August 2014

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Manvel: a history of booms and busts

City Council sets reduced tax rate: considers preliminary budget

Plane crash claims principal's husband and son

AISD expanding career and technical programs

Steve the barber succumbs to cancer

2015 Tax Rate and Budget

Economic Development

Residential lot sizes and setbacks

Charter Revisions?

 

 

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Manvel: a history of booms and busts

August 6, 2014

 

Manvel’s history shows an endurance of scarcity and plenty, subject to the vagaries of mother nature, politics, prejudice, and economics.  The city has persevered due to the “bravery and sheer dogged persistence of the people who lived in it.”  Thus is the theme of a book published in 1987 titled “A History of Manvel, Texas 1857-1970.”  The book describes itself as a “narrative history of Manvel’s early settlers and pioneers as told by their descendants.”  The book was produced by Marguerite Croix who made a promise to Ollie Booth Crainer who “wanted a history of Manvel to be created so badly.”

 

It is fitting that the story begins with Ollie Booth Crainer as it is her paternal grandparents who first settled “on the Chocolate Bayou near its head” in July, 1857.  Their closest neighbors were “near what is now Rosharon.”  William R. Booth is the only recorded civil war veteran from the area that is now Manvel having served in the Coast Guards of Brazoria County.  After the war Booth bought 100 acres of land at an estimated price of five cents per acre.

 

Other families began to settle in the area after the war and when a railroad line was built from Galveston to Alvin in 1877 migration to the area was further encouraged.  Most families made a living by subsistence farming at this time but the railroad spurred the growth of cattle raising.  The rail line was extended to Manvel in 1879 prompting railroad officials to establish a land company which proceeded to purchase all the land bordering the railroad.  “A township was created in 1890 at the Manvel crossing and many lots were sold sight unseen to families who had heard about the fertile land and the great prospects that the South had to offer.”  Cattlemen “who had things pretty much their own way for a good while” were not pleased with the influx of settlers and there would be many “clashes before both groups learned to live together in relative peace.”

 

Manvel was not the original name given the city; it took that name around the time of the railroad coming to town.  At first it was called Pamona but when it was learned that an existing Pamona in West Texas already had claim to the name it was changed to Manvel at the suggestion of a railroad representative.  “He stated that was the name of the railroad president, an important man, and the railroad would make Manvel important to this community.”

 

Allen Manvel was an official of the railroad who resided and worked in Chicago.  According to his great nephew it is not at all clear “whether he ever visited (the city) other than, perhaps, in the course of trips through on the railroad.”  Allen Manvel was born in 1837 and died in 1893.  He started work for the Rock Island Railroad in 1859 at $40 per month.  He “came up the hard way and was a shrewd, frugal, kindly man who worked fourteen hours a day and expected others to follow his example.”  Manvel had three daughters so “there are no descendants carrying the name.”

 

Manvel enjoyed prosperity in the early 1890’s with a “booming trade” in fruit farming and particularly strawberries.  Lands not used for agriculture saw large numbers of free roaming cattle.  “Things looked prosperous for most folk in Manvel and people had more time to swim in Mustang Bayou and to attend dances and socials.”  The year 1895 saw a severe snow storm that wiped out large numbers of fruit trees and in 1899 a severe tornado tore through the area leaving considerable damage in its wake.  The great storm of 1900 that flattened Galveston did not spare the Manvel area.  “Only two homes escaped being smashed to bits.  The rest of the once budding community lay in pieces on the ground.”

 

With mother nature having destroyed most of the orchards and leaving salt water saturating the earth there remained few opportunities to make a living.  Only a few families remained in Manvel by 1902.  Those that persevered eventually saw improvement and cattle once again became the dominant industry for the area.  Settlers returned with hopes and dreams while the “cattlemen did their awful best to discourage this threatening new influx.”  They were opposed to the free pasture land becoming fenced cotton and dairy farms and resorted to various “methods of discouragement including night riding, fence cutting, and castration of dairy bulls.”  One trainload of Iowa farmers and land buyers were not allowed to disembark and were forced back to Houston.  They returned with a Marshall and deputies and were “finally allowed to take possession of the land” and established what is today Iowa Colony.  “Soon enough barbed wire held sway here and the cattlemen reluctantly and grudgingly adapted to the times.”

 

“Some twenty-one Italian families had moved into the area having long been looking for a large tract of land with a climate similar to their homeland where they could live together as a community.”  The Italians enjoyed early success with lemon and orange trees only to see them wiped out by a hard freeze in 1913.  “They then turned to dairy farming, hay making, and vegetable raising” only to see a hurricane drop 22 inches of rain in 1915.  The Italian families struggled with more than making a living.  Old timers felt threatened by their arrival and made things “even harder than was usual for “outsiders” to first experience Manvel.”  The feelings came to a boiling point when the school teacher, Josephine Malone, took exception to the Italian-Texan children being separated from the Anglo-Texan children in the classroom and on the playground.  She sat them side by side in class and insisted they play together on the playground.  “Both of these decisions proved to be extremely unpopular with many members of the community.”  Despite physical threats and “other attempts at persuasion” Malone “stood her ground and the children of Manvel slowly learned to do their school work and play together.  Within the next twenty years, these two separate groups of children would be intermarrying and helping to build a stronger sense of community in Manvel.”

