The Kyle Report

The Kyle Report

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Which acronym do you prefer: HCPUA or ARWA?

OK, the headline poses a trick question because HCPUA is not really an acronym. But, still, I hate it. Not the agency, mind you, just the initials of the organization. I avoid talking about it at all costs out of the fear that, at best, I’ll transpose one or more of the letters or, at worst, I’ll leave one of them out completely. Yessirree, Bob, I’ll take ARWA any ol’ day of the week.

I bring this up for two reasons. First, the HCPUA, which stands for Hays Caldwell Public Utility Agency (which I originally confused as Hays County Public Utility Agency, so I have had this bias for a while now), is a rather important group of which the City of Kyle is a prominent sponsor, along with Buda, San Marcos and the Canyon Regional Water Authority. Kyle City Council member David Wilson currently serves as chair of the HCPUA and its 10-member board includes Mayor Todd Webster and assistant city manager James Earp The second, and the real reason, I bring this up is because I ran across this Notice of Intent today on behalf of the HCPUA to file a bill during the current legislative session to change its name to the Alliance Regional Water Authority or ARWA. Granted, the proposed name change strips the agency of its geographic identity, but, c’mon, you gotta admit ARWA comes off the tongue far more trippingly than HCPUA.

According to the notice of intent, ARWA "would be a conservation district formed to accomplish the purposes of Article 16, Section 59 of the Texas Constitution." For those who are really policy wonks, that article, which bears the title "Navigation Districts," contains a lot of gobbledygook about how these districts are formed, how elections must to be held to establish them, how board members shall be elected before you get down to the nitty-gritty, the section labeled "Powers and Duties," which says: ""A district may be created under this chapter to provide, in or adjacent to its boundaries for (1) the improvement, preservation, and conservation of inland and coastal water for navigation; (2) the control and distribution of storm water and floodwater of rivers and streams in aid of navigation; and (3) any other purposes necessary or incidental to the navigation of inland and coastal water or in aid of these purposes."

Which is somewhat fascinating because the HCPUA currently has absolutely nothing to do with navigating waterways, as far as I can tell, and everything to do with providing water to its sponsors. In fact, right there in its mission statement, it says the HCPUA "was formed in January 2007 for the purpose of resolving the long-term water needs for its Participants." Don’t see anything there relating to "navigation," unless you want to argue the agency has successfully navigated the various ways to get waters from places where it is to places where it isn’t, but is desperately needed.

I also bring this up because, although residents of Kyle are not talking all that much about HCPUA or ARWA now, they will. And probably sooner than they would want to. They will start talking about it on or possibly even a little before they start receiving water bills that are in the neighborhood of $25 higher per month and increase even more as the months wear on. Those higher water bills are needed to pay the HCPUA’s or ARWA’s capital improvement project involving a "pipeline and pump station interconnecting the Kyle and Buda water systems. The facilities are anticipated to be used in the short-term to provide for interim water sharing and will also eventually serve as the delivery infrastructure of the Carrizo water to Buda. The pipeline will be sized to handle the full anticipated flow to Buda. The pump station will allow for expansion to provide the full contract delivery amount to Buda." That may not sound like a big deal, but it is. The pipeline, alone, is budgeted to cost nearly $7.5 million and the pump station another $12 million. That’s $19.5 million and, like Trump’s border wall, we’re going to have to pay for it. And I don’t expect the name change to make it any cheaper.

Nevertheless, I still like it. ARWA. Say it to yourself. Then try to pronounce HCPUA. It’s really no contest.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Major changes proposed for what can be located where in Kyle


Members of the City Council and the Planning Commission tentatively agreed in a special joint meeting last night to bring logic to the City’s Comprehensive Plan, "tweaking" it by creating two new zoning designations and significantly altering where businesses can be located and what kind of residences can be constructed in locations across the city.

Focusing on the Comp Plan’s Landuse Districts, the two bodies also agreed to scrap the so-called "Employment District" located in far northeast Kyle, where no one plans — ever — to locate a place of employment, and to come up with an entirely new designation for the New Settlement districts located on the southern and eastern fringe of the city.

They also asked the Planning Department to prepare a three-year annexation plan to examine the possible expansion of the city’s boundaries by as much 10½ square miles, adding 5,675 to the city’s population. Most of the area planned for annexation is east of I-35.

Example of a mixed-use development
The changes were designed to make the Comprehensive Plan more logical than it is today by concentrating business locations along the city’s major arterials — I-35, FM 1626, the soon-to-be-rerouted FM 150 and even Center Street and Old Highway 81 — while, at the same time, realizing the opportunities that Kyle might have had to locate a major industrial park in the city have come and gone (residential development has consumed too much of the available land space). It was the consensus that Kyle’s business development should now concentrate on vertical instead of horizontal projects. With that in mind, they agreed to ask the Planning Department to draft proposed ordinances that would create mixed-use and office zoning designations. There was some confusion among the council and commission members as to what exactly constituted mixed -use. They all agreed that it should include developments consisting of retail uses on the ground floor with some form of residential (apartments, condominiums, etc.) on two or more levels above, but they were less sure whether it should include properties of multi-uses, i.e., both a retail outlet and a separate warehouse facility on the same parcel. (The logical solution would seem to create a separate mixed-use and multi-use zoning, but the decision-makers displayed no thoughts about going there.)

One of the more notable omissions was the absence of designating warehouse uses anywhere in the city except as conditional uses in the New Town and Heritage districts. Warehouses provide much of the blue-collar employment opportunities that are the pistons of Kyle’s economic engine and I could easily see that underdeveloped area of Lehman Road running north from RR 150 as a designated Warehouse District.

The biggest changes were made in four landuse districts, all of which are located in or in close proximity to the downtown area: the Core Area (that pink section on the above map that straddles I-35 from just north of Center Street to Kyle Parkway), the Super Regional Node (the orange blotch just south of the Core Area); Old Town Community (the area immediately west of I-35 that includes downtown); and the Historic Core (in royal blue immediately west of the Old Town Community).

Specifically, the council and the commissioners agreed to make the following zoning changes to the Landuse Districts:

  • Old Town District: Recommended zoning uses are central business district, entertainment, mixed use and office; conditional use is retail services.
  • Core Area Transition: Recommended zoning uses are commercial, retail services, entertainment, office; conditional uses are multi-family residential, townhomes, condominiums.
  • Historic Core Area: Recommended uses are single-family residential including the new R-1-3 zoning; conditional uses area multi-family residential, townhomes, entertainment, mixed use and retail services.
  • Mid-Town (the area in light blue east and west of the Core Area): Recommended use is single-family residential; conditional uses are multi-family, commercial and entertainment.
  • New Settlement: Come up with an entirely new designation for these two areas and make all zoning conditional uses.
  • Sensitive/Sustainable Development: Change the name so as eliminate the idea that developments proposed in this area would be faced with extreme environmental obstacles and to allow zoning that corresponds with the development agreements already in place in this farthest southwest area.
  • Local nodes (the yellow dots on the map): Add mixed use to the already-accepted residential and commercial uses as recommended; add retail services to the list of conditional uses.
  • Regional Nodes (the orange circles and semi-circles): Add retail services and mixed used zoning to the already listed commercial, condo and multi-family residential uses as recommended.
  • Super Regional Node: Eliminate condos and add entertainment, retail services and mixed use to the list of recommended uses; eliminate all the listed conditional uses and make office the single conditional use allowable here.

