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2016-03-03

Court lobs ETJ ‘ball’ back to city

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Bandera County Commissioners recently signed a resolution that dealt with platting and related permits in the City of Bandera’s extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ). This action came in response to a city council decision on Jan. 21 to give Mayor John Hegemier authority to “rescind” that part of an interlocal agreement with the county regarding authority in the ETJ.
According to the terms of the 2002 interlocal agreement, the city’s motion to terminate the interlocal agreement required giving the county formal notice of the intent within 45 days of April 18.
Interlocal agreement required
The interlocal agreement providing for subdivision regulation by the county within the half-mile ETJ around the circumference of the city went into effect on April 18, 2002. This agreement put both the city and county in compliance with Chapter 242 of the Texas Local Government Code.
Chapter 242 requires counties and municipalities to execute a written agreement that identifies the governmental entity authorized to regulate subdivision plats and approved related permits in the ETJ. Currently, Bandera County holds exclusive jurisdiction to regulate plats and permits in the city’s ETJ. However, city councilmen and the mayor have recently pushed to assume these duties.
To end the seeming stalemate, commissioners expressed in the resolution a willingness to revise the exclusive jurisdiction to regulate subdivision plats and approved related permits in the ETJ of the city “at such a time as the city of Bandera has adequate licensed staff available in the required disciplines of engineering, on-site sewer facilities and floodplain management.”
Required city staff
A paucity of licensed staff on the city’s side had previously been raised when Judge Richard Evans addressed a meeting of the Ranchers & Landowners Association of Texas in January.
To a query, Evans explained, “An intent not to renew does not take away responsibility to have an interlocal agreement in place.” He added, “The city must have a designated floodplain manager and plan as well as a certified OSSF employee.” Additionally, the city does not currently require water availability studies, Evans said.
According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), a certified On-Site Sewage Facilities (OSSF) employee is in charge of the city’s septic systems or water treatment facilities. State regulations allow regional and local governments – counties, cities, river authorities and special districts – to implement and enforce on-site sewage regulations with TCEQ approval and oversight. The state sets minimum standards, but local authorities can adopt more stringent rules with TCEQ approval.
As Evans pointed out, “If the city takes over the ETJ, there must be someone in place to do the job.”
Ordinances,
not certification
In an interview, Hegemier said that city ordinances allow Public Works Director Roy Clayton to serve as floodplain manager. However, the mayor was unclear as to whether Clayton was certified as a floodplain manager. “Our ordinances do not require certification,” Hegemier said.
To fulfill the OSSF regulation, Clayton holds a public water distribution license, Hegemier said, adding, “We’re trying to get a couple more employees certified as well.”
Certification of floodplain managers, as well as having a current flood plan in effect, for both cities and counties are said to be requirements for payment of flood insurance in the event of a watery disaster.
Where are city
resources?
At last week’s meeting, Precinct 1 Commissioner Bob Grimes said that Bandera County’s authority regarding development within the ETJ remains in effect because “the county has resources” that the city lacks.
As Evans noted, “In 2001, it was determined that the city ought to do it, but the county still did it.” He added, “This resolution should give city residents piece of mind that when the city has the necessary resources, we’ll revise the interlocal agreement. At this point, the sky will not fall if we continue to manage the ETJ.”
To a query, Grimes said, “The city’s rules and regulations are more in tune to municipal development.”
“What about lot sizes and wells and septics?” asked Precinct 2 Commissioner Bobby Harris.
“The rules on wells and septics mirror those of the county,” Grimes said.
Evans added, “There might be small developments and some commercial development, but there’s not much land to develop.” According to Grimes, the acreage is not more than 10.4 miles.
“Why so we need this resolution?” asked Precinct 4 Commissioner Jordan “Jody” Rutherford.
“This merely formalizes our response and lets everyone know, ‘When you get your act together and everybody on board, then we’ll talk’,” Evans replied. As an example of “getting one’s act together,” he noted the city has been without an administrator for months. However, according to reports, Mayor Pro Tem Suzanne Schauman, current manager of the Chikin Coop, has expressed an interest in the position.
‘Call us when
you’re ready’
Commissioners also noted that should the city regain authority within the ETJ, county road maintenance would continue. However, if annexation occurs, the city becomes responsible for maintaining the roadways.
Grimes noted that in a city planning session in February, Schauman repeatedly acknowledged that the city lacks funding for certain things. In a later interview, he elaborated, “When councilmen brought forth their ‘goals’ for the city, Suzanne would reply, ‘Folks, you have to understand, we don’t have any money’.”
Regarding the push for control of the ETJ, according to Grimes, Schauman had admitted, “This is something (Councilman) Jim Hannah and I would like to see happen. The goal is to annex the ETJ.” At the same time, however, she noted the city doesn’t have the money to do it.
Meanwhile, back at commissioners court, Rutherford asked, “Why do they want to be responsible for taking over something the county is already paying for? Have they researched the cost at all?”
“Those are questions for the city,” Evans rejoined.
At this point, county commissioners still consider the 2002 interlocal agreement covering development in the ETJ to be in effect. “It is not acceptable not to be in compliance with a state statute,” Evans said. He advised city officials, “We’re willing to revise the agreement when you’re ready. Just call us.”