvements on real and personal property calculated on a one-to-one basis. Non owner-occupied businesses and developers may apply for the same credit up to $2,500 calculated on a one-to-two or 50 percent basis."

Mitchell’s colleagues greeted his plan favorably and recommended that staff immediately begin to draft ordinances that would incorporate his ideas.

In other action that took place earlier in the session, the council:
  • Approved and adopted an updated Parks and Recreation Master Plan noting that while the plan rises to the expectations of the quality of life the council desires for the city, cost factors will limit just how much of the plan can and will be implemented. "My major worry is the expectations of the community that will arise from this," Mayor Webster said.
  • As predicted, voted 5-1 to approve funding preliminary engineering studies required to possibly, at some time in the future, moving a rail siding, the current location of which causes trains to stop and block traffic on Center Street.
  • Also as predicted, postponed three zoning proposals until the Planning & Zoning Commission can bumble its way through them.
  • Approved amendments to the section of the vendors ordinance that regulates food trucks and vans but not before reducing the required minimum square footage for a food truck park in Kyle from 30,000 to 20,000 square feet.
  • Approved amendments to the local pet ordinance that gives the government more control over how individuals can deal with such problems as rattlesnakes on their patios, a more common occurrence than one would expect, especially in and around my neighborhood.