April 2013

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Manvel gets new police chief

Residents voice concern over rental development

Council discusses Impact Fee implementation

AISD Trustees debate survey expenditure

Manvel officer crashes cruiser

Rodeo Palms Residents Anxious About Rental Community

New Police Chief Sworn In

 

Manvel gets new police chief

April 3, 2013

 

Manvel City Council approved City Manager Kyle Jung’s recommendation for the city’s new police chief at its last meeting. Jung said an extensive search involving more than 100 applicants culminated in Thomas (Keith) Traylor being hired as the next police chief for Manvel. The new chief will be sworn in “pending the results of the required pre-employment drug screen and physical examination.”

Traylor’s resume shows an extensive background in law enforcement. He is currently employed as a Lieutenant with the City of Lake Jackson police department where he has performed the duties of the assistant police chief for the last four years. Over 28 years Traylor has progressed through the ranks of the Lake Jackson police department from patrol officer to his current position. He is responsible for overseeing the activities of the patrol division and support staff with a total of 41 employees. Traylor has direct experience with investigations, budgeting, personnel issues, and emergency management.

Traylor attended the Basic Police Academy at Alvin Junior College. He holds a Masters Peace Officer certification and has attended various FBI training programs and the Law Enforcement Management Institute. He boasts 2,820 hours of in-service training.

Jung expects Traylor to begin his duties in the next three weeks or so after taking the required drug and physical tests. He will submit his resignation to his current employer which normally would provide at least two weeks’ notice.

The approval of Traylor was not unanimous. Members Larry Akery and John Cox voted against the selection. Cox expressed his no vote as believing interim Chief Art Chapa should have received consideration for the position. Many in the community have expressed positive support for Chapa who believe he has performed well as the interim chief.

Gary Garnett, a former council member and current candidate for the Place 6 seat, addressed council in support of Chapa. Garnett said he has “talked with numerous businesses and citizens and has gotten nothing but tremendous feedback on this man (Chapa). As a citizen I think he has done one heck of a job and I truly believe that this man should be considered on the merits of what he has done.” Mayor Martin concurred with Garnett’s comments saying she would have to second his opinion.

Jung explained that Chapa was not given consideration because he did not meet the duties, skills, and knowledge that were included in the job announcement. Jung felt the city required a candidate “with at least five years of upper management experience in municipal law enforcement, direct experience working in a growing municipal police department, and completion of advanced management training.” Jung went on to say that he believes “Keith Traylor is well suited to meet these requirements and provide the leadership the Manvel police department needs in the future.”

Asked if he anticipated a smooth transition in light of many seeming to have preferred Chapa be named to the position, Jung explained that in discussions with the new chief “he has said that he will be talking with all the members of the department to learn from them what is working and not working in the department. He told me that he will be relying on all of them to help him with this transition. Only after a period of time spent learning what improvements may be needed and how best to implement them, will any changes be made by Mr. Traylor. I expect all members of the department to assist the new chief with this process and I have high hopes that this selection will help move the department forward. Art Chapa has shown that he is a very capable and valuable member of the department and has done a good job helping the department during the change in police administrations. I expect that he will continue to provide excellent service to the department and the community.

Member Adrian Gaspar admitted to wanting Chapa to become the next police chief but voted in favor of Traylor. He explained his vote: “because we operate under the city charter and Chapa did not meet the criteria he did not make the finals. I could have rebelled and voted no on the city's manager's recommendation but in my opinion that would have been childish and a disservice to the tax payers of Manvel. Why use taxpayer’s money to start the process again when we have someone that meets the qualifications. This is why I concurred with the city manager’s recommendation that Thomas (Keith) Traylor be the new Manvel Police Chief.”

Gaspar went on to say that May marks the two year anniversary of Manvel’s adoption of the City Charter “which will allow for changes to be made so that council could be more involved in the process, but in the meantime we have to work with what we have.”

Jung “believes that Keith Traylor and the members of the Manvel police department will build an organization that will become one of the finest police departments in the state and one that the citizens of Manvel will be proud of.”

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Residents voice concern over rental development

April 3, 2013

 

Several residents of the Rodeo Palms subdivision proffered an earful to city council at its recent meeting. The impetus for the comments result from an announcement from a Legend Homes subsidiary that sets forth their intention of building a 200 home community consisting solely of rental properties.