Council members and commissioners also reviewed a proposed Downtown Development Corridor that would designate all the land on either side of Old Highway 81, between the rail line and the interstate, for retail services, and recommend denser, more business-oriented development in a designated downtown business district bordered roughly by Front Street on the east, Blanco Street on the north, North Meyer Street on the west and West Moore Street on the south.

There was little to no debate during the meeting on any of the proposed landuse district allowable zoning changes, most of which were recommended by Mayor Todd Webster. Most of those in attendance seemed to merely quietly acquiesce. Council member Travis Mitchell expressed dissatisfaction to the idea of annexation over the concern of the cost of providing infrastructure to these areas. But in conversations I have had with City Manager Scott Sellers, we agree that most of that cost can be self-funded by the individual districts with our only disagreements revolving around exactly what self-funding tool to employ. Personally, I am a big proponent of TIFF Districts for this type of financing; I have seen them successfully finance development miracles in other areas of the state and country. Council member David Wilson and planning commissioner Irene Melendez were the only members of either body who did not attend the meeting and council member Daphne Tenorio left the meeting early, but I have no idea if that was in reaction to what was being proposed. She never vocalized any major objections concerning specific zoning changes recommended in individual districts.

I am guessing the next steps will be Planning Director Howard Koontz will codify all the changes recommended at last night’s meeting and present them to the Planning Commission which, after a brief debate, will recommend passage by the City Council and then that latter body will vote 6-1 to approve the recommended "tweaks."

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Interesting choice of words

When I first learned about Tuesday’s joint meeting of the City Council and the Planning Commission to hash over the City’s Comprehensive Plan, I was under the impression it was going to be a workshop, possibly with all 14 council members and commissioners sitting around a table hashing out how to have the Plan make more sense than it does now.

However, the official agenda for the affair has now been posted and it’s labeled as a "Special City Council Meeting." Does that mean the council members will be on the dais from which they will lecture planning commissioners on how the world goes ‘round? Does that mean planning commissioners will be confined to taking their turns at the lectern, if an when they are summoned for their opinion? I have no earthly idea.

I do know this. With the recent departures of Mike Rubsam and Mike Wilson from the Planning Commission, I’m not confident the holdovers and those that have replaced them have the knowledge to make meaningful contributions to this discussion. Mayor Todd Webster along with council members Shane Arabie and David Wilson should, for the good of the city’s smart growth future, dominate this discussion.

I also know that this meeting would not have even been necessary had the planning commissioners completed the assignment the council asked of them which was to make midterm amendments to the Comp Plan, which, of course, is what Tuesday’s meeting is designed to finally take care of. What I’m getting at here is, if the commissioners couldn’t do it then, why have any faith that they have seen the light and can do it now?

So even if they all are sitting around a table as equals, what I expect is for Webster, Wilson and Arabie to kind if go through the document, outlining the changes —like getting rid of some nodes and designating the part of town specified for business development where such development is a realistic possibility — they want the commissioners, at a subsequent meeting, to recommend the council formally adopt. I don’t expect much time wasted on debate.

So, perhaps, "meeting" is in reality a more apt description than "workshop" of what’s going to take place beginning 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The request will be for RS zoning, regardless of what you read in the local paper

An announcement released yesterday from the city and reprinted in the below article revealed another step in the long, bumpy saga concerning the property at the northwest corner of I-35 and Yarrington Road. You know the spot. The one that so many feared would be the site of the worst thing possible. No, not a nuclear waste dump. No, not a smoke-belching steel mill. This was far worse than that. It was going to be the location of a (Gasp!) truck stop!

In fact, when the developers of the property, PGI Investments, came before the Planning Commission almost a year ago to seek a change in zoning from Agriculture to Warehouse, it drew the single largest crowd to attend a city legislative meeting in the more than two years I’ve been covering city government. And that crowd, most of whom didn’t even live in Kyle but across the street in San Marcos, came prepared to wage war. They didn’t want the truck stop there. And the Planning Commission sympathized with their pleas and denied the zoning.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you view the eventual outcome), two of the planning commissioners publicly stated during the meeting they were voting against the request because they didn’t want a truck stop located there. And, in Texas, making a zoning decision based on what someone wants to eventually place on the land in question is illegal. In effect, the Planning Commission virtually guaranteed PGI could locate a truck stop there.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you view the eventual outcome) cooler, more reasoned, heads prevailed. Political and government leaders from Kyle huddled with their counterparts from San Marcos, quickly asking PGI to join the conversations. The short term result was that the applicant withdrew his zoning request so the City Council didn’t even have to consider the zoning issue at its next meeting. The interim result was that several months later the two cities and PGI had agreed on a joint plan for that corner that involved a convenience store with eight gas pumps, some restaurants, perhaps a hotel or two and a sharing of wastewater facilities.

It was quiet for a long time after that until yesterday’s unveiling of the "final stages" of the concept plan for the area, a plan that includes a retail anchor at the center rear of the property, offices and smaller retail on the Yarrington Road side, at least one restaurant and pods for eight more restaurants/retail outlets on the I-35 side, two hotels between the retail anchor and the restaurant/retail pods and a convenience store on the northern point of the triangle-shaped property. The news release accompanying the concept plan said, in part, "A public hearing on rezoning will take place during the upcoming February 7 Kyle City Council meeting. Mayor Todd Webster said council will consider rezoning the property to RS (Retail Services), which is more restrictive in terms of the kinds of businesses that would be allowed."

So far, all well and good.

But this morning, my weekly copy of the Hays Free Press came in the mail and a Public Notice on Page 2D jumped out at me. It said "The City of Kyle shall hold a public hearing on Z-15-021 a request by PGI Investments, LLC to assign original zoning to approximately 47.74 acres of land from Agriculture ‘AG’ to Warehouse District ‘W’ for property located at 24800 IH 35, in Hays County, Texas. A public hearing will be held by the Kyle City Council on Tuesday, February 7, 2017, at 7:00 p.m."


That seemed to directly contradict what the City’s news release from the day before said. So I turned to the one person I thought could provide the needed expertise to clear this up, the City’s Planning Director Howard J. Koontz. And clear it up, he did.

Basically, what he told me is this: Not to worry. The applicant is not trying to sneak another plan for a truck stop through City Council. In essence, it’s all government mandated gobbledygook, or, as many call it, "red tape."

Here’s exactly what he told me today:

"The request from the applicant to the City (Z-15-021) is to apply Warehouse zoning to the Yarrington property. Staff cannot administratively change their application mid-stream."

The short answer to my query over this seeming contradiction, he told me, is "The ad text summarizes the applicant's request to the City, it does not indicate a required or imminent action on the part of the Council."

