May 2013

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Manvel Council Elections

Council approves limited annexations

AISD School Bus Evacuated

Shuffler and Hanson return to council - Wennerstrom & Tonini to AISD Board

City Attorney reaffirms city's position on Rodeo Palms rental community

Manvel Council News

Rodeo Palms to incur MUD tax increase

AISD holds public hearing to discuss budget and proposed tax rate

 

 

Manvel Council Elections

May 1, 2013

 

Manvel citizens will vote for two city council representatives on May 11. Melody Hanson is seeking her fourth term and is running unopposed for the second consecutive election. She holds the Place 4 seat and is the senior member on council, currently serving as Mayor Pro-tem.

The Place 6 seat will see incumbent Lew Shuffler challenged by former council member Gary Garnett. Garnett says he wants to once more involve himself in city affairs as he expresses intent to challenge Mayor Delores Martin in 2014. He served on council previously from 2005 – 2011. He chose not to run for reelection in 2011 because he and his wife “were thinking about retiring but decided we love Manvel and wanted to stay.”

Garnett has been a Manvel resident and business man since 1999. He has been in business for himself “all my life” he says and has built and sold a number of businesses including retail, land development, home building, video production, travel services, and septic system installation and service. He claims to be running again to help Manvel control its growth and meet the challenges that are coming. He feels his past experience will help prepare for the impending growth.

Garnett feels his “outspoken” nature combined with his business and government experience will allow him to “push things more than some on council.” He believes his track record shows how he thinks and says he is “not afraid to speak out for the citizens.”

Garnett responded to concerns among some citizens of his involvement with the police station construction issues that resulted in budget excesses, work delays, and contract disputes that gave rise to legal proceedings against the contractor: “I had many issues with the past chief but was not in charge of the construction and did not like the way the chief handled it. That is the past and I really don’t want to open it. The council made a decision to get a new chief and I was pushing that 2 years ago, and couldn’t get support from council.”

Garnett has made plain his intention of challenging Mayor Delores Martin in 2014 but claims his immediate focus is on the current contest: “I am running for Council and we will see how that goes. I think the Mayor has done a fantastic job and look forward to working with her again. The Mayor and I have always worked well together and while we may not always agree, we do complement each other.”

The incumbent, Lew Shuffler, is seeking his first reelection after winning the council seat in 2011. Before his election to council, he served two years as a member of the Planning, Development, & Zoning Commission (PD&Z). He claims to have pride in serving Manvel and “hopes to continue.” Shuffler is a native New Yorker but has lived in Texas for 19 years. He has been a citizen of Manvel for nearly seven years. He and his wife, Mary Anne, like the quiet, peaceful atmosphere and the friendly people in Manvel. They enjoy four children and six grandchildren between them and are active members of New Hope Church. He currently is employed with Wells Fargo and has worked on the operations/compliance side of the brokerage business for 45 years.

Shuffler says “the situation we face is not whether or not we will grow....it is HOW we will grow. I firmly believe this growth has to be controlled in such a manner that we can avoid some of the issues such as overcrowding and poor traffic management that we've seen in other nearby cities. We need to grow in a way that will strengthen Manvel, not weaken it.” He elaborates: “The decisions we make will help direct and control the further development of Manvel. I want to be certain we look at issues such as traffic control and zoning ordinances that promote growth and that will attract businesses that make our community a desirable place to live. The placement of business zones, the attractiveness of the businesses and strip centers, the types of businesses are all important aspects we need to consider.”

Shuffler believes fiscal responsibility in maintaining a balanced budget and controlling spending is essential in order to meet the growth needs of the city. He explains his voting for a “slight” tax increase this year “due to an increase in maintenance and operations expenses which was necessary to pay for it.” Shuffler voted “no” to a salary increase for the city manager earlier this year explaining that it was not due to his quality of work but rather that he felt “it was out of line with salary increases for all of our city employees and not a sound fiscal decision.” He also voted against a proposed Little League Ball Field feeling the potential expense was one “our city can’t afford to take on at this time.” He agreed with other council members in rejecting a proposal from a developer that would have required the city to underwrite a construction loan explaining it “exposed our citizens to too much risk.” He is proud that the city’s history of sound fiscal management was recently recognized by the awarding of an AA- bond rating, which will result in many thousands of dollars in interest expense being saved.

Shuffler believes things that happen in any area of Manvel affect the city as a whole. He wants council to look carefully at city ordinances and zoning laws in an effort to proactively prevent undesirable development such as the impending rental community in Rodeo Palms.

