By Kevin M. Smith
Killeen Daily Herald
The Land Use/Development Committee halted discussions, then set an aggressive schedule to recommend amendments for the land disturbance ordinance at a meeting Wednesday.
After more than an hour and a half of discussion, the committee gave Killeen city staff a directive to draft amendments to the land disturbance ordinance.
"My concern is that we prevent erosion and sedimentation from a particular site to another site," said Councilman Larry Cole, committee chair.
The committee asked the city planning, public works and legal departments to change the section that requires a permit before any land disturbing activity to allow the permit to be issued by providing documentation of the notice of intent filed with the state.
The committee also asked to change the definition of the land disturbing activity to have exceptions, such as clearing to survey land.
The committee then set an aggressive schedule to approve the changes and send the recommendation to the full Killeen City Council.
The urgency came after the council approved the land disturbance ordinance on May 22. The vote was 4-3 after then-Councilman Dick Young suggested making the ordinance effective in 90 days, rather than immediately, to iron out details that caused dissension.
If the council is to make changes on the ordinance, it needs to be at the Aug. 14 meeting at the latest as the 90-day grace period will end at the beginning of the next week.
"Now the pressure is on to do it or not do it," then-Councilman Bob Hausmann said about changes on May 22.
In April, the Land Development Committee suggested establishing a land-disturbance permit. Land change activity, as defined by the proposed ordinance, would be any change that may result in soil erosion from water or wind and the movement of soil into waters or onto lands. It also would include any increased runoff of water from, but not limited to, clearing, grading, excavating, transporting and filling of land.
A permit would be required for any of those activities, and permits would run about 20 percent of the cost of a subdivision plat.
City Planner Carl Ford told the committee he could distribute the drafted changes by the end of the business day Monday. The committee will meet on Wednesday to decide whether to make any further changes and send those to the council for final approval.
The call for changes came after committee member Bruce Whitis, a representative of the Central Texas Home Builders Association, claimed the ordinance will not be effective in controlling flooding, but will burden developers.
"I'm reading it, the purpose seems to require a permit," Whitis said. "What are we trying to affect in the end?"
Whitis said he did not see the point of the ordinance as it does not actually enforce land disturbance.
"When I read this ordinance, I don't see how we correct this problem," Whitis said.
Whitis said the permit process does not accomplish anything. He said the city needs a master drainage plan before it can look at land disturbance so it knows if the development's drainage plan will be effective.
Public Works Director James Butler said this ordinance is part of the master drainage plan. While the permit process is not the cure for drainage problems, it helps wash away the problem, Butler said.
"This item is just one of the tools," Butler said.
He said the permit lets the city know what is going on.
"Before you start cutting ground ... talk to the city about it and allow us to provide input on it," Butler said.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality already requires developers to file a notice of intent before land disturbance occurs on more than an acre of land. Developers at the meeting Wednesday suggested the ordinance require only a copy of that permit.
The committee will continue discussing possible amendment recommendations to the land disturbance ordinance at its meeting Wednesday.
Contact Kevin M. Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7550