But Koontz was gracious and patient enough to provide a longer answer as well:

"Since the postponement, the applicant has met with all manner of stake holders and revised their expectation such that R/S zoning is agreeable on their part. They have indicated to the City both verbally and in writing that they are amenable to having their request down-zoned to R/S upon adjudication on the seventh (which is always an allowable outcome available to the Council anytime anyone seeks to have a property rezoned).

"But that amended request can't be carried out until the Council picks the item back up on the seventh. Until that time, the original request still exists, in procedural stasis, until the issue is taken up again at the Council meeting on the seventh.

"For consistency's sake, staff published the ad text with the same language as the original request from December 2015 (Z-15-021, AG to W). That way no one should have any expectation that (1) the applicant has made a duplicate request for a new/different property, and (2) that the city will be acting on the previous application of which everyone is so well aware, not a different or separate request."

Now, here comes the important part:

"Staff is hopeful that the public will take their clues of the impending outcome from the text of the press releases the city has put forward, and not from the limited wording of the legal ad. The ad only summarizes the applicant's request; the city PR wording will hopefully lend more insight as to what is expected to take place on the seventh.

"At the end of the day, if a person or persons are concerned that the city is applying W zoning as formerly requested, well, then staff invites them to the City Council meeting on the seventh at 7 p.m. to watch the resolution play out differently, like what the press release indicates. That is, after all, why the City chose to post an additional Public Hearing notice in the first place, to get people to attend the meeting."

Frankly, I don’t think he needs to worry about people attending the meeting. I expect the Usual No-Growth Suspects to be out in force. They will be arguing that the property should instead be turned into a park or a green space, which might make sense, if either Kyle or San Marcos actually owned the property. But they don’t. A private developer does. So, in this case, asking them to turn it into a park or a green space makes as much sense and will gather as much traction as petitioning the Walton Family to stop selling stuff.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

What was once thought to be the site of a truck stop

This, verbatim, is an announcement released this evening from City Hall.

Yarrington Rd. concept plan
The concept plan for the development at Yarrington Rd. in Kyle’s southern gateway is now in its final stages. Kyle’s City Manager Scott Sellers said the plan serves as the blueprint for future development at the Yarrington Rd. location, which is on the northwest side of Interstate-35.

 “This conceptual plan is the starting point for recruiting businesses to that location,” Kyle City Manager Scott Sellers said.

Through a regional planning effort, the City of Kyle’s Economic Development Department along with Hays County, the City of San Marcos and the Greater San Marcos Partnership collaborated with the property owner, PGI, over the past several months in an effort to create a concept plan for that location.

Sellers said the city utilized the services of outside firms on a design, the cost of which was divvied among the above public partners.

The plan provides a view of what types of businesses would have the greatest chance for success at that location. In its current iteration, the concept plan shows space for a retail anchor store, restaurant pads, two hotels, a convenience store with an eight-pump gas station and several other retail sites.

“By investing in this juncture, what we call the gateway to both cities, we are taking steps to secure our future and highlight the importance of regional cooperation,” San Marcos Mayor John Thomaides said.

Hays County Commissioner Ray Whisnant said the progress being made on the concept plan is encouraging and he is confident that the project will benefit the county as a whole.
“Bringing retail businesses to Kyle and San Marcos through this development is a sound investment in our future financial success in Hays County,” he said.

While there are a few modifications to be made, Sellers said, such as the roadway access and retaining heritage oak trees on the lot, the plan is essentially complete.

The land at Yarrington and Interstate-35 is currently zoned Agricultural. On January 26, 2016, the city’s Planning & Zoning Commission denied an application by the developer, PGI, to rezone the property to Warehouse. Kyle City Council did not discuss the zoning at its February 2, 2016, meeting as the applicant withdrew the request. City leaders then worked with representatives from PGI, Hays County, the City of San Marcos and GSMP to determine a future for that location that would bring the best chance for success.

A public hearing on rezoning will take place during the upcoming February 7 Kyle City Council meeting. Mayor Todd Webster said council will consider rezoning the property to RS (Retail Services), which is more restrictive in terms of the kinds of businesses that would be allowed.

Should council grant the rezoning request, PGI will develop the property as well as own and run a convenience store at that location.

Sellers said the approval would also enable the city to bring in some of the types of businesses the Kyle and San Marcos communities say they want, such as retail stores, family restaurants and hotels. The developer would submit site plans to the Community Planning Department at that time.

 “We look forward to doing great things for all of the entities involved, but mostly for residents of Kyle and San Marcos,” Sellers said.

A spokesperson for PGI said, “We are excited about this project moving forward and we look forward to bringing new businesses to Kyle.”

Kyle Mayor Todd Webster said he’s glad to see this project coming together because of cooperation among several different entities.

“I want to express my gratitude to PGI and all our regional partners for working together on this project and coming up with the best plan of action,” Webster said.

Council refuses to pay blackmail (at least for now)

A city council consent agenda, according to the Municipal Research and Services Center, "is a tool used to streamline council meeting procedures by collecting routine, non-controversial (emphasis mine) items into a group whereby all are passed with a single motion and vote."

Except for a teeny, tiny group of individuals without functioning cerebral cortexes (including one council member) who tried to create a controversy where one obviously did not exist out of the city manager’s proposed contract extension, the single most controversial item on last night’s city council agenda turned out to be the very first one on the Consent Agenda (that section where controversial items are not supposed to hide). Jerry Hendrix, the city’s chief of staff, informed me today "The city manager and mayor review the agenda and make the final decision on what is placed on consent."

I’m not saying that either one tried to slip something nefarious by without due consideration. Change orders, specifically ones under $50,000, are usually found on a council’s consent agenda and this one was for $35,803.36. This change order involved work being performed on the Tenorio Wastewater System Rehabilitation Project, i.e. improvements to the city’s wastewater infrastructure, in the vicinity of Wallace Middle School. According to City Engineer Leon Barba, the project not only involves extending the city’s wastewater lines, but it "also replaced about five houses that were on septic systems and pulled a lot of the old lines that were behind fences and backyards and put them out into the streets where we could have better access to them as far as maintenance is concerned."

According to the contractor, Guerra Underground of Austin, the additional 35 grand was needed because "There was a 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. work hour restriction for a 50-foot section. However, after setting up traffic control lane closures and starting construction activity it was determined that it was not possible to keep traffic control in place with construction activity in Center Street during Wallace Middle School pick and drop off hours. It was agreed upon to extend the restricted work schedule until we passed middle school entrances. The result was 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. work in the zone. Because of set up, take down time and clean up, actual digging could only take place for four hours. The restricted schedule resulted in an additional 12 days of equipment and labor necessary to install the section in front of the middle school."

That’s Guerra’s side of the story. The City of Kyle’s side is a little different.