 

Dairy farming and cattle became most important to the city’s fortunes but both took a tough hit in 1925 when a hard freeze and icy rain wiped out significant numbers of cattle.  Cattle farming would never again be a major contributor to family incomes in Manvel.  Dairy farmers would persevere but proved to be ill “equipped to handle the plummeting prices” as the Great Depression began to choke the market for dairy products.  “In 1930, Manvel was in real trouble as a community.  The rigors of dairy farming life had already caused large numbers of young people to leave for big cities like Houston where easier lives were to be found.  Subsistence farming, fruit and citrus growing, cattle raising, and dairy farming had all collapsed in turn as a main source for the majority of family income in Manvel.  People once again began to move away.”

 

Fortunes for the city would turn once again in the early 1930’s when oil was discovered.  “Manvel was to become (for a while at least) one of the richest oil producing communities in the world.  Revenue from oil production allowed many farmers in the Manvel area to establish themselves in the business of rice farming.”  With the American Canal completed in 1937, “rice farming rapidly became the main agricultural pursuit in Manvel steadying the economy and stabilizing the population.”  Rice farming would remain a steady source of jobs when the oil boom wound down. 

 

World War 2 saw the establishment of refineries and plants along the coast and many in Manvel began to commute to jobs for their living.  As the 1950’s drew to a close families still farming and cattle raising for their income became a minority.  The decades of the 40’s and 50’s saw “many of the social and economic points of conflict in Manvel settling down.”  A new threat perceived by citizens was the “expansive suburban growth of the larger towns and cities bordering Manvel” and the fear that they would be annexed.  In 1959 the city voted to incorporate and “Manvel at long last became an official “incorporated general law city” in 1960.”

 

In the time since incorporation, Manvel has annexed land to where today it is the largest city (area wise) in Brazoria County.  “The continuing passions aroused in the citizens of Manvel by annexations has, at times, caused those of the old “range wars” to pale in comparison.”  The city has often struggled with the strain of growth and the ability to provide necessary infrastructure.  Between 1970 and 1980 the city’s population increased from 106 to 3,549, due primarily to the construction of state highway 288.  Population growth has been moderate since but it seems Manvel is about to embark on yet another boom, this time as primarily a bedroom community.

 

“For over one and a quarter centuries, Manvel’s greatest resource has been the people who worked to make all of the above possible.  They came to build new and better lives for themselves and their families.  They had the courage of their convictions and they had the backbone to stay and build a community that has withstood all that both mother nature and man have thrown its way.”

 

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City Council sets reduced tax rate: considers preliminary budget

August 13, 2014

 

Manvel city council voted a preliminary tax rate for the 2015 fiscal year at .58 per one hundred dollars of appraised valuation. The preliminary rate offers some relief to property owners who will be facing increased appraised values this year. The mayor and previous councils have held the line on each of the seven previous year’s tax rates at .587863 even when budget pressures called for more. The .58 rate is broken down between maintenance and operations at .506393 and debt service at .073607.

Council will hold two public hearings on the proposed tax rate to garner citizen input. The first of the public hearings will be conducted as part of the regular council meeting on Monday, August 25 at 7PM. The second hearing will be conducted at the subsequent council meeting scheduled for September 8 at 7PM.

In total, ad valorem tax expectations show an increase of $225,000 from last year. The vast majority of that increase is due to new property being added to the rolls, primarily from the Lakeland development. Council debated several options for the preliminary rate. Not taking into account new property on the tax rolls, maintaining the previous rate would have earned the city an additional $70,000 (3.2%) due to increased valuations. The city will still benefit at the lower rate of .58 to the tune of $38,000 (1.65%) but that rate will give city taxpayers partial relief of $32,000. The effective tax rate as calculated by the Brazoria County Appraisal District would be .57061. That rate would net the city the same amount in property tax revenue that it received last year. State law mandates that a city setting a tax rate 8% or higher from the effective rate would allow its citizens to petition for a roll back election.

Mayor Martin favors “keeping the tax rate as low as possible for our citizens. The incoming growth is bringing an increase in ad valorem taxes but we shouldn’t tax our citizens on top of that. It is our job to not penalize our citizens. We are encouraging economic growth to bring more revenue into the city without taxing the people who have hung on and struggled. They should not have a heavier burden. I know the assessment has gone up but there is nothing we can do about that. I wish we could but we can’t.”

Member Melody Hanson does not feel the city is yet at a point where it should start to reduce its tax rate in a significant way. “I think there is so much around the bend that the city is going to have to face, I think if we look at the proposed budget we can see evidence of that. New positions that we need to hire and positions that need to be filled or changed. I do believe the time will come in the future that we do need to probably pare it down but I don’t think we are there yet.” Hanson feels “if the value of your house goes up even if the tax rate stays the same you are going to pay more, but luckily you are building some equity and when the time comes you do sell it you will capture that back.”