One six year resident opined that a high density of rentals draws the criminal element. She went on to express her worry that the crime will not be confined to just that area but will spread to other areas of the subdivision and to the city as well. She also expressed angst at the likelihood of reduced property values for homes in the development speculating that the value of the rental homes will likely be less than others in the subdivision. She said if the situation does get out of control that she would be forced to move and would discourage others considering moving to the area. She claimed to have nothing against renters but only wants to preserve the quality of life her family moved here for.

Another resident said “Manvel is a special place” and explained his family moving to Manvel for the quietness and the country life style that it offered. He expressed his belief that “all it takes is three bad families, or 10 or 15 people living in a house” to negatively affect the entire subdivision.

Mayor Delores Martin explained that the city’s attorney, Bobby Gervais, has been directed to look into the matter and that the plan was discussed with the mayor, city manager, and building inspector in mid-March. She attempted to make clear that the city is in no way sponsoring the development and does not support it. She said the city is considering what can and cannot be done.

One resident asked how the development could be stopped from happening. She wondered if it would be something on a ballot that could be voted on or that it would be “shoved down my throat?” City attorney Bobby Gervais said “there is very little you can do to stop someone from being able to rent their house as that is an inherent right when you own property. What I have done is come up with a rental registration ordinance that will require the property owner to register so that the city will know who the landlord is in case the tenant fails to keep the property up and gives the city some ability to go after people who may not be keeping their houses up to code.” He explained further that the ordinance would provide some entry powers and will call for regular inspections of the houses. He made clear that the city is not able to pass a law forbidding a property owner from renting their property.

City Manager Kyle Jung reiterated that the city council will not approve or disapprove the plan. “It has already been platted, Legend already owns the property, and they can build the houses whenever they want to; there is nothing the city can do,” he said.

Member Adrian Gaspar addressed the Rodeo Palms residents saying “it is out of our hands; we cannot stop them. We cannot approve it or disapprove it. Under the US Constitution they have the right, they own the land, and basically can do anything they want to with their land.” What the city is trying to do, he said, “is protect you all by trying to put this ordinance in place that will be a mechanism that will protect Rodeo Palms by us knowing who buys the property and who rents the property so that our people in the Police Department and Code Enforcement will have this knowledge and will be able to stay on top of it.”

Member Melody Hanson suggested the residents “put pressure on Legend Homes; I would picket, send letters, knock on doors, do anything you can to make your voices heard.”

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Council discusses Impact Fee implementation

April 10, 2013

 

Manvel City Council received a report from the city’s consulting civil engineer, Dan Johnson, at this week’s council workshop. The report focused on a proposed Water and Wastewater Impact Fee that will be presented as a first Public Hearing at the May 13 council meeting.

Impact fees are a “way for a city to charge developers for some of the cost that new development places on the infrastructure and resources of a city.” In 2012 Manvel City Council authorized Johnson’s firm, Daniel Scott Engineering to prepare an Impact Fee Study in conjunction with a Capital Improvement Plan and Land Use Assumptions. In accordance to the Local Government Code, Council also approved an Advisory Committee to “give policy direction, guide the public hearing process, and to make recommendations regarding the final report and fee amounts.”

The report’s planning period for the study is ten years, through 2023. The report expects the majority of improvements in the ten year period to be in the “core of the city”, which is indicated as SH 6 and FM 1128, but adds that the systems will form the “backbone of an anticipated future integrated system that will ultimately serve a population well in excess of 100,000.”

The calculations determining the proposed fee structure is based on projected “equivalent service units” that will be added to the system. A single family residence is considered the “standard service unit” in the report. The study does not project system improvements that may be required from regulatory changes, maintenance requirements, or to correct existing deficiencies as the law does not permit these costs to be reimbursed from impact fees. Finance charges incurred from the issuance of bonds are included in the report’s fee estimates as are the “acquisition of land, easements, and engineering costs.”

The impact fee will be assessed at the time a plat is filed for review by the city engineer. There will be exceptions to the assessment. Schools, churches, and government buildings will not pay the fees. Parks and construction trailers will also receive a waiver from the fee assessment. Additionally, houses and businesses obtaining additional meters for purposes of fire protection or lawn irrigation will not pay the impact fee. Changing existing water meters will only be assessed the fee if the size is increased.

A thorough analysis of projected population growth, corresponding increases in development, and the required infrastructure to support those assumptions are all part of the fee determination. The report defines the likely project costs for improvements in the ten year study period. Based on the City’s Capital Improvement Plan, total water projects, including interest expenses, are expected to be $7.445 million. Wastewater projects are expected to be $2.175 million.