Early voting is under way and continues until May 7.

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Council approves limited annexations

May 8, 2013

 

Manvel City Council held public hearings and ultimately voted to accept their included ordinances in hurried sessions last week. In accordance with State law, the ordinances allow the city to annex for limited purposes the areas comprising three Municipal Utility Districts that serve Manvel’s Extra Territorial Jurisdiction (ETJ). The result of the annexations is the city’s ability to collect sales and use taxes on commercial properties located within them. The ordinances will also allow qualified residents in the affected areas to vote in city elections, except bond elections, without imposing a tax on their properties. The three Districts serve Sedona Lakes (MUD #1), Southfork (MUD #25), and the area on the west side of 288 across from Sedona Lakes in the proposed Pamona development (MUD #39). Council is expected to take action on a fourth MUD (#40) also located in the Pamona development this week.

Mayor Delores Martin explained the vote: “The special purpose of the council meetings was to protect the city’s revenues of sales tax collections in our ETJ. The city’s main revenues are from property taxes and sales taxes. If the city loses sales taxes built around agreements in our ETJ’s, the city would then have to rely on property taxes to provide services to our citizens. This could potentially result in higher property tax to the citizens to supplement incomes lost from sales taxes.”

City Manager Kyle Jung prompted the sessions after learning the Board of The Emergency Services District #3 (ESD) “approved a proposition for the May 11, 2013 election that calls for the adoption of a sales and use tax of one-half percent (0.5%) to be imposed on the entire ESD area. Since the City of Manvel and its extra territorial jurisdiction (ETJ) are located in the ESD, this ESD adopted sales tax, if approved by the voters, would be imposed on all areas that are not currently at the state sales tax cap of 8.25%.”

The quick action on the adoption of the ordinances was required prior to the May 11, 2013 election so that the city’s tax imposition is in place before the ESD’s proposition is approved by voters. As Jung described it, “This is a “first imposed-first received” situation with whichever entity’s sales tax is first imposed is the only one that can be collected.”

Jung said he learned of the proposition when visiting the Brazoria County website for an unrelated purpose. He replied to an inquiry of how the ESD’s proposition went unnoticed to that point: “I would assume the ESD did everything they were required to by law in order to discuss it and put it on the ballot and hold whatever hearings or meetings that they had to.”

Jung received accolades from council members in taking this initiative which most certainly will generate a good deal of money in future years. The tax will likely be in place for many years and while there may be limited commercial development now, in the future Jung expects it will produce “a huge amount of money.”

Brazoria County ESD #3 provides fire and emergency medical services to a majority of the land area in Brazoria County through agreements with various volunteer fire departments (VFDs) and emergency medical services departments (EMS). Jung said “the City of Manvel appreciates the work that the ESD performs in the City of Manvel and would especially like to thank the volunteers of the Manvel Volunteer Fire Department and the Manvel Emergency Services Department for their efforts in responding to emergencies in our area.”

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AISD School Bus Evacuated

May 15, 2013

 

A school bus from the Alvin Independent School District (AISD) serving Don Jeter Elementary School on CR 58 in Manvel’s Extra Territorial Jurisdiction (ETJ) was evacuated last week after a student reported a fellow classmate on the bus was in possession of a deactivated grenade.

Students were escorted from the bus and held at a safe distance until a second bus arrived to complete their transport to school. According to the District’s Director of Communication, Daniel Combs, AISD Police worked with the Texas City Regional Bomb Squad and the Brazoria County Sherriff’s Office to make the determination that the reported item was not a live explosive device. Parents of the 37 students on the bus were contacted by District officials and a letter was sent home with each student at the campus.
Don Jeter Principal Kim Fox commented, “We are proud of the students at Don Jeter Elementary that reported this concern to the nearest adult authority, their bus driver. Our students should be commended for remaining calm and cooperating throughout the entire process.”
AISD Superintendent Fred Brent commented, “We are exceptionally proud of the student that had the courage to make the initial report to the bus driver. This student is to be commended for quick thinking and bravery. I would also like to thank the work of the Alvin ISD Police Department and Transportation Department for their quick action that was focused on making sure our students were safe at all times. We must also express our appreciation to the Texas City Regional Bomb Squad and the Brazoria County Sheriff’s Office that provided their assistance.”
District officials declined the release of information on what discipline may have been meted out to the guilty child citing rules that make it illegal to share specific information.

