November 2013

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Rodeo Palms building moratorium renewed

New Manvel JH on fast-track

Manvel Police Assn sponsors chili cook-off

Manvel's State of the City

Council discusses residential facade ordinance

Council supports Ryan Cade for appraisal board

 

Rodeo Palms building moratorium renewed

November 6, 2013

 

The attorney for Municipal Utility District (MUD) 29, Tim Austin, which services the Rodeo Palms development, updated city council on the status of the water well construction that became necessary when MUD 29 officials admitted the existing wells have not produced at the capacity they were designed for and that they were unable to increase water capacity to meet future needs. The new well was described as sufficient to meet future water needs through the completion of the development.

Last June, Manvel city council authorized a moratorium on property development within the boundaries of MUD 29. The action was explained by city attorney Bobby Gervais: “Because there is not water capacity to service any more property development from MUD 29 at this time, we are preserving the status quo by not accepting applications for Certificates of Occupancy, development permits, or plats for land located within the boundaries of MUD 29 until such time that MUD 29’s Board of Directors can certify in writing that additional capacity is secured.” The moratorium was valid until November 2 at which time council would have needed to repeat the process if it is to keep the moratorium in place.

Austin admitted that water use restrictions remain in place and that the system is “under great stress because of production limitations.” Bonds have been sold for the construction of the new well and according to City Manager Kyle Jung the hole for the well is being dug. Austin said “we wish we were further along but we are probably ten or twelve months away from that water well being complete.” He also told council that a system interconnect has been completed between MUD 29 and MUD 21 as a backup water source to be used only in an emergency situation. Efforts to obtain additional water from MUD 21 for regular use was refused with the explanation that insufficient supply was available to make that commitment. Discussion was begun with a private water company just to the west of Rodeo Palms to provide additional water but those negotiations have stalled due to legal wrangling among the two entities.

Despite the admissions that water service is tenuous, Austin explained that “based on the testing of the well they (MUD engineers) felt like they could increase the well capacity from 250 gallons per minute to 300 gallons per minute.” Currently the system services an existing 823 single family connections. Austin said the additional capacity would accommodate another 32 connections which prompted the MUD Board to request from council an increase in their moratorium to 855 total connections, thereby allowing new home building permits to be issued.

Council did not well receive the request. Mayor Delores Martin said she finds “it unusual because they have done everything they can possibly think of to make these wells produce at a higher capacity, and now all of the sudden, and how convenient it is, they are better. And how long is this better going to last?” Member Adrian Gaspar expressed concern that “one of the motors might go out due to extra stress on the system and then you are really going to be out of water.” He went on to say that “this is a gamble I am not willing to take for the resident of Rodeo Palms.” Member John Cox responded, “Just two months ago there was not enough water to supply Rodeo Palms. Now all the sudden they increase all this like a miracle, like someone waived a magic wand. I’m not buying it.”

Austin rebutted that the MUD “is dealing with this on a daily basis and I dare say the (MUD) Board is more concerned about this than you all are about whether or not this is safe for the system.” He claims the Board had instituted a moratorium even before council did and said “this has been a big issue for them and they feel like what they are requesting is justified based on the testing they have done.”

Manvel’s consulting civil engineer Dan Johnson advised council to not take the claim of added capacity as a “snap shot” and suggested the MUD continue pumping at that level for a period two to three months to make sure the wells can handle that before allowing for an additional permanent increase in the usage at the water plant.

MUD 29 has also requested council approve plans to extend their infrastructure (pipes in the ground) commensurate with the well construction in an effort to expedite the process. City Manager Kyle Jung considers that a reasonable request. Jung explained that one of two things can happen in the circumstance. “One is you out in the pipes and keep the valve closed until the moratorium is lifted. The problem with that is you will have pipes in the ground that will move around because they are not being held down by the weight of the water. The second thing is you can open that valve and have water in the pipes but without connections on the end the water in those dead-end pipes is going to get real stale if it sits there for months on end.

Council did renew the moratorium for another 120 days. MUD 29 can utilize the time to provide evidence of successful operation of the wells at the increased capacity. Council will take it under consideration and possible action at the next renewal hearing. The request for the infrastructure construction was also not authorized at the recent renewal.