An industry standard table identifies a flow rate for a typical residential water meter and uses that rate as a basis for determining the actual impact of the development on the water and wastewater systems. These costs and the resultant flow rates are then applied to the expected population and development growth resulting in a maximum recommended impact fee of $1,959 per equivalent service unit for water and $572 per equivalent service unit for wastewater.

Johnson presented council with four different scenarios for their consideration. The first scenario entailed a newly platted subdivision after the impact fees are adopted. He considers this situation as “pretty straightforward” that paying the assessment would be required.

A second example would be an existing unplatted lot with no improvements or existing services. If improvements are constructed and inclusion to the city’s systems is desired, impact fees would be assessed.

A third example would be an existing subdivision in place prior to the impact fees being adopted. Johnson explained that these developments should also be required to pay a fee on any new homes constructed.

The final example generated the most discussion among council. It entailed an existing home currently served by individual wells and septic systems. Johnson explained that these properties connecting with the city’s systems would create an impact and should be assessed the fee. Members discussed several options with the resulting general consensus that these property owners be given an option to connect to city services for one year after availability with the fee waived and an additional year with the fee assessed at 50%.

All of the details of the proposed impact fees will be presented in a Public Hearing at the scheduled May 13 council meeting. Comments are welcomed and the public is encouraged to attend to voice their opinions and ideas.

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AISD Trustees debate survey expenditure

April 17, 2013

 

The Board of Trustees for the Alvin Independent School District (AISD) debated the cost of a bond planning survey requested by the Director of Support Services, Pat Miller. The survey would be used to support the efforts of a Citizen’s Advisory Committee (CAC) currently deliberating the state of the District and facility needs as it considers the recommendation of a future bond referendum. The formal request document states “as part of the information gathering and assessment, the District in the past has provided a professional public phone survey of AISD voters for facility needs. The survey assists CAC in determining their final recommendation to the Board of Trustees.”

Some Trustees questioned the expense and the need for the survey as many consider it a foregone conclusion that the District must submit a bond referendum to voters this fall. A recent report prepared by the Templeton Demographics Group projected enrollment to grow by more than 9,700 students in the next ten years. That growth translates to the need for 6-7 elementary campuses, 2 middle school campuses, and one High School campus over that time period. Three to five years is the typical time required to complete a new campus, thus inferring that the process must begin very soon if future growth is to be accommodated.

Trustee Mike Lansford said he does not see the need for the survey saying, “aren’t we going to do a bond issue anyway?” He asked his fellow Trustees “what would happen if the survey comes out (opposed to a bond) then we will have to support it?” Lansford considers it more prudent to save the $18,000 and present a bond issue that addresses just the needs.

Superintendent Fred Brent explained that the CAC is assessing the timeline for the needed projects in an effort to coordinate the various bond referendums that will be required in the coming years. He said a survey is a “common expectation for the CAC as it is one more tool for them as they attempt to make the best recommendation they can. The community survey is an excellent way to gain input from the community on their perceptions of some of the projects.”

He went on to explain that bond referendums are sometimes presented in one lump sum and sometimes as multiple propositions. “The charge of the CAC is to gain as much information as they can before they make a recommendation” and the survey would show “areas of interest the community may have.” Brent told the Board the CAC wants to “give the Board as much information as we can glean so that we are as efficient in the process and also give the community a chance to voice their opinion before we go further on a bond election.”

Trustee Tiffany Wennerstrom supported the expenditure stating her feeling that the information gotten from the survey will help determine the non-construction items that typically are included in bond issues, such as transportation and technology. She said she “has a lot of respect for the CAC, but it is still a very small sampling of our community and this (survey) gives us a much wider sampling. We know we need schools but there are other things that people can argue with; is it a want or is it a need? And I think we need the community to help us determine, you now, when we are talking about busses, how many are a need versus a want. If we are talking about athletic facilities, is that a want or a need? I don’t know that we should make that decision without the involvement of the community.”

Lansford told the Board that he was a participant in the last survey conducted, prior to his being elected to the Board, and complained that “you are giving the person on the phone five seconds to answer a question.” While saying he “certainly values the opinions of our constituents,” he does not think the survey will return a true representation. “You cannot possibly in the survey relay the need of a particular facility and as a result I think the reaction will be negative. I think what we need to do is dwell on the needs that our administration and the CAC comes up with.”

Trustee Sue Stringer said the primary complaint she has received about the previous survey is “the way the questions were worded and that they were very leading rather than truly seeking an opinion.”

