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City looking to be 'master of own domain'

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Using a proxy, the City of Bandera fired a first salvo in an attempt to wrest control of the municipality's extra-territorial jurisdiction (ETJ) out of the clutches of Bandera County. The ETJ extends one-half mile in all directions from the city limits.
An item that appeared on the agenda of a special Tuesday, Nov. 18, meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission read: "Control of the ETJ is currently with the county based on a written agreement between the city and the county. Discussion of taking control back may line up better with the Comprehensive Master Plan (CMP), this is not for zoning, but more to allow conformance with the land use in the area as relates to the CMP." P&Z Commissioner Robert Koimn asked that the item be placed on the agenda.
According to Koimn, a joint agreement was reached with the county on management of the ETJ about eight to 10 years ago. He noted that either party could cancel the agreement by submitting a document with intent to cancel within 90 days of the agreement's expiration date. The agreement expires annually "in June or July," Koimn said.
"I would ask that P&Z recommend to city council not to move forward with an extension of the agreement (with the county)," he said. "As it is now, we have no control over the ETJ so that would nullify aspects of the city master plan."
As an example of loss of control, Koimn referenced a replat that had occurred in Bandera County Commissioners Court approximately six to eight months ago in the Indian Waters subdivision. At that time, 35 to 40 "city-sized lots" were replatted to three larger parcels. However no development has taken place on the lands as yet. The replat occurred last February.
"The city was not consulted about eliminating city-sized lots and creating huge lots," Koimn said, adding, "P&Z and the city should have been involved in the process." He also noted that the land in question had supposedly been set aside as green or open space inside the subdivision.
The land in Indian Waters is owned by Flying L Land & Livestock, LLC, managed by Michael Luigs and owned by Kevin D. Quarles and Michele E. Quarles.
At the time, Precinct 3 Commissioner Andy Wilkerson Sr. expressed concern about the replatting. Specifically, Wilkerson contended that Indian Waters residents would be deprived of use of trails, lakes and creeks that had been previously dedicated for their perpetual use. "Now they are included in the replat," Wilkerson said.
According to County Judge Richard Evans, however, the property owner retained the right to control the parks. "I've researched this because the property was once being considered as a site for the jail and justice center," he explained, adding, "As I understand it, the developer retains the right to do what he wants with the trails and green spaces."
At that point in the proceedings, Koimn, who identified himself as a county resident, asked, "Is any of this property in the city's ETJ?" When it was answered in the affirmative, Koimn queried, "Has this been reviewed by the city?"
The general consensus of the court was that it had not because, as Evans put it, "Our agreement with the city is that (the county) controls the ETJ for platting."
"Aren't there still negotiations going on with the city and that the new agreement has never been finalized?" Koimn rejoined.
"No, sir, we have an agreement with the city in place and it hasn't been redone," Evans said.
"Weren't negotiations going on at one time with a special committee to re-do the agreement?" Koimn persisted.
"Both parties have to participate," Evans noted, to which Koimn asked, "Was the city not participating?"
"It would appear not," Evans said, concluding the exchange.
Surveyor Mike Grogan noted that the replatting would improve existing conditions that had allowed 20 septic tanks and grandfathered in substandard lots. Future lots could be subdivided into two acres when supplied with city utilities and five acres if no city utilities were available.
The replatting was approved 3-1 with Wilkerson casting the only nay vote.
On Nov. 18, Koimn told P&Z that the city needs to have control of these types of issues. "We can't zone in the ETJ, but we should have control over land use conformance."
P&Z Commissioner Toni Kunz added, "The city may lose potential growth if it is not in control of the ETJ." The city has been losing residents steadily since the 1950s when it boasted more than 1,200 citizens. The latest unofficial count was approximately 857 souls.
P&Z voted unanimously to recommend to city council to revisit and serve notice of termination of the agreement with Bandera County regarding management of the ETJ.