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New Manvel JH on fast-track

November 13, 2013

 

Voters in the Alvin Independent School District (AISD) overwhelmingly approved the school bond election last week earning more than 68% of the vote. District building officials will be fast-tracking a planned High School to serve west Pearland and a Junior High School to be located on land adjacent to Manvel High School’s north boundary. The 2500-seat High School will ease overcrowding at Manvel HS which this year is above capacity. The new High School is slated to open in August 2016.

The Junior High School is expected to open in August 2015. A Special Use Permit and a required zoning change from city council and the city’s Planning, Development & Zoning Commission (PD&Z) have already been granted. Building plans are currently under review by city staff. Ground breaking is expected to begin early in 2014.

Despite the approvals some on council remain wary of the district’s integrity in meeting traffic concerns and would have liked greater input on the process. At a recent meeting, member Adrian Gaspar asked City Manager Kyle Jung to explain the approval process that allowed PD&Z to accept the district’s petition for a zoning change and Special Use Permit without it returning to city council for final consent. Gaspar feels the council was “put in a bad light” because it appeared “we were against the school when in reality we were not. We had concern about the traffic.” He wondered if information was being withheld from council saying, “why aren’t we being told about these things?”

Jung explained that the zoning ordinance requires site plans for non-residential developments to be approved by PD&Z. If the plans are in the correct zone and meet the requirements of the ordinance they will be approved without the need for council consent. If council wants greater input, Jung said they could amend the zoning ordinance to require plans for commercial development be returned to council for final assent and suggested a minimum size development so that council is not tasked with looking at every site plan that is presented. Another option would be to amend the Permitted Use Table specifically for educational projects; requiring them to obtain a Specific Use Permit in any zoning classification. As currently written, the ordinance allows educational facilities in some zones without requiring the Specific Use Permit. Requiring a Specific Use Permit would allow council to set explicit requirements while also giving the city revocation rights if any part of the use falls outside the permits provisions. Jung feels the amendment to the Permitted Use Table would provide the greatest opportunity for council input.

Any amendment that may be ultimately approved by council would not be retroactive to the current school plans that are in process. That leaves the city much at the mercy of the school district to present the new campus in an attractive manner as there are no parking, façade, or landscaping requirements made part of the issued Specific Use Permit.

Distrust of AISD carries on among a number of council members. Member Melody Hanson expressed her feelings about the potential traffic issues and specifically regarding the districts idea of an additional traffic lane being added: “Why would they need bond money to put in a (traffic) lane?” Jung said the lane’s construction will be considered an alternate bid item once the plans reach that stage and explained that constructing the lane would also require moving a traffic signal and underground utilities. Intimating the district should have previously addressed the need for the lane, Hanson went on to say “that it just goes to show that when you don’t do things right the first time it costs the taxpayers a lot more money to fix it. When we had the (AISD) traffic engineer telling us that he did a traffic study at the school, he could have talked to any mom that sits in the school carpool line and been told you don’t put buses out the same exits as all the carpool riders. The buses routinely block the exits so the cars can’t even get out of the line. It is totally asinine. When they tell me they have done a study on this new junior high I have no confidence whatsoever.”

Mayor Martin returned to a previous concern on the AISD traffic study that it only projected out through 2015, failing to account for the expansion of the Lakeland subdivision and other potential developments north on McCoy. Martin said “you can maneuver numbers very easily that mean nothing and if you are not smart enough to catch it, so be it.” Martin also said that TxDOT has concerns about the SH6/McCoy intersection despite AISD claiming, according to Mayor Martin, “that everything is wonderful.”

AISD’s traffic consultant explained at a joint PD&Z/council workshop last July that the “peak intensity of each school will be offset by about 45 minutes and you won’t typically get as many trips by car generated by a Junior High as you will a High School because the students aren’t driving.” AISD contends the traffic dynamics will change as future development to the north and west evolves and project much of the traffic that now funnels south on McCoy to Hwy 6 will instead head north and west on planned routes that will eventually feed directly onto 288. Correspondingly, as population density increases in the Manvel High School attendance zone, fewer buses will be required to service the school. AISD claims their traffic study results show the influx of JH traffic along McCoy “barely tipped into a service level C” based on an industry standard rating from A to F, with A representing minimal volumes and F representing high volumes.

Jung told council that the AISD study was performed “about three weeks after school started and determined consistently for that week that they could clear everything out of the parking lot in 16 minutes.” The comment was not well received by some who responded no. Member Hanson said “that’s not realistic.” Mayor Martin added, “they are not a mother picking up children.”