"My biggest concern in regards to this additional income is that it says it’s because they are restricted by work hours due to school related traffic," council member Daphne Tenorio told Barba,

"Yes," the city engineer replied. "There was a section of road that we wanted to make sure they were away from the driveways with all the school traffic and the bus traffic that is and the project took longer than what we expected and so they were there longer. So they agreed not to start before 9 and to get out of the area by 3 o’clock."

The key phrase in Barba’s above response was " the project took longer than what we expected" and Tenorio jumped on it.

"Didn’t they know that was going to happen prior to the contract extension?" she asked.

"We had an anticipation that it was," Barba said, "but they just didn’t work as fast as we thought they were going to work."

"I kind of struggle with that concept as well," council member Travis Mitchell said. "They were the ones that delayed in construction. Then how is it that we are paying the additional funds on that project? It seems to me they are saying ‘We can’t complete this project on time so that entitles us to a bonus.’ It comes across as a cash grab to me."

Barba then dug the hole a little deeper.

"We expected them to move faster on that project when we put the contract together," he said, "but it didn’t happen that way. If he had used a different technique, a different method, it might have worked out that way, but he did not. He chose t to use the method he was used to using. And because of the technique he was using, it delayed him getting through the intersection."

So what’s happening here is the contractor is threatening to walk off the job without finishing a project unless he is paid additional funds for additional time needed to complete the project, additional time that resulted from the contractor’s own methodology. That’s blackmail, pure and simple. And the contractor figures he can get away with it because bringing in a new contractor usually means starting the project completely over. In other words, the original $443,940 awarded to Guerra would become money flushed right down the wastewater pipes (if and when those pipes are completed). In effect, he’s demanding the city reimburse him $35,000 for his ineptitude or pay someone else close to a half million to complete the project on time according to a new schedule.

But that’s not the end of the story. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Barba still had another bombshell to drop.

"Actually, this is a negotiated price we worked with the contractors," Barba told the council "It was originally much higher. So we negotiated with them, explained to them that this was something we hadn’t planned. We wished he had moved faster but it’s the contractor’s choice to move as fast or as slow as he wants to. We did negotiate this price with him so it’s substantially lower than we were expecting he would charge us."

In a classic understatement, Mayor Todd Webster told Barba "I’m not sure you helped yourself there."

Barba said the change order adds 12 additional days to the number specified for completion of the project in the original contract. "The bottom line is he didn’t move as quickly as we expected him to do." Barba said.

"As I’m listening to this," Webster said, "it sounds like you didn’t agree with the methods they were using. Even though it wasn’t up to us to tell them how to do it, it sure sounds like the methods we didn’t agree to extended the time and it’s a pretty persuasive argument that my colleagues are making that extending the budget for this because it’s a delay sure doesn’t come across to me either as appropriate. I think we need to know exactly what the contract says and what are the consequences if this item does not get approved. Are we contracted to pay the additional $35,000 or are we volunteering to pay?"

City Manager Scott Sellers told the council "The change order was not met very well by staff. I’ll just be very blunt. I strongly opposed this. The question is: How do we finish the project? If we do not pay this, the contractor does not finish the project. At this point it was more cost effective to keep the contractor on site to finish the project rather than get a new contractor on scene to finish it. We don’t have the equipment in-house to do the project. While the price came down very significantly because we voiced very strong opposition to the change order, I can say for what we are paying we will at least get the project done."

I repeat: Holding someone or something hostage in order to receive money is blackmail and that’s just was Sellers described was happening.

"However," Sellers added, "future projects by this contractor may not be viewed very favorably as they are bid in the City of Kyle. And I believe the contractor understands that. So we are trying to get the project done with this change order. The project is close to being done and to stop progress right now has a significant cost to getting it done."

Webster said he intuited that a majority of the council was determined not to pay the blackmail "I think there is more here than I think we can understand in terms of what the potential risks (of not paying) might be," the mayor said. "I see some wisdom in getting some legal advice to understand what our options are. I don’t feel I could vote in favor if it, but I want to understand what the potential risks are."

As a result, the council decided to move discussion of the matter into its planned executive session at the end of last night’s meeting. After they emerged from the executive session, the council voted unanimously to indefinitely postpone consideration of the item; i.e., hold off on the blackmail demands until other options can be explored.

In other matters last night:
  • A minuscule .007 percent of the city’s population showed up at the meeting to voice objections to the city manager’s proposed contract extension and even they couldn’t provide a coherent rationale for their positions — all three of them acknowledged Sellers was doing a good job as city manager. During debate on this subject, Mayor Pro Tem Damon Fogley noted "The public sector has always had this stigma of you shouldn’t earn as much as people in the private sector. I see it in a different light. You have to pay for what you get and if you compare what our city manager does to what a CEO does for a private company their job functions are essentially the same, overseeing a variety of different departments with different job functions." (To illustrate Fogley’s point, Seton Medical Center won’t divulge the salary of its current president and CEO Jesus Garza, but, according to published reports, Garza’s predecessor, Charles Barnett, received a base salary of $670,468 in fiscal year 2010-11 and his total compensation package during that year was close to $2 million as compared to Sellers’s proposed $196,503 and $243,515.62.) The council voted 5-1 (council member Becky Selberra missed last night’s meeting) to approve Sellers's contract extension with Tenorio voting no, stating the totally irrelevant fact that "When I did my own research, currently the average income for the citizens of Kyle is $77,400 (frankly. I’m shocked it’s that high) and your current salary will be two and a half times the average." As anyone who has even dabbled on the outskirts of employee relations knows, salaries are "determined by market pay rates, established through market pay studies, for people doing similar work in similar industries in the same region of the country." And, as Mayor Webster noted "We looked at the salaries at other cities, looked at the average of those and came to an amount that was really close to that average." In fact, Sellers’s salary varies from the average salaries of other area city managers by 69 cents a day. 69 friggin' cents a day!!! If 69 friggin' cents is what’s causing anyone, including a member of the city council, to go off the deep end here, I’ll volunteer to come to City Hall every day this year and chip in the 69 cents to make up the difference.
  • Right after the vote was taken to approve the city manager’s contract extension, Sellers illustrated once more why he is worth it by revealing the City has received another grant, this one totaling $132,215 from the EPA, for a green facility at the wastewater treatment plant. "Many months ago we embarked on a grant that would allow the City to construct a facility that would serve as its admin building. There may be some testing in there. But we knew we would have a very large wastewater treatment plant expenditure ahead of us and we were looking for any way to bring down the cost. This is a grant that essentially provides green infrastructure for wastewater facilities. So this building won’t just be your average, run-of-the-mill building. It will involve such green infrastructure as rainwater harvesting, vegetative soils, porous concrete, native grasses and vegetation, and xeriscaping. Included in the building is an area we will have open for the public to come in and learn more about conservation measures and get to see those measures in action." Sellers told me today the building was not designed with LEED's certification in mind "as that relates to energy efficiencies, but it is designed for LID (low impact development) to mimic natural environmental processes."
  • The council voted 5-2 (Fogley and Tenorio objecting) to approve on the second reading an ordinance giving Kyle to third highest impact fee schedule in the area. The new rates apply to any development that had not had its final plat approved before last night’s action. Concern was expressed about one proposed apartment complex whose final plat was submitted as early as last November but kept getting rejected by the City, but city staff sort of, kind of, acknowledged that concern can legally and will be resolved separately.
  • The council approved 5-1 (Mitchell objecting) on second reading an ordinance creating an R-1-3 residential zoning that now means three planned developments whose zoning requests have been appearing on both the Planning Commission’s and the City Council’s agenda repeatedly during the last two months but have been delayed each time (as they were again last night) can now move forward seeking that new zoning designation.
  • The council approved 5-1 (Mitchell objecting) to change the zoning on 4 acres of land located at 1381 Goforth Road from agriculture to retail services, although the prospective land owner originally asked for warehousing zoning. Mitchell voted against because he thought warehouse zoning was both compatible and appropriate. At least the council’s debate on the issue, unlike the debate at the Planning Commission, did bring up the subject of land use.
  • At the staff’s request, the council postponed indefinitely a plan to spend $100,000 for drainage improvements to a culvert on FM 2770 just north of Hellman. No reason was given for the delay and I must admit I failed to seek a reason after the meeting was over because I was interested in getting answers to higher priority questions. But I’m guessing it might be one or both of the other partners in the deal might not have all the pieces to their respective puzzles in place,
  • The council voted unanimously to grant a taxi franchise to On Tyme Taxi & Courier Service of San Marcos, a relatively new transportation service provider.
  • I learned from the city attorneys after the meeting had adjourned that former Kyle police Sgt. Jesse Espinoza has dropped his federal lawsuit against the city, that the city has hired a new examiner to preside over Espinoza’s appeal of disciplinary actions taken against him and that now it’s just a matter of establishing a date on which those hearings can begin.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Council to consider manager’s contract, confusing animal ordinance

