Update for July 17, 2014

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Council reconvenes to address zoning, workshop on possible Ave. K closure

By Diane Cosgrove
Anvil Herald Staff

Hondo City Council resumed its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday at 3 p.m. in council chambers.

Item 7 of the agenda was addressed Monday night after council changed the venue to the South Texas Regional Training Center, in anticipation of a large crowd of interested parties. The item was a public hearing regarding a request for a zone change. (See story at left.)

All council members were present for the reconvened meeting with the exception of Councilman Sammy Nooner.

The meeting began with a Water Forecast presented by Public Works Director Eric Salazar. He reported that the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone did not receive adequate rainfall to ward off current Stage 3 water restrictions. Despite nice rainfall in Hondo during the spring, that precipitation did not reach the recharge zone.

Salazar reported to council that the city’s water department had to repair a six-inch water main break on Fri., July 11, in addition to other work orders. In order to repair the leak, city crews had to release the pressure on the main by opening a fire hydrant south of the break, causing the loss of a tremendous amount of water. The water poured out of the hydrant at the corner of Ave. Q and 30th Street for hours, as the crew worked in chest-to-neck-deep water to repair the break.

Salazar explained, “We have issues with our valves; they’re so old that when we try to shut them down, they don’t work, so we’re just losing that water.” He noted that 52% of the recent work orders were level one, denoting the urgency of the work needed.

He said repair crews often have to go further down on the water line to find valves that do work, so they can shut them down to allow crews to work.

Following Salazar’s presentation, Hondo City Manager Jeff Litchfield noted that, “We got rain, but that didn’t mean the Aquifer did. Unless something changes, we will be hitting Stage 4.”

Public hearings were offered regarding various zone changes proposed which had been approved by the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission. Each was presented by the city’s Code Compliance Officer, Gilbert Contreras, and no one from the community was on hand to protest the changes. Contreras noted that these were to enable the city to better market the properties for sale and provide the city some flexibility under the new zoning. Each change had been recommended for approval by the Planning & Zoning Commission and involved land owned by the city.

Litchfield reminded council that a presentation was held at the May 12 council meeting and was a result of recommendations by the city’s economic development corporation.

All zone changes were approved by council. They are:

• Lots 6-14 of Block 29 and 6-10, Block 30, City of Hondo, from either Residential Two (R2) or Mixed Use (MUD) to Government Public (GP), to avoid having to obtain a special use permit;

• 3.226 acs., Survey 154, Abstract 357, from Airport Overlay Zone (AOZ) to Light Industrial (LI);

• 4.256 acs., Survey 157, Abs. 359, and 2.405 acs., Sur. 157, Abs. 360, from Multi Family (MF)/Commercial (C) to LI; and

• 26.373 acs. Sur. 157, Abs. 360, from GP to Planned Development (PD).

Two members of the community did speak in protest to the city’s proposal to close Avenue K between 20th and 21st streets, during the workshop presented by Salazar.

Mayor Jim Danner noted that the plans for the library are nearing completion, and a decision needs to be made regarding the traffic/pedestrian control along that block. He added that there was a need for 30 parking spaces for the planned library/community center and initially diagonal parking was designated on the north side of the structure (20th St.) as well as parking on the south side, with access to the community center entrance.

Referring to a previous discussion the city had on the potential closure of the roadway in that block, the mayor said, “We also discussed the possiblity of leaving (Avenue) K like it is, and putting speed bumps – or humps – in the road,” which he said would influence the natural inclination of drivers to avoid traveling that portion of the road.

“My recommendation to council is that we not close Avenue K, and utilize speed bumps and possibly a crosswalk to cross from the library to Memorial Square.”

Salazar offered a PowerPoint presentation featuring various options open to council to afford the desired speed control on Ave. K. He described speed bumps/humps and rumble strips and the effect each would provide. A speed limit reduction and crosswalk and options for displaying advising drivers of each were also presented.

Rumble strips are narrow; an example of these can be found on US 90, installed in the pavement on approach to the traffic light (for both eastbound and westbound traffic) on the west side of Castroville, alongside The Alsatian Hotel. Designed for higher speed traffic, they create an audible warning for drivers that they are approaching a speed change or potentially dangerous intersection.

Speed bumps and humps are more commonly used inside city limits to control motorists traveling at lower speeds. Speed humps are wider and not as tall as speed bumps. Bumps look more like what you would see in a parking lot, which vehicles pull toward in a parking space, but with rounded, tapered edges.

The crosswalk would probably be constructed at the current four-way stop at Ave. K and (20th) Street, advised Salazar. Mayor Danner said he thought the crosswalk would be placed in the middle of the block, across from the library. Salazar replied that it could be constructed that way.

Street Department Supervisor Claude Cosgrove interjected that if a new sidewalk was to be constructed, it would have to be ADA compliant (wheelchair accessible).

Mayor Danner remarked that he believes the congregation of St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church is finalizing plans for their building project on the south half of the block on which the new library will be built. He said that closing Ave. K would impact one entry to the church’s planned parking lot which will surround their new structure there.