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Manvel Police Assn sponsors chili cook-off

November 20, 2013

 

The Manvel Police Association is sponsoring its second annual “Blue Santa” chili cook-off and desert bake-off on Saturday, December 7.  Gates will open at 10 AM.  The benefit raises money to help support families in and around Manvel that are less fortunate than others and helps to make their holiday a joyous one.

 

Five-year Manvel Officer Anthony Meshell is President of the Police Association and leads the Blue Santa effort.  He describes its purpose to “help the kids have better holidays.”  He says the group also helps families throughout the year with certain things so that the kids can live in healthy environments.  He explains the Blue Santa came about a few years ago as they were trying to decide on something to involve the public in the Police Association.  Meshell says he knew about the Blue Santa idea from the one conducted in Alvin, which he had been a part of.  Last year’s cook-off raised “quite a bit of money and this year we are hoping to do even better.”

 

He said this annual event is their only source of money and explained there are several on-going projects that the event “will hopefully benefit.”  The Toys-for-Tots program is a partner in the event and all toys and gifts collected will go to that organization for distribution to children who are less fortunate than others.  That will allow for the money raised through the Blue Santa event to be used for other things the families may need, such as groceries, or a shopping spree so that “they can buy things for their kids that they think they might want, instead of just showing up with a bag of stuff.  We try to make it more personable.”  Meshell says all the money raised will go to Toys-for-Tots, Blue Santa, or the Police Association “to help with these things.”

 

Families are selected for help through recommendations from schools and churches primarily.  Meshell says “last year I went out and personally interviewed almost all of them; went to the house to see the conditions the kids were living in.”   He said he does not recall turning away any family last year except for a few who were too far out of the area.  “We start with Manvel people first and then as we go through them if we have more money to spread out we will go our further and go from there.”  Last year the group helped 17 families. 

 

Last year’s goal was $5,000.  Meshell said they raised “a little over $4,000.”  He hopes for at least $5,000 this year and does not feel it unreachable.  He explained that if the group sells all of the raffle tickets, that alone would generate $3,000.  With the additional money to be raised from the cook-off and vendors he is optimistic to cover the rest.  “If we can do that then we will be able to do quite a bit for them this year,” he said.  Meshell said various local businesses have provided support through monetary donations or the intent of buying something to donate to the raffle. 

 

The Manvel Police Association is not part of the police department.  Meshell explained that “it doesn’t buy anything for the police department, or anything like that.  The money it (the Association) raises goes back into the community one way or another.”  He feels getting citizens who are not police officers involved will help the public better understand the group and will produce increased participation in their events.  Being a small association Meshell admits limits what the group can do.  He says “if we can raise four, five, or six thousand dollars each year doing this one thing then that is what we will do.” 

The Association is a registered tax exempt organization.  Contributions are gratefully accepted and cook–off teams and vendors are still being recruited for the event.  Specifically, Meshell said they needed a face painter for the event.  He said all the required paints and such would be provided.  Volunteers will be needed the day of the event to help make sure everything runs smoothly. 

 

Raffle tickets are still being sold and offer a grand prize of a $1,000 VISA gift card.  Other items will likely be included in the raffle as donated items are received.  Tickets are $10 each or $40 per book and only 100 books will be sold.  Tickets can be purchased from anybody affiliated with the police department.  Please call Anthony Meshell at the Manvel Police Department at 281-489-1212 for additional information or to donate time or money for the event.

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Manvel's State of the City

November 20, 2013

 

Manvel Mayor Delores Martin and various city department heads presented a State of the City address at a luncheon last week sponsored by the Alvin-Manvel Area Chamber of Commerce.  The mayor said that “many good things have taken place” the past year and described several large planned developments.  The city’s consulting civil engineer, Dan Johnson, continued the development theme describing the review of ten construction plans in the past year, among them a new AISD elementary school, the new Manvel Junior High School, and the on-going Lakeland project which is expected to reach 100 hones by the end of 2013.  

 

One prominent development coming to Manvel is the Pomona Subdivision consisting of 1006 acres on the east side of Hwy 288.  The development will offer 2100 residential lots in 55, 65, and 75 foot widths.  The development will also offer 183 patio homes on 50 foot lots.  An acre and a half has been set aside for the city to locate a fire, EMS, or police substation within the development.  Martin claims the total build out will be between $600 and $800 million.  The development is expected to break ground in 2014.

