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2016-04-21

County to continue authority in ETJ

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

As he promised earlier, Bandera County Precinct 1 Commissioner Bob Grimes added an agenda item to the Thursday, April 14, meeting of commissioners court to address an on-going flap regarding the City of Bandera’s extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ).
In a nutshell, an interlocal agreement signed by city and county officials in 2002 gave precedent to country rules and regulations concerning development and platting within the half-mile radius around the municipality. However, in the ensuing 14 years, no development, platting or replatting has occurred within the ETJ.
Nevertheless, Council-man Jim Hannah has spearheaded an effort to wrest control of the ETJ back under the aegis of the city – ostensibly because the city’s development ordinances are much stricter than those of the county.
Hegemier:
‘City not ready’
“About six weeks ago, the county sent a resolution to the city that noted when they have resources and personnel available, the county would turn over development authority in the ETJ to the city,” Grimes said. City officials responded with a resolution of their own which, in effect, cancelled the existing interlocal agreement with the county.
“However, the city never presented proof that it has the ability to takeover management of the ETJ,” Grimes added. The Bandera County Courier reported on the dueling resolutions in March 3 and March 31 editions.
Continuing, Grimes said he had met with City of Bandera Mayor John Hegemier twice during the week of April 11. Hegemier, Grimes said, had indicated that the city is “not ready” to oversee the ETJ. Moreover, Hegemier offered no explanation as to why this handover of authority had become so imperative at this time.
More to deal with
In January, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) cited the city’s water system for inadequate storage and pumping capacity from the municipal wells. As was noted, the city might find it difficult to provide ETJ residents currently not connected to city utilities with sewer and water.
“I believe the city has more important items to deal with at this time than regaining development authority in the ETJ,” Grimes said.
The city is currently searching for a new city administrator as well as a permanent treasurer. Additionally, on Thursday, April 14, Mayor Pro Tem Suzanne Schauman resigned from city council, effective Friday, April 22.
After noting “the (city) council does what the council does,” Judge Richard Evans advised residents living in the ETJ who are contemplating replatting to contact the County Engineer Dieter Werner at 830-796-3175.
“We’ll continue to take care of the residents of Bandera County, including those living in the ETJ,” Evans said, adding, “and we’ll do it until the city has the capacity, personnel and process to do it for their citizens.”
No response from city
Grimes also noted that city officials have not responded to numerous county overtures to discuss the ETJ situation. Grimes serves as the court liaison to city council. To a question from the court, he replied, “The council has not appointed a liaison to commissions court.”
Although no one from the city attended last Thursday’s meeting, earlier Hannah had dropped off two boilerplate letters to the city from Klein & Cope Engineering, dated April 8, and LBG-Guyton Associates, dated March 10.
LBG-Guyton Senior Vice President James Beach, PG stated: “Again, thank you for considering our firm. If the City is interested, we look forward to speaking with you about the details of a working relationship.” Austin’s LBG-Guyton specializes in groundwater and environmental engineering.
In his letter, Brian M. Cope, PE, vice president of Klein & Cope Engineering, stated: “As you are aware, we currently provide plan reviews for projects within the City Limits of Bandera, and look forward to the opportunity to assist the City as it prepares to provide these development services to its ETJ.”
County ‘good partner’
Characterizing April 18 as the “last gasp,” Grimes said that is the date that the city and county will be out of compliance with the Local Government Code.
After reiterating, “We have never had a plat in the ETJ since 2002,” Evans noted the county has secured “hundreds of thousand of dollars worth of grants to expand sewer services in the ETJ.” He also took umbrage to the fact that city officials do not consider the county “good partners” in the management of the ETJ. “I would love to sit down and talk with city officials,” Evans added.
“We have made every effort to be accommodating,” Grimes said. “It was agreed in 2002 the process should belong in the hands of the city, but they can’t do it. The city has no personnel or processes in place.”
Precinct 2 Commission-ers Bobby Harris commented, “Sixty-six to 75 percent of the land in the ETJ cannot be platted. It’s either in the floodplain or unavailable for development – and it’s not like people are breaking down the doors to develop in the ETJ.”
ETJ development?
Additionally, the city’s insistence at regaining authority over development in the ETJ has some scratching their heads. Traditionally, city ordinances allow for denser development than do county rules and regulation. “However, that’s only if the development is supplied with city utilities,” Evans has noted on several occasions.
And, although Hegemier pooh-poohed the idea, speculations remain rife that a developer plans to build eight houses – or more – on an acre in the ETJ.
When court discussions ended, commissioners unanimously supported a motion that read: “Bandera County will continue to exercise platting and permitting authority within the City of Bandera’s ETJ despite the absence of an interlocal agreement with the city.”