“That’s another reason we should consider not closing (that portion of Ave. K),” Danner said.

“I think they’re moving forward,” agreed Litchfield. “I think we’ll know for sure what they’re going to do before we have to make a decision. We haven’t gotten the full estimate on the library, so we’re still many months away. So, we don’t have to make a decision at this point.” He noted that the location for the crosswalk could also be explored at a later date.

Councilman John McAnelly said that he was in favor of a speed hump or bump, as opposed to closing the road, would work better for everybody. “Having something there to slow people down is going to be important.”

Paul Guinn lives on, operates a business on and also owns property on three sides of Memorial Square, which is bordered on the east side by the street in question. He noted that he has 59% of the property fronting Memorial Square and does not want to see it changed.

“I was happy when the city purchased the north half of City Block 29 as the location to build the new public library,’ Guinn began. “This change from trying to build on the open area we know as Memorial Park was welcome news to me.

“I was disappointed when the city manager told me that the mayor wanted to close Avenue K so the library can be built closer to Memorial Park. So far, I haven’t heard anything public, but I’ve heard rumors about that – the city manager saying that,” he clarified.

“It would cripple the openness of Memorial Square” Guinn continued. “This started out being mentioned in the city manager’s June 6th weekly newsletter. At that time, it also talked about closing 21st Street, but I understand the church has decided there is wisdom in not closing 21st St.

“I had hoped the church’s example would have shown the city the wisdom of not closing Avenue K. I have seen the library site plan, and it is contained entirely within the boundaries of Block 29. It does not require closure of Avenue K. It shows pull-in parking on the east side of Avenue K; I think that’s a good idea, and the mayor talked about pull-in parking on 20th Street, plus the plan shows parking on the east side of the library, and I think that’s going to be pretty much of the parking needed.

“For people parking at (Memorial) Square, we can lower the speed limit – there’s already have a four-way stop there, you may want to add one at 21st Street and K.”

Guinn added that when a motorist comes to Hondo to attend a funeral at the Catholic church, using Google to provide instruction how to get there, they are directed to turn on Avenue K and that takes them right to the front door of the sanctuary.

He said that as people congregate at Memorial Square for events such as those held on Memorial Day, they park along Avenue K and he did not want to see that parking taken away.

“I oppose the closure of Avenue K. I personally don’t like speed bumps. I think before you put speed bumps, you need to research the traffic flow after you change the speed limit and done the other things, and see if you need them.”

Dorothy Schorp, librarian at Hondo Public Library, voiced her support for the larger speed bumps in front of the library/community center and perhaps on each side. “Simply because at least once a week, we have approximately 40 children from the ages of two to five, and their parents and their grandparents that will be in that vicinity. For the safety of those young children, I think speed bumps would be the best way to go about it.

“We want this community center to be accessible for people that are using different assistances to walk…for their caregivers to assist them. I think the speed bumps would be the best option,” she concluded.

Final speaker to address council during the workshop to discuss possible closure of Avenue K for one block was Donato “Don” Rios, Commander of Hal Jones Post #128 of the American Legion. “You were with us at Memorial Day services,” he began, directing his attention to the mayor. “I strongly suggest that Avenue K stay open. If you remember, the disabled veterans park (along) Avenue K, and it makes it easier for them to wheel themselves up to that side of the park (where services are commonly held) because we are always facing Avenue E (several blocks east of Ave. K).

“If the end resolution comes to speed bumps – if you want to get rid of traffic – I recommend the higher speed bumps, because you have to come to a dead stop to cross those bumps. The other – wider humps – you can slow down a little bit…. I’m all for Avenue K staying open.”

Council initially planned to conduct workshops on August 4-6, but changed it to August 7-8, leaving an option for a special meeting to discuss the tax rate, following the workshops and publication of the notice for said special meeting.

Council approved the changes to Ordinance No. 1030-07-14 which deals with the fee schedule for solid waste rates and changes. This will provide for one-time (or temporary) use fee at the Citizens’ Collection Station of $20, and raise the yearly permit fee to $30.

Mayor Danner reminded council of the workshop held at a previous date concerning the rates. Council unanimously approved the rate changes.

The mayor advised council of several resignations received for board/commission positions. Esmeralda Rodriguez resigned from the city’s EDC board and Adela Urrutia, chairman of the Board of Adjustment.

He recommended Dr. A’Lann Truelock, Hondo ISD superintendent, to fill Rodriguez’s unexpired position and Jose “Porky” Ytuarte for Urrutia’s.

On the South Texas Regional Airport at Hondo Advisory Board, the positions of Russ Renaud, Miles Lee and Paul A. Hollis expired in June. He recommended that council reappoint the three men, noting each man’s value to the board.

Danner said that he would present recommendations at the next council meeting to fill vacancies on the Parks Advisory Board.

Council unanimously approved the mayor’s recommendations.

Council went into executive session, then adjourned without taking any further action.

The next city council meeting is scheduled in council chambers Monday, July 28, at 6 p.m. The meeting is open to the public.

 

 

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