 

Martin described the realization of a 10-year effort with the execution of a 380-agreement with investors Jerry Argovitz and Steve Chandler for the development of a 270-acre project known as the Manvel Town Center.  It is designed as a mixed-use retail-commercial site at the north-east corner of Hwy 288 and Hwy 6.  It is expected to show a build out value between $200 and $300 million.  Martin indicated a “long awaited grocery store” is included in the plan.  A start date has not been announced.

 

A change in ownership of the Sedona Lakes project was explained by the mayor.  Landeavor of Florida purchased the development and is “keeping the same if not better quality standards” than the previous developer.  Martin said new amenities are being added, three new sections are under development, and they are looking to purchase more land for future development.  Total build out will consist of 854 homes and is projected to value between $400 and $500 million.

 

The city acquired a 108-acre sand pit on CR 58 that will eventually be used for regional detention and/or as a surface water reservoir.  Other projects boasted by the mayor include the expansion of the EZLine facility on Hwy 6 which added a new building consisting of 27,500 square feet.  The new AISD elementary school on CR 59 and Kirby in the city’s ETJ is set to open in August for the next school year and a new junior high will begin construction in early 2014 on land just north of the high school.  Orchard Park is an assisted living facility currently under construction on Southfork drive south of CR 59 and just east of Hwy 288.  It is expected to be open in early 2014.

 

Manvel issued a total of 1077 permits last fiscal year.  The bulk fell into the category of burn permits and other permits, while residential permits valued at $44.6 million accounted for 193, and commercial permits valued at $23.9 million accounted for 19.

 

Martin said efforts are on-going with the water and sewer infrastructure improvements planned along Hwy 6 to Hwy 288.  She admitted acquiring the needed easements “have taken more time than anticipated but perseverance wills out.”  Another coming infrastructure project is a TxDOT commitment of $1.25 million for the buildup of median lanes along Hwy 6 from Hwy 288.  The medians should provide greater safety for drivers entering and exiting the businesses at the intersection of 6 and 288.  She said the medians will go as far as the money will allow.

 

The mayor said Manvel employs 31 people and has a budget of $4,047,660 for the current fiscal year.  She boasted the city has maintained the same tax rate of .587863 for the past seven years and is the only city in Brazoria County that provides a $90,000 property tax exemption for people over age 65 and the disabled.  Sales taxes have shown steady increases since 2011 and Martin said the city’s share this year is expected to be close to one million dollars.  The mayor is proud the city enjoys a bond rating of AA minus saying “our city has worked diligently to achieve this goal by being conservative over the past years.”

 

The public works department worked on the paving of 9,400 feet, drainage of 21,800 feet, and installed 248 driveway culverts and various other culverts.  New electronic water meters were installed at 202 locations that will allow meters to be read by an electronic handheld device and will save numerous man-hours.

 

Police Chief Keith Traylor explained that the department now operates with ten officers consisting of himself, seven patrol officers and two patrol sergeants.  There are four dispatch positions and a dispatch supervisor that also serves as the department’s records clerk.  Traylor is looking to replace or update their current computer system.  He also sees the creation soon of divisions to handle criminal investigations and community relations.  He also wants to put in place an animal control division to handle the increased numbers of animal complaints. Currently animals have to be taken to Lake Jackson to be impounded taking officers out of the city and off the streets.  He said efforts to keep the animals a couple of days and using various methods to locate owners has been successful in reducing the amount of time officers are not providing “the service and support the citizens of Manvel are looking for in their police department.”

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Council discusses residential facade ordinance

November 27, 2013

 

Manvel city council authorized city staff to investigate the potential of a façade ordinance for residential structures. Façade requirements for commercial structures along the city’s primary corridors have been part of city ordinances for years but this is the first legislation proposed for residential structures. The effort was begun by member Melody Hanson in response to a structure originally permitted for a garage. After completion the homeowner converted the structure to a workshop and then decided to add the necessary amenities to accommodate full time habitation. The building abuts a similar garage structure and is clearly evident from the street. Hanson asked council “is that what we want the houses in Manvel to look like?”