It’s illegal to kill a rattlesnake in Kyle.

I know. I know. I, too, have seen the accounts of Kyle residents discovering a rattlesnake or some other member of the Crotalinae family in their yard or even on their front porch and finding some way for the creature to meet its demise. But still…

What used to be Section 5-77 (b) of Kyle’s Code of Ordinances — but will become Section 5-77 (d) if the City Council approves Agenda item 24 of its Tuesday night agenda — reads: "It shall be unlawful for any person to hunt, shoot, intentionally injure or kill any wild bird, animal, mammal or reptile within the corporate limits of the city." Pretty dang clear. It’s illegal to kill a rattlesnake in Kyle.

I have no idea what the penalty would be for such a heinous crime. In fact, I seriously doubt this section of the ordinance will ever be enforced. I seriously doubt this section of this ordnance can be enforced. My advice: If you call animal services to remove a dead rattlesnake from your property and the city official who shows up asks any questions about the bullet in the snake’s head, simply feign complete innocence. Just say, for all you know, the snake died of natural causes. I’m betting you’ll get a pass.

I also think the same thing is true if I wander over to Lowe’s or Home Depot and purchase a live trap to capture and dispose of some marsupial that invaded my home (which, in fact, has happened to me in the past), even though the council is scheduled to vote on language in this ordinance that will now state: "It shall be unlawful for any person, other than animal control officers, to set, trigger, activate or otherwise use, or cause to be set, triggered, activated or used, any steel-jawed, leg hold trap, or any other trapping device, including live traps unless it is loaned to the person by the animal control division, for the capture of any animal." (I’m wondering if Lowe’s or Home Depot can sue the city charging "restraint of trade." I’m wondering if the city will try to force Lowe’s or Home Depot to quit selling "illegal" merchandise to Kyle residents?)

The section does go on to say "This subsection is not intended to prohibit the prudent use of traps on one’s own property to control rodents." But does the City follow scientific classifications to determine what is and what is not a rodent? Or is it going to make up its own rules. A possum is not a rodent. Neither is a skunk. Is the City insisting that instead of handling a skunk or possum invasion simply and quickly, a citizen of Kyle must go through the red tape of borrowing one from the City? A new addition to this ordinance, Section 5-77 [c] would read: "Live traps may be loaned to citizens within the city limits by the animal control division for no more than 14 days. The citizen shall sign a trap agreement prior to the loaning of a live trap. If the trap is damaged, lost, or stolen while in the citizen’s possession, the citizen shall pay the city a fee of $50." And what’s with this "may be loaned" business? Does that also mean it "may not"? If you ask for a live traps too many times are you going to be labeled a "Serial Animal Trapper" and be placed in some database.

This is simply another example of the City trying to legislate where legislation is not needed.

However, I’m guessing I’m the only person in these parts scratching my head over these proposed changes to the city’s Animal Protection ordinances. The most talked-about item on this Tuesday’s agenda most likely will be the one to extend City Manager Scott Sellers’s employment contract. And, unfortunately, I’m afraid the City Council and many municipal staff members will be forced to endure the embarrassingly painful ordeal of having to sit patiently through the whining of a certain few who will speak against this proposal. This opposition falls into two groups: 1. Those who want to get rid of Scott Sellers, and 2. The usual gang of idiots.

I’m willing to listen to those in Group 1 if they can make a logical, factual and convincing argument for firing the city manager. I don’t think they can. I’ve been closely associated with, worked for or alongside close to a dozen city managers. Most them could be accurately described as tyrants. An argument could be made — I could even support that argument in certain cases — that a city manager must be tyrannical at times to manage effectively. I could even argue tyranny is not a character flaw as long as you retain the respect for those who work for you.

However, I defy anyone to find a trace of tyranny in Sellers’s character. From the evidence I’ve seen talking to and just hanging around city employees, Sellers has not only earned their respect but these employees genuinely like having him as their boss.

Early estimates set the cost of bringing the city’s wastewater facilities up to speed at $19 million. By my (albeit, unofficial) tally, Sellers has managed to finance around $11 million of that cost without spending one single cent of taxpayer moneys. That $11 million savings to the city’s taxpayers, alone, is enough for the city to want to retain Sellers’s expertise and service.

There’s also the fact that this year he proposed a budget that called for a one-cent reduction in the property tax rate. That’s one more cent than the Hays CISD, rated a failure not only by the Texas Education Agency, but national watchdogs as well, reduced its rate. Incidentally, cities also get letter grades. They are graded by bonding agencies such as Standard & Poor’s and unlike the Ds and Fs received by our local schools, the City of Kyle has received the grade of AA- by S&P. "I can assure you with confidence that the bond rating of the City of Kyle does reflect, in my opinion, the rating agency's assessment of the City's economy, financial strength and liquidity, key financial trends, financial management policies and practices, budgetary performance, ad valorem tax and debt capacity; experience, stability and continuity of its key financial officers, and the strength of its management team," Perwez A. Moheet, the city’s finance director, told me earlier this week. Why would anyone in their right mind risk that rating by getting rid of the leader of that strong management team?