Brent explained that the survey this time would be different than the prior one. He said “we will be very involved in the questions and we will give a lot of consideration to what is asked and I do believe you will see different types of questions asked.” He told Lansford that the Board will see the questions and will see the data on what the community is thinking about these projects. He considers it a “statistically significant sampling that we think will allow you (the Board) to make better decisions.” While admitting the survey may not be the “be all end all on what we think is right for our kids, but it will be a part of the process and in the end we can put our heads together to determine what we really think is right.”

Trustee Eddie Martinez concurred with the sentiment that the survey is superfluous. He said last time the survey came back against a bond issue and “fortunately we had the time to wait.” But this time, he says, “I don’t see where we have the time to wait, I think the way things are moving we pretty much know that we will need a bond in November.” He asked if the survey comes back as it did last time opposed to a referendum, “do you just go ahead and say we are going to do it anyway?”

Trustee Regan Metoyer agreed with Martinez’s claim that all seven Board members know that a bond referendum will need to be presented to voters this November but even so expressed support for the survey saying she “thinks we all want a successful bond referendum and I think that this is a fairly small amount of money to pay to get the community’s input and their vibe to make sure that bond is successful.”

Brent responded that the survey “was not the only thing that determined the outcome last time and we think the survey being designed a little different will provide better and more accurate data and might provide insight into how the Board might want to offer different propositions that would allow voters choices. We are going to consider different things that were not considered previously.” He expounded that he “knew Districts that have gotten survey information and considered it as just one piece of the data but we see that this is really urgent need and we are going to have to go for the bond anyway and let the community decide. That very well could be our recommendation.” He feels the survey will help determine what is “more palatable to the community and what they are more willing to immediately support.”

Brent told the Board that the survey would entail approximately 300 constituents and will be allocated statistically among the percentage of voters in the different precincts. Lansford pointed out that the cost breaks down to $59 per call to which Assistant Superintendent Tommy King responded that “it is still cheaper than an election, substantially.” Brent explained that “you are paying for professional services” and added the “cost includes paying staff to process the numbers and perform other analysis.”

The Board ultimately approved the expenditure for the survey with Trustees Lansford, Martinez, and Stringer voting against.

The CAC was established by the Board in November 2012 to evaluate the possible needs for renovated and/or new facilities for the purpose of supporting quality educational programs. It includes members of the community with AISD staff members. The group is expected to present their recommendations to the Board no later than August.

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Manvel officer crashes cruiser

April 17, 2013

 

Manvel police officer Clint Weekley crashed a city police cruiser last week while on patrol. According to City Manager Kyle Jung, Weekley was on Scott Street around 2AM. “As he was checking residences he failed to negotiate a left turn in the 7800 block. He left the roadway and drove through a roadside ditch. The police vehicle sustained some damage to the front bumper and driver’s side quarter panel. There was also some damage to the grass in the ditch. Officer Weekley alerted Manvel dispatch and called for a Brazoria County Sheriff’s deputy to come and take an incident report, as required by departmental policy. Also, Officer Weekley informed the residents at the location of the incident. The city’s insurance carrier has been notified and we are waiting on the incident report and the insurance inspection regarding repairs to the vehicle. There were no injuries in the incident.

Also last week A 1968 Cessna carrying the pilot and two passengers was attempting to take off from the south end of the runway at Wolf Airpark. Reports indicate the plane just became airborne when a gust of wind forced the aircraft back to the ground and off the runway. Once on the ground the nose gear embedded in the soft ground causing the aircraft the flip several times. Only minor injuries were reported. The scene was turned over to the FAA for an investigation.

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Rodeo Palms Residents Anxious About Rental Community

April 24, 2013

 

Residents of the Rodeo Palms subdivision met last week to air complaints and concerns regarding the establishment of a community of single family homes that will be comprised solely of rental properties. The issue first came to light last month after city council debated the matter.

Camillo Properties, a subsidiary of Legend Homes, a long time builder in the subdivision, submitted plats for city approval showing two rental communities, one consisting of 85 homes and one consisting of 115 homes.

At a subsequent council meeting, several Rodeo Palms residents took advantage of council’s “Citizen’s Comments” to express their angst at the plan. Among the concerns voiced included declining property values and suspicions that the “criminal element” would be drawn to the high density rental community. One citizen expressed concern of multiple families sharing a home.

One resident well stated most citizen concerns on a Facebook post saying “rental property at the end of my street makes me furious. EVERYONE IS UPSIDE DOWN!!!!! We are known as a foreclosure/rental neighborhood already; we don't want more if it!”