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Shuffler and Hanson return to council - Wennerstrom & Tonini to AISD Board

May 15, 2013

 

Incumbent Place 6 Council Member Lew Shuffler will return to Manvel City Council after gaining re-election on May 11. Shuffler defeated challenger Gary Garnett earning nearly 62% of the votes cast. In acknowledging the victory, Shuffler said, “I want to say thank you to all those that have placed their confidence in me. I am very proud and honored to have served our city for the last four years and look forward to working on council for the next three. I vow to continue working for what’s best for all of our citizens and the continued growth of our city.”

Melody Hanson will retain her Place 4 seat having run in the election unopposed and will begin her fourth term on council. For her part, Hanson offered the following comments: “I am pleased that the voters of Manvel have given me the opportunity to serve on council for another term. My fellow council members and I, working with the Mayor, have put a framework in place to guide the city through the expansive growth that is projected. Along with our City Manager, council is excited about the critical infrastructure improvements underway along Hwy 6 and the impressive AA minus credit score the city just earned. I’m looking forward to the next three years, and appreciate the support of the voters who made it to the polls this election cycle. I firmly believe that the key to strong government is an informed and involved electorate.”

Hanson also thanked City Hall employees, saying “The responsibility of serving on council is made much easier thanks to all the dedicated individuals who assist us: the city secretary, attorney, accountants, engineer, permitting department, and others. We could not make informed decisions were it not for the work they do each day serving the City of Manvel.”

Manvel saw 227 votes cast this election, representing only 7.23% of the 3,141 registered voters.

In the Board of Trustee’s election for the Alvin Independent School District (AISD), incumbent Tiffany Wennerstrom defeated her challenger Mark Patterson with 49.1% of the vote. Wennerstrom returns for her second consecutive term in the Position 4 seat.

In the other AISD Trustee election, Nicole Tonini upset long-time incumbent Eddie Martinez for the Position 5 seat with 57.83% of the vote. Tonini will assume her first elected position after losing last year by just one vote. Tonini claims to be ready to “work and do some good for our students and their education!”

Votes cast in the AISD Trustee election totaled 3,055. Out of 47,316 registered voters, just 6.46% participated in the election.

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City Attorney reaffirms city's position on Rodeo Palms rental community

May 15, 2013

 

Residents of the Rodeo Palms subdivision turned up in large numbers at this week’s city council meeting. Many took advantage of council’s citizen’s comments portion of the meeting to express their displeasure with the establishment of a 200-home rental community planned for the development.

The city’s attorney, Bobby Gervais, unable to respond during citizen comments did reiterate the city’s position on the matter during the regular meeting agenda, saying the particular development is in compliance with city ordinances. Describing it as legitimate, Gervais went on to explain that they do comply with the single family residential requirement of one lot, one residence, one family. “The ordinance goes no further in determining whether the family is owning or renting,” he said.

Gervais also explained that the city has no authority to enforce homeowner association rules and regulations describing them as “private deed restrictions that must be enforced by the homeowners of the particular HOA.”

Council Member Lew Shuffler informed council that he discussed the matter with an attorney who “said exactly what Bobby (Gervais) is saying.” He continued, “Texas is one of the strongest states for home ownership and there is no way to prevent them from what they want to do.”

Mayor Martin held, “their only hope of sunshine is that water availability may prevent them from being able to move forward with the plan.” Earlier comments in the meeting described Rodeo Palms water capacity as able to sustain only a couple dozen or so new homes until a new well is producing excess capacity, expected in one year.

Member Melody Hanson wants residents to know that “if we had it in our power to stop this, we would; I don’t want this for our community.” Saying she trusts the city attorney’s finding that nothing can be done to stop the plan, “at the end of the day it frustrates me because this is how I don’t want our community to go. Our hands are tied by state laws.”

Gervais did say that future negotiated developer agreements could preclude something like this from occurring in subsequent developments. While that is likely of little consolation to Rodeo Palms residents, a small measure of solace may be found in an ordinance crafted by Gervais, which has been approved by council, requiring a property owner to register their rental property. Should the tenant fails to keep the property up the ordinance provides the city some ability to go after the property owners who may not be keeping their houses up to code. The ordinance will provide some entry powers and calls for regular inspections of the houses.

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Manvel Council News

May 22, 2013

 

Manvel Council member Adrian Gaspar suggested city council consider an amendment to the city’s zoning and subdivision ordinances in reference to lot sizes and building setback requirements. In making the suggestion Gaspar relayed his experience of driving through the new Lakeland subdivision behind Manvel High School and taking notice of the nearness of the homes. He said with an air conditioning unit placed on the side of the house sufficient space is not existent for a riding tractor to make it through in order to cut the grass.