Here’s the (financial) bottom line of this deal: The City Council is proposing to pay Sellers a paltry $251 a year more than the average of the salaries of the city managers of Buda, Cedar Park, Georgetown, Leander, New Braunfels, Round Rock, Scherz, Seguin, and San Marcos, and having been directly involved with the workings of city managers for more years than most of those in Group 2 have been alive, I can assure everyone else that Scott Sellers’s worth to the City and citizens of Kyle is far greater than $251 a year above average.

Other items of interest on Tuesday’s agenda include:
  • Item 18 seeks to rezone a narrow four-acre strip of land at 1381 Goforth from Agriculture to Warehouse. The Planning Commission voted earlier this week to recommend retail services zoning. But the question remains: Was the commission’s action legal? Even the City’s supporting arguments on this item are not conclusive. "In truth, the applicant can still move forward with his proposed land use under the terms of RS," according to these documents. The problem is that it is illegal to decide zoning questions based on land use, but only on whether the proposed zoning fits the location. And since the land that sits on the western border of this parcel is zoned construction/manufacturing, it is impossible to view warehouse zoning as incompatible. However, the documents also states "The applicant is aware of the (Planning) Commission’s recommendation and does not object to the parcel having RS assigned." So there’s that.
  • In 1908, a gentleman by the name of Albert Rockwell, who was the founder and general manager of a company located in Bristol, Conn., known as the New Departure Manufacturing Co., traveled to Europe for the sole purpose of evaluating the taxi systems on that continent. By the end of the following year, Rockwell had a fleet of orange-yellow colored taxicabs plying the streets of Manhattan. In March of 1910, the board of directors of the New Departure Manufacturing Co. assumed operating control of Rockwell’s taxis and on April 4, 1912, they officially incorporated their operation as the Yellow Taxicab Co. I bring all this up to illustrate that even the giants of an industry had to start somewhere. And Tuesday, the Kyle City Council could launch the start of a brand new cab company, On Tyme Taxi and Courier Service, by granting the San-Marcos based company a franchise to operate its cabs in Kyle. (In return, the taxi company agrees to "pay to the City, to the attention of the City’s director of finance, 3.5 percent of the total amount billed to and collected from riders or customers for the taxi service fees and any other income derived from the operation of the taxi service within the city limits, which said remittance shall be made monthly on or before the 10th day of each calendar month.") The company will operate three vehicles, a 2015 Hyundai Sonata, a 2012 Jeep Wrangler Sahara Unlimited and a 2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser. It will charge $15 for trips within Kyle, $20 for trips to Buda, $25 for trips to San Marcos north of Highway 80 and $35 for trips south (including the outlet mall), $60 to the Austin airport, $130 to the San Antonio airport, and $55 to Austin’s 6th Street. I don’t know if that means you will have to negotiate a price to have the cab company take you to see a home UT football game.
  • Another in the series of periodic updates provided City Engineer Leon Barba on the road bond projects, information that also can be found here.
  • A presentation from Stormwater Director Kathy Roecker on the Hays County Hazard Mitigation Plan, "a "document that outlines actions that can be taken to reduce or eliminate long-term risk to people and their property from hazards," A draft of that document is not expected to be completed until the spring, according to Roecker, but I believe what she will be pushing for is citizen "input regarding local community hazards," which citizens can provide by participating in a survey that can be found here.
  • The second reading of an ordinance that will finally allow the owners of property located near downtown to apply for R-1-3 zoning. The agenda states R-1-A zoning will be sought, but that’s because there’s no such zoning in Kyle as R-1-3 until the council passes Item 8 on Tuesday’s Consent Agenda. These measures are opposed by a number of nearby residents who will find any reason, none that have been made so far which are legitimate, to oppose change in their neighborhood.
  • A measure to donate a 1988 GMC armored truck to the Pearsall Independent School District Police Department, which, according to a letter from Pearsall ISD Police Chief Crisanto Marquez, "will be an extra tool used for the protection of officers and citizens in a crisis situation. The vehicle will be a great asset to our rural community, because of our limited resources." Last November, the Frio County town experienced a hostage situation that ended rather unusually and two months earlier the local police department stopped two illegal gambling organizations by seizing 46 8-liner machines and at least $5,300 in cash," So there’s that
  • A request to dispose of 17 sets of bulletproof vests labeled by the Kyle PD as "past their expiration date." According to a police memo "There are companies that will collect the body armor and dispose of it preventing it from being accessible to any criminal element." So there’s that, as well.
  • An agreement to give reduced amounts of the city’s Hotel Occupancy Taxes to the Chamber of Commerce during the current and following two fiscal years: $85,000 this year, $61,000 next fiscal year, and $37,000 the year after that.
  • A proposal to award Halff & Associates the contract to devise a Stormwater Master Plan (described by Barba as "a comprehensive plan to address critical drainage problems and an effective tool to manage future development") for the city. At present, there is no cost listed with this item , although I’m sure Halff will not be performing this out of the goodness of their hearts.
  • The expenditure of up to $100,000 for drainage improvements to an existing culvert on FM 2770 just north of Hellman. This is a TxDOT-maintained road and that agency has projected the total cost of upgrading the culvert from a 10-year design frequency to at least a 25-year design frequency to be in the neighborhood of $450,000. According to the City’s documents, "The City would only provide up to a maximum of $100,000.00 and the remainder of the cost to design and construct the proposed drainage improvements would be borne by TxDOT and the Plum Creek Development."
  • An executive session during which council members will discuss as many as five economic development projects and receive an update on the Jesse Espinoza appeal process.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Date set for City Council, P&Z joint meeting to fix Comp Plan

Planning director Howard Koontz informed the five of the seven commissioners who attended last night’s Planning & Zoning Commission meeting that its normal second meeting for this month, the gathering that would normally take place Jan. 24, would actually be a joint meeting with the City Council, the sole purpose of which will be to complete the update of the city’s Comprehensive Plan.

Just about a year ago the city decided it would be a waste of taxpayer moneys to hire outside consultants to perform what was thought to be elementary edits to the Comp Plan. So the City Council asked the Planning & Zoning Commission to perform the task instead. The P&Z commissioners, however, misunderstood the assignment, translating "elementary edits" into "wholesale overhaul," threw up their collective hands and said "We’re not qualified to do this. The city needs to hire consultants." As a result, P&Z’s recommendations on changes to the plan consisted of a letter in which the commissioners recommended all the areas consultants should be hired to change.

It was a clear Cool Hand Luke communications problem, so the City Council said let’s meet with the commissioners, go over the plan, and get the job done ourselves in one work session. There’s been talk about this session for months now, but finally it appears it’s about to happen starting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 24, in the council chambers.

Hopefully, council members will take the time during this session to inform the commissioners the Comp Plan is merely that — a plan, not a collection of ironclad rules. In fact, Section 203.002 of the Texas Local Government Code states a city's Comprehensive Plan "does not establish or contain zoning regulations nor does it establish zoning district boundaries."  I will make the following guarantee: If a company such as Texas Instruments wanted to locate a big, honking wafer fab in Kyle that employed 500 persons, it could locate that facility on any piece of vacant or abandoned land anywhere it wanted to, regardless of what the Comprehensive Plan says. Five hundred new jobs trumps the Comp Plan every single day of the week.

