City master plan - everything new is old again
By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor
In 2007, this writer began covering the City of Bandera. It was then that discussion of a Comprehensive Long Range Land Use Master Plan - aka the master plan - first surfaced.
At that time, then-Mayor Denise Griffin and then-Councilman Monica Halsey wanted the Planning and Zoning Commission to undertake the project. Then-P&Z Chairman Jim Hannah, now a member of Bandera City Council, and then-P&Z member Robert Koinm insisted the project be undertaken by professionals equipped to complete such an assignment.
Now, seven years and one master plan later, P&Z has again been charged with "developing and updating the 2009 Master Plan Draft with a report back to City Council by Oct. 23." And, it looks as though county resident Koimn is about to resurface on P&Z to spearhead the project, along with P&Z Chairman Tony Battle.
During a meeting on Thursday, August 7, Councilman Suzanne Schauman touted Koimn's version of the master plan as the one that needed to be updated. In the interest of full disclosure, Koimn employed Schauman when he owned Five Mile Creek on Highway 16 South.
During his earlier work on the master plan, Koimn had expanded the original 75-page document submitted to the city by Urban Design Associates, to 150 pages. This expansion prompted current Mayor Pro Tem John Hegemier to refer to the document as "Robert's master plan" rather than that of the City of Bandera's.
In response to P&Z being given the everything-old-is-new-again responsibility last week, Koimn attempted a bit of revisionistic history regarding the project. However, facts are facts. Lest those without institutional memory attempt to cast aspersions on the following timeline, the Courier has covered the ontogenesis of the master plan since 2007 in 25 articles. At no time did anyone indicate the information contained in the articles was false, untrue, negative or lies.
A few headlines and dates of publications included "City master plan potentially off & running," 12/06/07; "Planners hear consulting firms' proposals," 02-14-08; "Consulting firm to get master plan rolling," 02-28-08; "P&Z to 'steer' master plan process," 05-15-08; "Let the master plan process begin ...," 05-22-08; "Final workshops on tap for city master plan," 06-19-08; "City master plan - the devil's in the details," 09-25-08; "Master plan back, but whose version?" 06-04-09; "City master plan keeps on rollin' along," 07-30-09; "Master plan to remain veiled for now," 10-29-09; "Master plan morass - going forward from where?" 11-26-09; "City Council to see long-awaited master plan," 10-14-10; "Schumacher's master plan passes muster at P&Z," 07-01-10; and, finally, "Master plan adopted, appendices still in wings," 11-11-10.
When the city's long and winding process began, nine requests for proposals were submitted by consulting firms to create the document. Council unanimously selected Austin's Urban Design Associates (UDA) to spearhead the project in February 2008. UDA was led by Dr. Robin Abrams, ASA, ASLA, then a professor of architecture at Texas A&M.
The city's budget for the plan was approximately $36,000. Additionally, the City of Bandera Economic Development Corporation promised to add as much as $10,000 to the pot.
UDA scheduled a series of workshops designed to identify Bandera's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, inviting city and county residents, business owners and other stakeholders to participate.
However, by the summer of 2009 - or perhaps as early as 2008 - relations between UDA and Bandera had soured. City officials were not satisfied with the draft master plan as presented. For months, city council withheld a final payment of over $11,000 billed by the group.
Tony Battle, then a member of P&Z, noted the draft document was filled with typographical errors and spelling mistakes. "To me this looks like a Texas A&M graduate student class project, and we're paying Urban Design to create this master plan."
Also, P&Z Chairman Hannah indicated the majority of the work was to have been done by professional urban planners associated with UDA, rather than graduate students.
Another bone of contention was a suggestion about possible annexation of private property to extend Bandera City Park.
Additionally, an engineering study promised by Abrams proved particularly disappointing. "The engineering study fits on one page and cost $3,700," Hannah said, adding, "The work was not completed in an acceptable manner and P&Z did not sign off on it."
The last straw came when Abrams failed to attend a scheduled Saturday confab with city officials in June 2009. At that time, Hannah admitted that UDA was "phasing out of the project." During a planning and zoning meeting later that month, he also noted, "Robin Abrams will no longer be able to travel from North Carolina to Texas to coordinate workshops in Bandera."
By that time, Abrams had accepted a professorial position in the Tarheel State. Currently, she serves as head of the school of architect at North Carolina College of Design.
At this point, Koimn, a former city councilman, was tasked with re-working the last version of the master plan draft presented by UDA. Apparently, he had met with Abrams in New Braunfels in February 2009. At a meeting, he indicated she had "few comments on the revisions" and "gave it her blessing at that time."
However, Abrams had little choice but to "bless" Koimn's revisions since neither she nor others associated with UDA planned to continue working on the document.
In fact, UDA had apparently and unceremoniously dumped an incomplete and fragmented document on city officials as early as September 2008 - after receiving over $25,000 for the draft document.
Enter P&Z/city staff
As reported in the Courier at that time, Hannah said, "It is up to (P&Z) and city staff to come up with another draft of the master plan." This led to a discussion of payment of the last bill presented by UDA. Ultimately, the city declined to make the last payment for the incomplete and incomprehensible master plan.
At the request of Hannah - and with a consensus of the master plan steering committee - then-City Councilman Maggie Schumacher began the task of sorting out the hastily and poorly written plan. This decision came after several stakeholders pointed out Koimn's effort was becoming "more Robert's vision of the future and less of that of the city."
Additionally, under Koimn's ministrations, the master plan's heft had been increased its heft by nearly 100 percent.
Also, as reported at that time, Koimn had ostensibly spent considerable time developing the appendices, which included the city's extraterritorial jurisdiction and annexation plans. Technical information gleaned from the Koimn and UDA versions was to have been included in appendices.
From the onset, Schumacher had made it clear that she would not "work on" Koimn's appendices, instead advocating, "Just put them in and let the citizens look at them."
At that time, late Mayor Horst Pallaske suggested that council read and discuss the appendices for inclusion at a later date. Nothing published in Courier articles indicate that occurred.
When she presented the master plan to city council, Schumacher noted that municipality infrastructure, a new wastewater treatment plant and drainage issues were the most serious and expensive issues. However, a timeframe for completion of these extensive projects had not been established.
Ultimately, according to Schumacher, city engineer Rudy Kline evaluated the city's current infrastructure needs and prioritized issues he deemed most critical. However, copies of his report cannot be found at the municipal building.
A special joint meeting and public hearing of Bandera City Council and the planning and zoning commission was held Thursday, Oct. 21, 2010, to discuss and take action on the long-awaited final evolution of the city's master plan.
During a subsequent meeting that same evening, city council accepted the final version as completed by Schumacher.
At the time, Hannah noted, "Maggie has done the lion's share of the work in the last year to 18 months."
P&Z commissioners also recommended that Schumacher's version of the master plan be adopted as written with appendices to be added by the end of the year.
Like it or not, the City of Bandera adopted a Comprehensive Long Range Land Use Master Plan; however, it appears that Koimn's version is the one with which current council prefers to work.