The current city ordinance allows 60 foot wide lots with a 5 foot side setback. Setback is defined as the distance allowed between a property line and a structure. Gaspar explained that current ordinances allow up to eight homes per acre. He considers that density a fire hazard saying “if one home goes up the whole block might burn.”

Gaspar suggested a wider lot with a minimum 10 foot setback saying “the people would have a bigger yard for the children and less homes per acre.” He asked his fellow members to think about the traffic that will be generated once the 700 homes that will comprise the Lakeland subdivision is complete. “Let’s say every home has just one car. That will be 700 cars that will hit McCoy, hwy 6, and then 288 every day. Right now there is no other way to get to 288.” He went on to say that “if we don’t take steps now we are going to become like 518 and 288 (in Pearland), which everybody hates to go there just because of the traffic.” He wants to expand the lot size requirement so that the density of residential construction is reduced.

Member Melody Hanson agreed with Gaspar saying she hears from residents consistently that “they are concerned because they moved here knowing about the open single family residential zoning but then once a developer comes in everything changes.” She continued, “I think we put a lot of things in place that help, like the Thoroughfare Plan, the Comprehensive Plan, we got the Charter, but I personally don’t think we are doing enough to keep us from looking like Pearland.” Hanson feels that “just because you have a larger lot does not equate to necessarily having a larger home; we are just talking about a little more green space around each residence.” She feels like council may have concentrated too much on lot size at the expense of the setback requirement.

While it is time to revise the city’s Comprehensive Plan, Hanson reminded council that the original document “over and over again talks about rural, rural, rural.” She elaborated her belief that “what we are producing now is not a rural community; Manvel will never be any more rural than it currently is.” “I want people to be aware that that is what we are getting if we continue the guidelines that we are giving developers now.”

Mayor Delores Martin said five years ago, when the original Comprehensive Plan was developed, authors wanted Manvel to stay a quaint little country town. Five years have gone by and now they are realizing they don’t want to drive a long distance to go shopping and they are saying maybe the amenities are not as bad as we thought they were.” Martin expects the public expectations to change a bit once the public hearings are held. She expects some areas to remain rural because that is what some people want but she thinks other areas will see citizens willing to make modifications to get the amenities they desire.

The city’s Comprehensive Plan is due for review this year and Manvel citizens will have the ability to express their desires at public hearings that will be announced soon.

Council also discussed easing the permit requirements for a pre-fabricated carport structure. Currently the ordinance provides that any structure over 200 square feet outside the flood zone requires a permit. All structures inside the flood zone require a permit. Manvel’s contracted Code Enforcement Official, Jim Sullivan, told council that Manvel’s permit fees are “not as high as a lot of people think we are; we are really a lot lower than most other cities around.” He acknowledged that his comparison study did not specify whether or not impact fees are a part of the fee schedules. Manvel will be imposing impact fees which will result in the city’s fees increasing to “the middle of the pack,” according to Sullivan.

Council member Adrian Gaspar wants to change the 200 square foot requirement saying that any standard two car carport will be over that size. He does not like the high cost put on citizens in having to pay for a permit and if in the flood zone having to also pay for an “elevation certificate” and other requirements that “will cost them a lot more money.” “If we increase it to 400 square feet it will give the residents more flexibility on being able to get themselves a two car carport without having to spend a bunch of money or will allow a storage unit being put on a property without having to spend a lot of money on different permits,” he said.

Sullivan suggested just taking carports out of the ordinance and not relieving the requirements on storage buildings. He explained that a 20 by 20 square foot storage building is a large building and whether or not it is in the flood zone and how close it is to the property line are important factors that should remain under the city’s permitting requirements. He considers it a safety issue when you talk about storage buildings because of what they can be used for.

Sullivan clarified the definition of a prefab carport as one that is fabricated off-site but constructed on the property with all sides open. He told council that this year just two carports have been permitted, which he claims is the most in any of the previous five years.

Council ultimately agreed to lower the permit fee from $100 to $50 and to relax the permitting requirements for prefabricated carports up to 400 square feet. Councilman Gaspar said he wanted to “thank Manvel City Council and the citizens of Manvel for standing by me and helping to change the ordinance on carports. Now whoever wants a two car carport can get one up to 400 sq feet and they will not need to submit a building plan to the city and the cost will be limited.”

