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2016-04-07

ETJ ball still up in air

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

In a “tit for tat” development, Bandera City Council has responded to a resolution from Bandera County Commissioners regarding the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) with one of their own. County Judge Richard Evans shared the city’s resolution with commissioners during a meeting on Thursday, March 24. “I sat down with the mayor [John Hegemire] on Monday [March 21] and had a candid conversation,” Evans said.
Previously, Precinct 1 Commissioner Bob Grimes, who serves as the court liaison to the city, had spoken with Mayor Pro Tem Suzanne Schauman about the increasingly controversial subject.
“During that conversation, I let her know there were three more opportunities to speak directly to the court about the interlocal agreement,” Grimes said. “Nobody from the city came to any of our meetings.”
After reviewing the city resolution, Grimes said he intended to place an item on the Thursday, April 14, court agenda about the city’s termination of the interlocal agreement. In 2002, city and county officials signed the agreement, which ceded development control in the half-mile ETJ surrounding the city to the county.
“At the time of the agreement, everyone agreed that it should be the city’s responsibility, but everyone also agreed that, at the time, the city was in no position to oversee it,” Evans recalled. Now that the city remains without a treasurer or adminstrator, city officials seem even less capable of managing the ETJ. During a recent interview, even Hegemire agreed on that point.
When asked why the subject of developmental authority in the ETJ had surfaced recently due to a push by Councilman Jim Hannah, Hegemire replied, “I think it’s on Jim’s bucket list.”
During the discussion of the city’s resolution, not only did Evans decry the poor spelling on the official document, but he also described the resolution as “factually inaccurate.”
As written, the paragraph in question stated: “WHEREAS, the City and the County, pursuant to Texas Local Government Code Section 242.001, as amended, have both enforced their subdivision regulations in the City’s ETJ, and, in those situation where the City’s regulations conflicted with the County’s regulations, the more stringent provisions prevailed …” (Courier emphasis).
According to Evans, city ordinances regarding development never prevailed within the ETJ. “Since 2002, there have been zero subdivisions platted within the ETJ,” he said, adding, “Most of the available land has already been developed and the rest is in the floodplain and floodway.”
Additionally, the city document noted: “The County agrees that it shall not enforce its subdivision regulations, including the regulation of subdivision plats, within the City’s ETJ and that it shall not charge any fees relating to the subdivision regulations described in this Agreement other that customary filing fees for the recordation of plats in the real property records of the County.”
As an aside, Precinct 3 Commissioner Andy Wilkerson told the court that he had been contacted by city officials about the ETJ matter. “I told them, ‘I’m not the court’s liaison to the city. Commissioner Grimes is. Talk to him’.”
Earlier, city council had attempted to usurp the court’s decision to appoint Grimes and instead have Wilkerson designated as the official liaison. The maneuver failed and, to date, the city council has not appointed a liaison to commissioners court.
Regarding the court’s proposed agenda item for the first meeting in April, Grimes said, “I believe the county will have no choice but to consider continuing under the terms of the existing agreement. To date, city officials have not shown a capacity to accomplish required tasks, in either written or verbal terms.”
Before the city’s resolution was delivered to Evans, Hegemire had sent a precursor letter, indicating that city control of the ETJ would “serve the best interest” of any prospective developer.
Commenting on the phrase, Grimes said, “To me, that sounds like legal-speak from the city attorney to support the action taken by the council. To me, that means the statement can’t be quantified.”
Grimes continued, “I certainly am not aware of any ‘citizens’ wishing to develop within the ETJ at the present time – and there is nothing stopping them should they wish to do so. Similarly, I am not aware of any developers lining up to do the same. I really have no clue what is happening in the mind of the city.”