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2015-03-19

P&Z meetings called for lack of quorum

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

A second meeting of the City of Bandera Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) had to be cancelled due to lack of a quorum - a fact not lost on those attending.
"I can't believe the other members of P&Z didn't have the courtesy to show up for this important meeting," said Joe Davis, owner of Busbee's Bar-B-Que. "If they can't bother to show up, why don't they get someone else?"
On Feb. 24, a public hearing and meeting was cancelled because only Chairman Toni Kunz was present. Although Kunz, Tony Battle and Tom Brosz attended on Thursday, March 10, a quorum still wasn't reached. In addition, both meetings had full agendas.
'Informational
presentation'
Last week, representatives of Pape-Dawson Engineering of San Antonio were set to present a preliminary sidewalk plan - which had been literally years in the making. When it was apparent the P&Z meeting could not be called to order, Battle suggested the show go on as an informational session. Business owners attending the meeting intended to voice concerns about proposed parking changes the project would entail.
According to Pape-Dawson's Vice President of Transportation James Lutz, sidewalks would be used to convey pedestrian traffic along Main Street. The sidewalks would also achieve holistic connectivity from one end of town to the other.
However, after noting, "Funding dictates how the project will be laid out," engineer John Tyler added, "This is an overview. It is not set in stone."
Preliminary plans purposefully began at Cedar and Main streets without discussing the controversial section of Main Street that begins at the Cypress Street intersection. That area has apparently become known as the project's "bone of contention." The project ended at Sycamore Street on the northwest side of town.
Powers said that sidewalks across existing driveways would be differentiated with pavers or stamped cement. A proposed three lanes of traffic would allow for a continuous turn lane.
The preliminary design also included so-called "bulb outs" consistent at every intersection to shrink the crossing lane for pedestrians.
Bulb outs are used to increase safety by reducing the width pedestrians need to cross. They also offer traffic calming benefits because they are said to induce drivers to drive slower. However, other studies indicated that bulb outs create the potential for rear-end crashes.
TxDOT funding & parallel parking
The presentation and following discussions further underscored the fact that Texas Department of Transportation funding would only be forthcoming if sidewalks were installed from "one end of the town to the other." According to Battle, TxDOT would pay 80 percent of the project with the city only coughing up the remaining 20 percent.
"TxDOT won't pay 80 percent if there's no backing by the community," observed George Hamilton, who owns rental properties in the city.
Most business owners objected to being forced to change from head-in parking to parallel parking. The reduced number of parking spaces, they felt, would lead to decreased customers and falling revenues, resulting in a reduced tax base and higher taxes.
"We're not going to touch [parallel parking] until there's a plan for off-street parking," said P&Z Commissioner Tony Battle. Nevertheless, the specter of parallel parking became the evening's hot topic.
As Kunz noted, "This is coming. There will be changes in the future and we need to get ahead of it. We need to come up with compromises for maximum funding. We can reach a happy medium if we do this as a team."
"Head-in parking is dangerous and TxDOT is about safety improvements," Battle said. "If we get ahead of this, funding will be available."
"If TxDOT thinks head-in parking is dangerous, wait until they install parallel parking," said an unidentified participant.
Purpose of project?
When asked about the purpose of the project, Battle replied, "For pedestrian travel. Right now you can't walk to the post office, pharmacy or grocery store. They're close but you can't walk to them. This is for both the community and tourists. There is no link to the other end of town. [Sidewalks] will help with economic development."
After it was pointed out that most foot traffic downtown comes via tourists, Kunz said, "I live in town and I would use sidewalks."
"You mean to tell me that you would have lunch at the OST in July then walk to the grocery store in 104º temperatures," Hamilton rejoined.
Davis, whose restaurant is located at the corner of Main and Cedar streets, said, "Nobody's against sidewalks, but parallel parking will mess up the flow of traffic and ultimately kill the town's tax base. I'm just asking you not to hurt businesses."
"No decisions have been made regarding parking," Kunz said. She added, however, "Parallel parking may not be the solution, but it may be the only solution. The bottom line is that times are changing. We need a plan that preserves history and helps business. The community needs to come together and listen with an open mind to suggestions."
Battle said, "And no one wants to hurt businesses."
"Both sides could be in agreement," Davis said. "We want sidewalks, but don't kill the goose that laid the golden egg. Years ago, one parking space brought in $50,000 [of business] a year."
At one point, it was suggested that a Quonset hut located below the town's water tower be demolished for approximately 20 parking spaces.
Private sidewalks?
Another solution put forth was for the city to foot the entire bill for the sidewalk project with the help of a bond election. Then parallel parking would become a moot point. And, it was noted, "The cost would be less if the project is done privately."
After hearing that TxDOT administrators hadn't yet been consulted about the sidewalk project, Davis suggested that a workshop be scheduled to include representatives from TxDOT, Pape-Dawson, city council, P&Z and business owners.
"Will TxDot listen?" someone asked.
Battle explained that TxDOT has earmarked funding for projects such as the one proposed in Bandera. "They're focusing on small towns that are proposing hike and bike trails and sidewalks for pedestrians," Battle said. "The projects must be 'shelf-ready' and necessary and the community must be cohesive."
"Well, maybe we're not ready to sit down with TxDOT yet," Davis said.
Hamilton said, "We're not going to change the dynamics of this town just to get TxDOT money."
The next P&Z meeting will take place on April 14. Hopefully, enough members will be in attendance to have a quorum - and a meeting.
(Source: http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/intersection)