• September 18, 2014

Council members rankled by criticism

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Posted: Thursday, August 16, 2007 12:00 pm | Updated: 10:50 am, Thu Feb 13, 2014.

By Kevin M. Smith

Killeen Daily Herald

It did not take sticks and stones to hurt some council members' feelings over work on an ordinance controlling the moving of such items.

Killeen City Council members Larry Cole and Juan Rivera said they took current Councilman Billy Workman's and former Councilman Dick Young's accusations of insufficient work on the Land Disturbance ordinance "personally."

"Basically what you have done is taken the teeth out of it," Young told the council at Tuesday's meeting.

As a councilman on May 22, Young made the motion to approve the ordinance with the amendment that it would not take effect for 90 days. At that meeting, it was approved 4-3 with council members Cole, Otis Evans and Fred Latham in opposition.

"I didn't feel it needed to be changed," said Young, who chaired the Land Development Committee during the last year he served on the council.

He said the recommendation to wait 90 days was per request by the mayor and the outcry of the "no-show" developers.

In April, the Land Development Committee recommended 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.

The council received numerous complaints from local developers and others opposing the ordinance. Many said it was not so much the requirement of an assessment on erosion, but the timing of the proposal.

The Land Use/Development Committee – a committee recently formed combining the Land Use and Land Development committees – worked in July and August on revisions to a section of the ordinance to make it more agreeable with local developers.

The new committee added Bruce Whitis to represent the Central Home Builders Association. There was also an open invitation for local developers to give input on the ordinance changes. Colette Marshall was the only non-committee member at the meetings representing a local developer.

Workman claimed that while he was on the Land Disturbance Committee in the past year (ending in May), more than 100 hours of work went into drafting the land disturbance ordinance.

"I don't understand that," Workman said about how people thought that three hours of work on ordinance revisions was sufficient.

The committee spent more than that, though. On July 25, the Land Use/Development Committee spent more than an hour and a half discussing ordinance amendments. The committee then met a week later when it spent about three hours revising a section of the ordinance that orders land developers to alert the city before changing the landscape.

"We sat down and addressed paragraph by paragraph," Cole said.

Young said the committee spent 16 meetings, some more than four hours long, drafting the ordinance.

"I take some of that kind of personal," Cole said. "We never had a meeting that lasted four hours, that's nonsensical."

Young, Workman and Cole were on the original committee that drafted the ordinance.

Rivera also said he did not like the implication that the Land Use/Development Committee did not work hard enough.

"I take that very personally," Rivera said.

He noted that some residents give up their time with no compensation to sit on these committees.

"The staff and the developers worked together with the committee to tailor what is best for the citizens," Rivera said in an interview after the meeting.

He added that the issue was hot and fast-moving because of the 90-day ultimatum to make changes before it went into effect.

Workman said the ordinance does not do enough to prevent drainage problems when development starts and with the heavy rain this year drainage problems have proven to be deadly.

"I don't want to see another six lives lost," Workman said.

Cole said he disagreed that this ordinance will have that kind of impact.

"At this particular stage of the process, I don't think we're going to prevent loss of life," Cole said.

Young said the ordinance he drafted was meant to be a preventive measure.

"To catch problems before they become problems," Young 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. The ordinance that was approved Tuesday mirrors the state requirements.

"I think we do a good job here of getting the information early," City Engineer John Nett said.

Workman said he worried that there is no approval or disapproval in the land disturbance permit, it is issued if all the required information is provided.

"It's just a return to sender," Workman said.

Nett said by receiving the information on land disturbance early, city officials can have a dialog with developers about any potential problems they see.

Workman and Cole contend that he city needs to have tougher rules than the state requirements.

"We're digressing rather than progressing," Workman said.

After the discussion, Cole moved to approve the ordinance Tuesday night, Evans seconded the motion. The vote was 5-1 in favor of the ordinance with Workman the dissenting vote

"What you're going to have is a city full of concrete and no trees," Young said.

Contact Kevin M. Smith at ksmith@kdhnews.com or call (254) 501-7550

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