Whitney council discusses proposed developments in October meeting

Editor: Shannon Cottongame

October 27, 2021

The Whitney City Council considered agenda items related to proposed developments in the city during a meeting held Monday evening, October 18.

The council heard from Gary Finch, CEO of Teamworktown Inc., which is planning to build custom homes on land located off North Trinity Street in Whitney. Finch said that he has made several trips from California to Whitney and called it “the best kept secret in Texas.” He said that he and his wife are planning to move to town and have teamed up with local residents on the Trinity Estates subdivision project.

According to the company’s website, move-in ready, custom homes ranging from 1,897 to 2,735 square feet will be offered in several models with prices starting at $365,000. The project is projected to be completed in phases, with approximately 37 homes planned in the first phase. Finch said that an additional land purchase in the area was also possible.

“Our desire would be to attract professional people that can come in here that we know will be following good citizenship,” Finch said. He explained that the area would be marketed to people who would like to move to a safe community and work from home.

Finch added that local contractors and businesses would be employed for the project as much as possible.

While the company is not yet ready to present a preliminary plat for the council’s consideration, Finch was before the council to request a modification to the previous zoning of close to 47 acres in the project area.
City Administrator/Police Chief Chris Bentley explained that the area was rezoned from agricultural use to single-family 2 (SF-2) at the council’s last meeting, but it should have been zoned as single-family 1 (SF-1).

Bentley said that the difference between the two classifications is that an SF-2 zone must have 50 feet in front of a home that faces a street, while an SF-1 zone does not have that requirement. Without the zoning change, the developer could not build as many homes as he would like with the planned setbacks of approximately 32 feet.

Council Member Jerry Barker questioned the parking situation with the current plan, saying that people with large families often have more than two cars. He expressed concerns that residents parking on streets would cause an issue for fire trucks in an emergency.

Bentley said that there would be designated fire lanes, and Finch said that the final drawings should include enough room to park off of the street, including two-car garages on home sites.

Prior to the vote, Mayor Brad Slaten said that he was not in favor of the zoning change, saying that the layout and limited frontage deeply concerned him looking 20 to 30 years down the road.

“I’m not concerned about first-generation owners,” he said. “I’m concerned about third-generation owners.”

Other than the proposed plan, Slaten said that he liked the ideas Finch presented. “We would love to have a great housing development here,” he said.

Barker said that he was also against the current layout. “We are all part of this community and we’re placed here to make those hard decisions, and sometimes they’re not favorable decisions for the developer, but we do have to look to the future,” Barker said.

After discussion, the council opted to take no action to amend the zoning. The developer will have to rework the layout in order to comply with the zoning ordinance and continue the project.

The mayor acknowledged that this would place an additional burden on the developer and said he hopes that he doesn’t interpret it as the city not wanting him to develop his subdivision. “I trust we can work together going forward,” the mayor said.

The council also revisited the issue of a planned storage building development in town that would involve the closing of portions of Jackson Avenue, San Jacinto Avenue and Harrison Avenue. The issue has been on the council’s agenda at several meetings as city crews worked to determine where active water and sewer lines were in the area.

The latest proposal from the property owner was that he would put gravel over the lines instead of concrete to allow them to be accessed by the city if needed. Mayor Slaten pointed out that this was a significant change from the previous proposal that the lines be relocated at the owner’s expense.

Based on the extent of active lines discovered by the city and the expense involved with relocating them, the developer made the new proposal, which Bentley said would allow the city to retain access to the lines and allow the owner to put his buildings on the site.

Barker told the council that he thought the proposal sounded like a recipe for disaster, adding that the council had reviewed the matter three times before making a decision and had used city resources to prepare the agreement at the city’s expense. He said that he was also concerned that the construction in the area would lead to lines breaking and put a burden on public works.

“I’m all for community development,” Barker said, “That’s why we utilized the resources we did to do a development agreement and to be able to welcome this business, but we can’t do it at the taxpayer’s cost.”

Council Member Sam Pierce said, “I just don’t want to see us not take precautions enough and it be something that ruins his business and the taxpayer’s money. Maybe we can find some common ground.”

Mayor Slaten said that the issue was a great example of how the city should not do business working with a partner on an agreement. “This needs not ever happen again. We’re going back and forth way too much.”

Slaten said that he was not pointing fingers at anyone and was including himself in the comment, but he believes the council needs to have more information about the full impact of a plan prior to going down a path.

Council Member Jason Ince said that the fault did not just lie with the council, pointing out that the developer has not attended meetings to discuss the issue. “It’s on both parties,” he said.

Citing concerns about the changes to the agreement and the possible financial impacts for the city, the council took no action to approve the requested modification.

Moving on to another agenda item, Mayor Slaten proposed having a slogan trademarked for the City of Whitney, but the proposal failed to pass due to the cost of trademarking a slogan not being immediately available.

Highlights mentioned in departmental reports included the upcoming “Boo With the Red & Blue” Halloween event set for Friday, which Bentley said is being conducted with the help of multiple agencies and businesses. He said that the city’s police officers and firefighters will visit young students at Whitney and Aquilla school districts Thursday, October 28, along with superheroes and one of the department’s K-9 units. Another upcoming effort by the police department will be the annual Blue Santa drive to collect toys for children.

In the EMS report, Bentley said that the city is in final negotiations with West to purchase an ambulance. He said the department’s schedule has been reworked to accommodate the absence of one crew member who has been called to the border with the Army Reserve.

Fire Chief Wayland Price reported that firefighters participated in county-wide training programs last month and additional training was scheduled for Saturday. Code enforcement issued six certificates of occupancy over the previous month and has been extremely busy with new businesses coming to town and changes of ownership, Price said.

Public Works Director Billy Pribble told the council that the department’s new public safety truck is almost ready to add to the department’s fleet and applications are still being accepted for public works crew members, although there had been no interest in the positions as of the date of the meeting.

A bid has been received to repair the intersection of Jefferson Avenue and Colorado Street, which has been rough since water line repairs were necessary in the area. That project is expected to move forward when crews can get the city on the schedule.

In his comments, Mayor Slaten said that he encouraged citizens, churches and other organizations to support the two city employees who are currently deployed to the border. School Resource Officer Curtis Rust has been called to service with the Texas State Guard, and EMS crew member Ronnie Agpalza is serving with the Army Reserve. “We need to make sure they know Whitney is supporting them while they are fulfilling their duties,” the mayor said. He encouraged anyone who would like to contact them or send care packages to contact City Hall for information.

One speaker was present for open forum. Tami Gardner with The Place at Lake Whitney thanked the council for helping to facilitate a successful Pioneer Days. “The Place at Lake Whitney is very grateful for the opportunity we had to serve the community with a permitted TABC-licensed bartenders. We followed every rule and we did exactly what y’all asked us to do and we really had a good time.” She said that there were some issues she would like to make sure the city was aware of. “There were many people in the downtown area who were over served,” she said. “They weren’t served by The Place at Lake Whitney; they were served because they brought in their own coolers.”

Gardner said that she wanted to know what the rules were and work with the city. “We just need to know do you want coolers and want people down there, or do you want legal TABC certified bartenders handling consumption?”

She suggested the chamber add language stating that no alcoholic beverages are allowed on vendor applications and also proposed signage in the area saying that alcohol cannot be brought in, unless the decision is made to allow attendees to bring alcohol.

Following open forum, Mayor Slaten said that he and Bentley discuss all matters brought up by speakers at council meetings. “We do not ignore them, he said, “We discuss everything that comes up.”

The council’s next regularly scheduled meeting is Tuesday, November 15, at the city annex on Colorado Street.

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