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Rodeo Palms to incur MUD tax increase

May 30, 2013

 

Residents of the Rodeo Palms subdivision are bracing for a MUD tax increase of as much as 15%. At a recent city council meeting, an attorney from MUD 29, Tim Austin, informed council of the plans to construct a new water well to service the development.

In May 2012 outgoing Council Member Mack Ivy, a resident of Rodeo Palms, explained to council that inhabitants had been subject to water rationing, which was initially attributed to the statewide drought conditions. A local news station aired a story in August 2012 of threatened fines to Rodeo Palms homeowners of up to $10,000 for violating its water restriction rules. But even when rain had become plentiful Rodeo Palms was still subject to rationing at that time. Ivy expressed his belief that “because the residents of Rodeo Palms pay well over a thousand dollars (some two) before we use even one gallon of water, it is reasonable to expect that we would have better access to water than those in Manvel who do not pay a MUD tax.”

Ivy went further to express concern beyond the deficient water supply to his home. He expected declining property values and presented the likelihood that additional bonds would need issued to fund a new water well. Rodeo Palms residents paid .80 cents per $100 valuation in tax to their MUD in addition to the standard rate to Manvel citizens of .58 cents. A rate of as much as .95 cents was floated as a possibility at the 2012 council meeting, which appears to have been prophetic.

MUD 29’s legal representative, Alia Vinson, claimed at that time that the MUD “has an adequate supply of water for the current connections and some additional moderate growth.” She went on to say “the District is providing water meeting capacity, quality, and pressure requirements of the TCEQ for retail water providers.” Notwithstanding those claims, however, she also admitted that “the District is undertaking significant efforts to expand its water supply sources, including the design and construction of an emergency interconnect water line to a nearby water supply system and the design of a third water well.”

Mr. Austin explained that “over the last year and more there has been an issue with the supply of water which has mostly to do with the wells not producing as much as they had been designed to produce.” He said the MUD has struggled to increase water capacity and came to the conclusion several months ago that a new well would be needed. The new well, he said, “should take care of all the water needs throughout the complete build-out of the development.” In the meantime, Austin said the MUD has been “in a tight situation with regard to water.”

He went on to explain that “if there is any sort of hiccup in the water supply that we would have a problem delivering water to existing users.” To solve that the MUD recently entered into an agreement with neighboring MUD 21, which services Savannah Lakes, to interconnect the two systems to provide additional water supply to Rodeo Palms only in case of an emergency need. Austin considers it “prudent for water systems to have alternate sources of water whenever possible.”

He said the MUD has capacity for “maybe a couple dozen taps to be connected” and that any added capacity would be unavailable until the new well is completed, which he described as requiring about a year to get done.

He told council and those in attendance that the bonds to fund the new well have been approved by the appropriate state authorities and all that remained in order to move the plan forward was city approval, which was granted by a unanimous council vote.

Rodeo Palms residents who have expressed considerable angst over a planned rental community in the development see the news as a mixed bag. While a tax increase is rarely welcomed, some see it as a granting of time to work toward a resolution to the unwanted community.

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AISD holds public hearing to discuss budget and proposed tax rate

May 30, 2013

 

The Alvin Independent School District (AISD) is required to conduct an annual Public Hearing on its proposed budget and a maximum Tax Rate to provide citizens the opportunity for comment. District officials presented summarized information covered in prior Budget Workshops.

Administrators expect total expenditures to increase an overall 5.57% from last year’s budget, broken down to 6.15% for the maintenance and operation portion and 2.08% for the debt service portion. No tax rate increase is being proposed though due to increases in District property values, AISD will see greater revenue in the coming budget.

The highest tax rate the District can adopt before requiring voter approval at an election is the current rate of 1.329100, which has remained constant since 2009.

More accurate numbers on District appraised and taxable values will be available in August, but preliminary projections show the total appraised value, as shown on the tax rolls, of all property in the District increasing more than 6.5% over last year. Current tax year projections are $6.869 billion. Nearly 65% of the increased value is attributed to new property, indicating continued growth primarily occurring in the northwest portion of the District.

Based on projections, an average residence will see an increase in their coming school tax bill of $40.83. That reflects a consistent tax rate of 1.329100 on a higher taxable value of $118,222 compared with $115,150 last year.

Additional public hearings will be held before the Board formally votes on a budget for the 2013-2014 school year later this summer. Public comments are invited and welcomed at the hearings.

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