So the next regular Planning & Zoning Commission meeting will take place on Valentine’s Day at which time the oft-postponed three rezoning proposals for new home developments will be resubmitted, albeit with some modifications. It turned out my guess (as outlined in this update) as to why the applicants for the three requests asked for a postponement of any decision from P&Z last night was right on the money.

"The application for re-zoning of the Blanton and Kaminski tracts was requested to be postponed by the developer until such time that the City of Kyle completes their deliberation and approval of the recent Code amendments," Edward Guerrero, the listed applicant on the Blanton and Kaminski tracts, told me yesterday. "We anticipate both applications being placed back on the P&Z meeting agenda with the requests collectively amended from R-1-A to R-1-3, which will be a more restrictive zoning category than R-1-A once approved."

It turns out the most recent City Council meeting agenda did not contain the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. As you can see for yourself here, the captions on the first five items in Section V (Consider and Possible Action) were preceded by the parenthetical notation "First Reading." The caption for Item, 23 on the other hand, this zoning changes that affect these applications, did not contain that parenthetical identification. However, Koontz told me last night that a council agenda should be viewed like the city’s Comp Plan — as a guide, but not a final arbiter. He said, in reality, that item was a first reading, even if the agenda didn’t label it as such, and the second reading will be on next week’s council Consent Agenda.

That means there is no such animal as R-1-3 zoning until this item is approved by council next week and I have no doubt it will be approved. It has already been debated. It passed last week 5-2 and I don’t see the possibility of two council members changing their minds to vote the other way on this proposal.

The only issue with the applicants is that they assumed that, upon council passage, they could return to P&Z on the 24th to request the new zoning. I know they assumed this because they told me that was their plan. Now they will have to wait until next month. But, then, so too does all those who are arguing the developers should be responsible for fixing flooding problems not of their making or constructing crosstown highways (I’m not kidding! Someone actually made that argument during citizen comments at last night’s P&Z hearing) will have to wait until the Valentine’s Day lovefest to grumble about how they want the city to stay just like it is, not change, not grow, not improve its tax base one single bit.

One thing I don’t quite understand, however, is why Guerrero described R-1-3 as "a more restrictive zoning category than R-1-A." The only restriction in R-1-3 is in its density, or lack of same. In R-1-3, no more than 5.5 houses per buildable acre can be constructed, while R-1-A allows 6.8. So I guess it is restrictive in the number of homes you can build on the same amount of land, but the revised R-1-A zoning will also be primarily for attached single family residences and attached residences, by definition, will have a higher density than detached. In addition, the only kind of permitted additional uses in R-1-A are buildings needed for the construction of the project or sheds on individual lots as long as those sheds are not used for any kind of "business or commercial enterprise." R-1-A allows those two same additional uses along with parks, playgrounds, community buildings, libraries, museums, police/fire stations, schools (both public and private), reservoirs and pumping plants, to list just a few.

In other action last night, the gang of five (commissioners Allison Wilson and Irene Melendez were absent) skated on extremely thin ice in refusing to grant a request to recommend the council rezone a small tract of land at 1381 Goforth Road to warehouse zoning and recommended retail services zoning instead. The reason I say they were on shaky ground here is because their decision, which passed with the narrowest possible margin with chair Dex Ellison and commissioner Timothy Kay voting against, seemed to be swayed by the fact that the possible new owner of the property wanted to locate a pet service facility there and retail services zoning was applied to another person who wanted to install a similar facility in another part of town. That, however, is a land use issue and it is illegal in Texas to consider land uses in zoning requests. Even recently appointed commissioner Mike Torres, who led the charge against the warehouse zoning, based his argument on land use issues, albeit on what the land might be used for in the future.

The applicants told me after P&Z’s decision was rendered that they might appeal directly to the City Council for the warehouse zoning. They did plan to talk to Koontz about the issue today and Koontz told me last night that, while RS zoning is indeed more restrictive than W, it shouldn’t have that much effect on what the owners want to do with the land and that, in fact, he thought the applicants were misinformed as to just what those restrictions were.

One of the issues here is that the owner of the land wants to sell it and the person he has lined up to buy it will only do so if he gets the zoning change he wants. At present, there’s a single structure located at the extreme rear of the property, I would estimate it to be at least 1,500 feet from Goforth Road entrance to the property. The applicants said they planned to convert that structure into their planned doggie hotel.

So far today I have not received any responses from my requests for additional information from the applicants. If and when I do, I will provide that update at the end of this article.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

City Council offers Sellers 8.5 percent salary increase

The City Council’s proposed three-year contract extension to retain City Manager Scott Sellers offers him an annual salary of $196,503, which is an 8.5 percent increase over his current salary and, according to a comparison table prepared the by City, 69 cents per day more than the average compensation doled out to other city managers in comparable area cities.

In years two and three of the contract, his salary will increase by the same percentage "budgeted for all non-sworn city employees, or sworn employees (whichever is greater)."

In addition to a $9,600 per year car allowance and a $1,200 a year cell phone allowance, "the City agrees to pay the manager’s full contribution to the Texas Municipal Retirement System (this is in lieu of Social Security, which municipal employees are not eligible for), not to exceed 21 percent of manager’s base salary into the system on manager’s behalf, in equal proportionate amounts each pay period, and to transfer ownership to succeeding employers upon manager’s resignation or discharge. In addition, the City will contribute $5,000 each year to the manager’s 457 Plan and such contribution shall be paid in equal installments similar to payroll." The contract also obligates the City to pay 100 percent of the health insurance premiums for Sellers and his qualified dependents, a standard agreement in any contract of this sort. But the contract also stipulates the city "agrees to continue providing these benefits at no cost to the manager and the manager's qualified dependents upon his retirement if manager continues employment with the City as its city manager through at least March 2025 and retires from the City on or after March 2025. The health benefits to the manager and the manager’s qualified dependents will cease upon the manager obtaining other municipal employment with health care or until manager reaches the age of Medicare eligibility."

The total value of Sellers’s proposed contract, which should be a part of the City Council’s Jan. 10 meeting agenda, is $243,515.62. Coincidentally, that package is 1.3 percent more than the total compensation package received by the city manager of Leander, whose population is 1.3 percent smaller than Kyle’s. It might also be noted, however, that Sellers’s total compensation is $19,192.88 less than that received by the city manager in Seguin, which also has a population that’s 11,536 smaller than Kyle’s. But Seguin also has far more city employees than Kyle as the city has its own departments for animal services, a convention and visitors bureau, fire and EMS in-house, a municipally managed golf course and an in-house electric utility department.