Manvel’s City Attorney, Bobby Gervais has said that “there is very little you can do to stop someone from being able to rent their house as that is an inherent right when you own property.” Gervais crafted an ordinance that has been approved by council that will require a property owner to register their rental property so that the city knows who the landlord is in case the tenant fails to keep the property up. The ordinance also gives the city some ability to go after people who may not be keeping their houses up to code. Gervais explained further that the ordinance would provide some entry powers and will call for regular inspections of the houses. He made clear that the city is not able to pass a law forbidding a property owner from renting their property.

City Manager Kyle Jung reiterated that council has no authority to prevent or curtail the plan saying “it has already been platted, Legend already owns the property, and they can build the houses whenever they want to; there is nothing the city can do,”

Despite such comments from city officials, and the reality that construction is slated to begin this week on the first homes, some residents vowed to do whatever they can to stop the project from moving forward. The homeowners meeting consisted mostly of residents talking over each other and ultimately yielded a follow-up meeting to discuss potential options.

At the meeting, a Rodeo Palms HOA Advisory Committee member, Ladatra Sanders, admonished her fellow residents that repeated attempts to get homeowners involved as representatives on city council, PD&Z, and other city and subdivision groups have been futile. She told the group that “in order to have a voice we need to be present for these meetings.” She went on to say “that it should not take a situation like this for us to come together; we should already have strategized so that this issue would never have come up. We allow people to come in and make these decision for us and now this is what we are left with.”

Former city council member Mack Ivy stated his concern that the Homeowners Association failed in its fiduciary duty to represent home owners’ interests. Ivy stated in written remarks: “I have been concerned for years about residents paying $600 each to fund a Home Owner's Association that is controlled by the developer and is not representing the best interests of the homeowners. It appears that "Taxation without Representation" best describes the current situation because home owners are forced to pay an annual fee under duress, but are not allowed to elect their own representatives on the HOA board. The HOA has the fiduciary responsibility to use our funds to represent the best interests of the home owners who pay to keep up the standards of our subdivision. However the HOA continually acts in the best interests of the developer that appoints the board of directors for the Rodeo Palms' HOA. The developer and the builder stand to profit from the construction of blocks of rent houses while the HOA does nothing to keep up the standards of the community that they are paid to uphold. Eric Ungar the representative for Clinton Wong the developer, stated that he would "talk to legal and see if the HOA covenants could be changed so that this does not happen again."

When asked for specifics on the planned development and comments on resident concerns, Camillo Properties representative Cathy Penland replied with a boilerplate response: “Camillo Properties values being a part of Rodeo Palms and it, along with its affiliated companies, have been building and maintaining rental homes in the community for years. We endeavor to build per the deed restrictions and in a manner that is in harmony with the community. In addition to meeting the applicable county, city and community guidelines we strive to build and provide a home that exceeds those requirements. We install additional amenities such as sprinkler systems and maintenance protocols that ensure our homes are maintained in a neat and proper manner reflective of the community as a whole. We also implement background checks that the average homebuyer likely never faces. Camillo Properties pays its taxes and homeowner assessments timely and maintains an open door policy with the Association and local and state governing bodies. An individual driving the community would be hard pressed to identify one of our rental properties from an individual owner as our properties are maintained in a manner to be in keeping with even the nicest of the homes in the community.”

Mayor Delores Martin attended the meeting along with several city council members. Conceding that little can likely be done to stop the project, the mayor stated “concern about the effect it will have on the Rodeo Palms community. Many people have invested their lives in this community and they want their quality standards to remain the same or to be increased. They do not want this to have a negative impact.”

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New Police Chief Sworn In

April 24, 2013

 

The new Chief of Police for the City of Manvel, Thomas (Keith) Traylor, was sworn in at this week’s city council meeting by Mayor Delores Martin. Traylor’s appointment was authorized by council at the April 1 council meeting. Traylor has an extensive background in law enforcement. He is leaving the City of Lake Jackson’s police department where he served as a Lieutenant and performed the duties of the assistant police chief for the last four years. Over 28 years Traylor progressed through the ranks of the Lake Jackson police department from patrol officer. He was responsible for overseeing the activities of the patrol division and support staff with a total of 41 employees and he had direct experience with investigations, budgeting, personnel issues, and emergency management.

City Manager Kyle Jung “believes that Keith Traylor and the members of the Manvel police department will build an organization that will become one of the finest police departments in the state and one that the citizens of Manvel will be proud of.”

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