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2015-05-14

No manufactured homes in flood way

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

A groundswell of residents speaking out against a proposed manufactured home rental community located in the floodway of the Medina River convinced developers to default to their Plan B.
The about face of Bud and Tiffni Graham took place during a Thursday, May 7, meeting of Bandera City Council. Previously, the husband and wife team had proposed installing manufactured homes constructed on pilings as rental properties within the river's regulated floodway at 1st and Pecan streets. Earlier, their plans had passed muster with the Bandera Planning & Zoning Commission. At last week's meeting, however, residents were up in arms about the proposal - and weren't afraid to express their opinions.
Calling the plan a "nightmare to this city," former Mayor Linda Stein raised questions about the city liability when the next flood hits. "Proposed manufactured homes is the worst idea ever," she said. "Lives could be lost." Stein went on to say that contrary to popular belief, so-called "500 Year Floods" occur in Bandera County about "every 11 years." She concluded, "This would be the wrong thing to do."
Longtime city resident Dorothy Darden concurred, telling council that the 1978 flood destroyed her entire house. "I lost it down to the floor," she said. "I don't recommend building in a floodway." She also cited the tendency of floodwaters to rise quickly. "The Medina River rose in four hours, not seven or eight."
Tom Laxson feared that fast moving debris in floodwaters could knock the houses off their pilings. He cautioned council, "If you allow this, it cannot be a burden to taxpayers if something happens and FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) rules that the city is at fault. Two people were killed in the 1978 flood. Think about what could happen down the line. This could be really bad."
Recalling working rescue in that flood, Precinct 3 Commissioner Andy Wilkerson said, "The rest of the time, we pulled bodies out of the river. It stays with you." He added, "At that time, we lost people who built on the river and didn't know better. We know better now."
A suggestion was made to turn the acreage into a RV park with on-site management.
That recommendation sat well with Bud Graham. "Initially we wanted to construct manufactured homes in the floodway. We're not greedy, but we saw a need for rental properties in the city," he said. After telling council he had appeared before P&Z and submitted hydraulic studies as per FEMA requirements, Graham added, "But after hearing these real life stories, I know studies don't always tell the truth." He proposed rezoning the site and installing rental RVs that could be moved quickly during flooding.
"I don't want to take a chance so I'll pay the fee and go back to P&Z (with this request)," he added. "In my heart this is what I would rather do."
At this point, Graham said there would be room for eight RVs and each one would have to be capable of being moved quickly during a flood event. He also indicated there would be an on-site manager.
"We so appreciate you rethinking your position and your change of heart," said Mayor Pro Tem Suzanne Schauman.
In other business, local historian Dave Burrel saw one of his pet projects come to fruition. Council approved a budget adjustment of $7,000 for the City of Bandera Economic Development Corporation to install a mural on the side of an office complex, located at the intersection of 12th Street and Highway 16.
The mural "Kelly's Coffee," to be created by artist Bill Stevens, will feature local farrier Kelly Scott. "We thought that would be a good place to put the first mural. It would be something spectacular to welcome people to the Cowboy Capital of the World," Burrel said.
Former Mayor Don Clark, who offered the space for the first mural, owns the office complex.
Stevens said he would paint the mural in 4-foot by 8-foot panels on the floor of the old Cabaret Dancehall. The panels would be attached to Clark's building, but owned by the EDC. When asked about upkeep, Stevens said that could be accomplished by "a hose and Mother Nature."
Others who would like to have murals applied to their blank walls are asked to contact city hall and have their names "added to the hat."
City administrators have also applied for a grant to help fund the Silver Spur Skate Park. It will be located in Bandera City Park near the Boys & Girls Club in a 100-year flood plain. A previous council approved the location in 2005.
According to Councilman Glenn Clark, it is not uncommon to build skate parks in flood plains. The facility's ground level and lower construction allows water to flow over, rather than under, the concrete, making it less vulnerable to stress.
"If you comply with FEMA regulations regarding the location of structures in the flood plain, you'll be safe," Wilkerson said.
When asked about the cost of the skate park, Clark said that the EDC had allocated $50,000 for the construction with the Skate Park Trust adding another $25,000 to the matching Texas Parks & Wildlife $75,000 grant, bringing the total cost of the skate park to $150,000. The grant will be awarded in August.
In answer to citizens' queries, council noted that the skate park would only be used for skate boarding.