You can access the city manager’s proposed contract in its entirety as well as the comparison tables I mentioned above here.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

P&Z to consider non-controversial zoning requests that have become controversial

UPDATE MONDAY 6:30 p.m. Just saw the announcement from the City saying the persons referred to in this story seeking the zoning change are now asking that those requests be postponed. In the last paragraph of the below story I wrote that because of actions taken last week by the City Council the R-1-A zoning these applicants are requesting is now mainly reserved for attached, not detached, single family residents and because the applicants seem to be wanting to locate detached residents on these properties I halfway predicted they would return to P&Z quite soon to request a newly created zoning designation, R-1-3. I’m betting the reason this postponement is being requested is so they can skip the middle step and re-file their applications seeking R-1-3 zoning. But that’s just a hunch. Hopefully, I will learn more at tomorrow evening’s meeting.

(Start of original post) The no-growth element in Kyle has staked out the Blanton and Kaminski properties located immediately west of downtown as its Little Big Horn, creating a controversy by spreading false and hate-inspired misinformation where a controversy shouldn’t even exist.

Not only that, their arguments are totally irrelevant to the subject scheduled to be considered by the Planning & Zoning Commission at its meeting Tuesday night. Their objections involve what might be ultimately located on those properties; Tuesday’s meeting has nothing to do that with that, only a request for a zoning change. In fact, it is illegal in Texas to decide a zoning request based on what might be located on the property in question. Texas law makes a clear distinction between zoning decisions and land-use decisions. Of course, that hasn’t stopped the Planning & Zoning Commission from stumbling across this boundary before. In fact, the commission’s mishandling of the zoning request involving land being considered as the potential site of a giant truck stop on Kyle’s southern border just about guaranteed that the much-maligned facility would be located there. Only a last-minute intervention from Kyle and San Marcos elected officials prevented that from becoming a reality.

The request is to change the zoning on triangle-shaped land bordered roughly by Scott Street to the east, South Old Stagecoach Road on the west and a residential area on the north that’s right across West Center Street from Wallace Middle School and Gregg-Clarke Park.

The zoning change is really not all that radical: a request to change 68.5 acres that’s currently zoned R-1-2 single family residential plus another 10.38 acres zoned central business district to R-1-A single family residential. This type of zoning allows for, according to the city’s zoning ordinances, "attached or detached single-family structures with a minimum of 1,000 square feet of living area and permitted accessory structures on a minimum lot size of 4,800 square feet at no more than 6.8 houses per buildable acre. The single family residences authorized in this zoning district include those generally referred to as garden homes, patio homes and zero lot line homes." Interestingly, this zoning request that’s so vehemently opposed by the no-folks element is consistent with the city’s Comprehensive Plan that was largely fashioned by this same no-growth element.

But any kind of growth is, by definition, an anathema to the no-growth element (although, to be honest, this element is not all that consistent because it doesn’t seem to be registering any objection to an identical zoning request east of I-35 the commissioners will also be considering Tuesday).

One of the talking points of the those opposing this request is the lie that it will promote flooding. The truth is (1) the simple act of rezoning a property has absolutely no effect on water flow because rezoning does not, in itself, change the character of the land one bit, and (2) if at some future date the property is zoned in compliance with the R-1-A, it will go a long way towards mitigating any flooding problems that area may be experiencing currently. That’s because, again in the city’s own words, "as a function of initiating any new development project in the City of Kyle, development professionals are required to make provisions for storm water management based on the expected impact that project will have on the property following construction." In other words, before the city permits work to begin on any new development, the city’s stormwater management experts must approve the developers’ plans to deal with any and all stormwater issues and that includes flood prevention.

But that flooding argument, however false, is not the ugly one. The talking point that I find particularly vile is that the zoning change will increase crime in the area. Granted, I realize even these people are not stupid enough (at least I’m hoping they’re not stupid enough) to actually believe the mere act of rezoning a property will promote crime. I seriously doubt (or should I say I hope) there’s no one out there who believes any sort of criminal element is just waiting for this property to be rezoned R-1-A so they can storm this vacant lot and commit heavens-knows-what. But I also find the sort of thinking the development of any kind of single-family residential project will, in and of itself, promote crime to be bigotry in the first degree. Here is a note the city received from someone identifying himself as Efrain Lopez of 102 Cisneros Street: "housing will bring crime … to the neighborhood. I have owned my property since 1969 — I do not want housing in my backyard. Will bring crime to Wallace Middle School and Gregg Clarke Park."

I will give this person some benefit of doubt. I’m going to guess what this person is really afraid of is change, pure and simple. Any kind of change. I would be willing to bet this person would be just as opposed to Donald Trump wanting to build a luxury resort on the property. The human psyche is wired to be, at worse, completely resistant, or, at best, mildly apprehensive, of change of any kind — marriage, divorce, relocation, a new job, a new boss, a new child — whatever. But to argue a residential development of this sort automatically brings with it a spike in crime is extremely prejudicial, bigoted and simply not supported y facts. That is not a logical argument but, instead, a no-growth strategy that could be implemented against any and all developments proposed for Kyle or anywhere else for that matter.

The city’s counter argument is that any development in this area will increase the value of the properties of those already living there. "Due to downtown Kyle’s central location creating convenient access to nearby emerging residential, more citizens will naturally travel to the central business district, which in turn will increase the demand for more businesses supporting that new housing," the city officials wrote in documents accompanying the zoning request. "That same demand will likely spur additional commercial development not only along Center Street, but into the surrounding street network in close proximity." Those, of course, are not words the no-growth element wants to read or hear, hence its opposition to this request.

But, to me, this is the kicker: "Furthermore," the city’s documents state, "the development of the property adjacent to- and in proximity to public services (public library, parks, public schools, etc.) reduces the reliance on the automobile in these areas while increasing desirability and value of residential development." As readers of this journal can easily discern, I am not a no-growth advocate. But neither am I a promoter what some consider the only alternative, pro-growth. I believe in a strategy called "Smart Growth," a strategy, for those interested, described in detail in such books as The Smart Growth Manual by Andres Duany and Jeff Speck with Mike Lydon and Thoughts on Building Strong Towns by Charles L. Marohn Jr., which advocates for communities comprised of self-sustaining neighborhoods in which all major needs can be met within walking distance of where you live. It makes sense. The only way to reduce traffic, prolong road viability and promote air quality is to find reasons to get as many automobiles off the road as possible.

Here’s the hidden, tricky, part to the above-cited zoning requests, however. Under changes to the city’s zoning ordinances passed last week by the City Council, R-1-A is now reserved for attached single family residences such as those pictured here. Detached single family residential units are now permitted in R-1-A zoning only as a conditional use following a public hearing and a P&Z recommendation based on "the effect of the proposed use on the adjacent and neighboring properties and neighborhoods." However, those changes passed by the council last week also created the zoning category called R-1-3 which allows single family detached residences with a 1,000 square foot minimum living space and permitted accessory structures on a minimum lot size of 5,540 square foot with no more than 5.5 houses per buildable acre. In other words, this would be slightly less dense a development than R-1-A. However, where I come from, increased density is more desirable the closer you are to the downtown district. I bring this up because there is absolutely nothing that I could see that would prevent these property owners from returning to Planning & Zoning in the near future to request another zoning change, this one to R-1-3.

Of course, the no-growth folks would fight that request as well.