Member Adrian Gaspar considers the ordinance as an infringement on personal property rights. “What law gives us the right to step in on people’s property rights to tell them what to do,” he inquired. Gaspar explained his thinking: “municipalities would want you to build your house to maximize property values so that in return the homeowner pays higher property taxes, the city gets the revenue and can then spend it on infrastructure and stuff like that. I just don’t think our job is to step in to people’s private property rights and tell them what to do. As long as the house is built to code, fine.”

Hanson replied that her motivation is not to raise tax revenue but to improve the community. She responded to Gaspar saying “I understand your love of live and let live and democracy and all that but if that house was back in 25 wooded acres and nobody could see it it would be one thing but it is clearly visible from the roadway so it impacts anybody who drives by down the road. Go look at that house and then go look over at Lakeland and tell me what you want for our city.” Hanson described the structure as a “shed with a roof and a door our front. If we allow homes like that in Manvel I am asking myself why am I here? When it sits on the corner of a major roadway I want it to look nice. I don’t like restrictions more than anybody else, but there has to be a balance, let’s not do the lowest common denominator.”

City manager Kyle Jung explained that the structure does not meet residential requirements because “the windows are too high and too small and it does not have at least a one-car garage.” Jung did admit the house is not out of compliance with existing city ordinances as it does not fall into any of the current façade requirements. Mayor Martin feels the homeowner’s original intention was misleading all along and said the owner should have been upfront and not falsely represented a desire to build a garage, which then went to a workshop, and then sneaking under the radar to turn it into a house.

Gaspar pressed on his point, “by law, what gives us the right to step on private property land and tell somebody how and what to build when we don’t know their financial circumstances. I understand it needs to be built to code.” Hanson responded that “we have affordable options here in Manvel. You act as if they have nowhere else to live. I maintain that mostly homes here fall under a very affordable price range.” Gaspar says if a property owner “wants to build a home out of wood or sticks and it passes the building code, more power to them because that is the material that they can afford to build their dwelling in. They live in it, not you. You may not like it because it is not up to your standards, but those people are living in what they can afford.” Gaspar considers commercial structures as falling under a different standard saying businesses agree to the beautification standards because “they want the public to buy their product.”

John Cox added his thought: “how many times do you see a property owner acquire a property and not be able to afford to come in and build a house right off the bat. They live in a mobile home or they may live in a camper, or they may build a garage to accommodate living quarters as they are building a home. I don’t think we should dictate what they can or can’t build on their property. If you own property you should be able to build what you want as long as it meets code and restrictions.”

City attorney Bobby Gervais relayed his experience when working with the city of Texas City. He said they studied the issue intensely: “Not because they wanted to increase the taxable value but because you can see the houses in Texas City were built in the 40’s and 50’s and you see what the siding houses look like fifty years later, a really bad decaying housing stock. They looked at a masonry ordinance as a way to not only build safer buildings for hurricanes and wind loads but also ones that would last longer and preserve the integrity of the community.” He conceded too that the “way the city looked over time was an important factor.”

Member Lew Shuffler said council needs to decide what we are going to do with the city. “Do we want to have a nice new modern city or do we want to have structures like that? I totally disagree with that being a home. It does nothing for property values, it will deter people from moving around there, business aren’t going to come, and it is going to drop in value.”

A change in the zoning ordinance requires consideration from PD&Z and subsequent referral to city council for final approval.

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Council supports Ryan Cade for appraisal board

November 27, 2013

 

Manvel city council unanimously supported Ryan Cade for a seat on the board of directors of the Brazoria County Appraisal District. The Appraisal District is charged with setting county property values for ad-valorem taxation purposes and establishes the appraisal methods and collection procedures. The board of directors hires the chief appraiser, approves the annual budget, and appoints members to the Appraisal Review Board (ARB). The chief appraiser is charged with carrying out the appraisal district's legal duties, hiring staff, administering the annual appraisal process, and operating the appraisal office.

Cade is a long time resident of Brazoria County and owns a State Farm insurance agency in Angleton and operates RC Development, a small construction company. Cade is a candidate to replace Precinct 2 County Commissioner Matt Sebesta in next year’s election.

In selecting Cade, council member Melody Hanson complimented him as “being really good about showing up for things.” Mayor Martin said “he is very dedicated and has tried to make himself aware of issues in Brazoria County and he cares enough to come whether it is a large occasion or a small occasion.”

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