The city controller, Phyllis Herbst, explained to council that $38,000 is not an insignificant amount of money to a budget the size of Manvel’s. “$38,000 in your budget is really a lot of money. It can cover a lot of stuff. It could pay for something without having to take out debt. It could pay the interest on current debt and get that paid off.” Herbst does not favor too much of a rate reduction, saying there will be increased pressure in future budget years to manage the city’s debt service. “If you keep the tax rate at a reasonable rate and don’t bring it down, then you won’t have to increase it later and it won’t be such a shock on the citizens, because you can kind of prorate it between maintenance and debt service.” Herbst supports a modest decrease in the tax rate and has based the 2015 fiscal year budget on the .58 preliminary rate.

The preliminary 2015 budget projects total revenue of $4,840,360, an increase of $792,460 (19.5%) from the 2014 budget revenue of $4,047,900. Revenue projections show increases in all categories, not just ad valorem taxes. Other larger percentage increases include Franchise and sales taxes and fees for building permits and licenses. The preliminary budget the city staff presented to council for consideration spends every dollar of revenue. Full-time employees can expect to see a 3% cost of living adjustment, justified to “ensure competitive compensation to attract and retain qualified, high performing talented employees for all positions.” Several adjustments in staffing and departmental budgets are contemplated: two new police positions, one a criminal investigator and one a patrol officer; and bringing the city’s contract attorney, finance director, permit clerk, and wastewater treatment plant operator to full-time positions.

Council will hold several budget workshops in the coming weeks to determine the city’s spending for the next year. The fiscal year begins October 1.

In other council news, approvals were granted for the renewal of interlocal agreements between Manvel and Brazoria County for road and bridge work. City Manager Kyle Jung explained that the agreement requires an annual renewal. An interlocal agreement was also approved for the city to work with Alvin’s animal adoption center. The city has had a long struggle with the management of stray dogs. Recently Brazoria County informed the city it would no longer accept dogs delivered from Manvel. Chief Keith Traylor worked with Alvin on a new agreement that he says will better meet the city’s needs. A roundtrip to Alvin requires twenty to thirty minutes while a round trip to Lake Jackson requires one and a half hours. A far more efficient use of city resources.

City council also approved the conveyance of water and wastewater infrastructure from the Lakeland development. Agreements provide the development turn over the utilities upon build-out completion. Phase One has been sold out and Phase Two is currently in process.

 

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Plane crash claims principal's husband and son

August 20, 2014

 

Bad news hit the Manvel High School family last Friday. Principal Charlotte Liptak’s husband, Lawrence, 51, and their 10-year old son Landon were killed in a crash of a private plane in North Texas. According to news reports, the plane was attempting a landing at Bowie municipal airport when it crashed in a field and burned. FAA reports say a twin-engine Cessna 414 owned by Liptak crashed “under unknown circumstances” on a road near Bowie shortly before 4 p.m. Friday and “the aircraft was destroyed by fire after the crash.” The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash site. A determination of the cause for the crash has yet been established.

In a show of support for the school principal, a crowd gathered outside Manvel High School on Saturday night to conduct a prayer vigil. Liptak is beginning her second year as principal of Manvel High School. In a press release issued by the Alvin Independent School District (AISD), Liptak was credited with “giving her life to meeting the needs of her students in Alvin ISD. At this time, the most important thing we can do for Mrs. Liptak is keep her in out thoughts and prayers and allow her time to focus on the needs of her family.”

No announcement of memorial services has been made as of this writing.

 

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AISD expanding career and technical programs

August 20, 2014

 

The Board of Trustees for the Alvin Independent School District (AISD) received a report at their August meeting on plans to increase the offerings of the CTE (Career & Technical Education) program. Recent years have seen increased emphasis on career and technical training in high schools across the country. Skyrocketing costs associated with earning a college degree, a more generally recognized notion that not all students are suited for higher education, and increasing confirmation that skilled trades are the hardest jobs to fill are all driving the renewed focus on what was previously known as vocational training.

Three years ago AISD began looking at their overall CTE programs with a goal of developing a five-year district-wide program that would establish the best utilization of district facilities. There was recognition that additional CTE options were needed but planners wanted to make sure that what was offered was done so in the most economical manner. It was a challenge to develop a system wide plan as the district currently offers 16 career clusters spread among various campuses. Planners also wanted to determine what programs would best fit the needs of the new Shadow Creek High School which is on target to open for the 2016-2017 school year.

AISD is preparing to go before Manvel’s Planning, Development, and Zoning Commission with a plan to develop an Auto Tech and Collision component in the existing Manvel Junior High Gym building. Plans for the main Manvel Junior High structure, Phase 2, are in the design and conceptualization stage as the 2013 Bond authorized the district to expend funds on the design of a CTE Center contemplated for the Manvel site. Any construction on Phase 2 would be dependent on future funding. It is anticipated the district will submit a bond referendum in November 2015 with the CTE Center a key part of the package. If the bond is accepted by voters and all goes according to current plan, the new CTE Center would be ready for students beginning with the 2017-2018 school year.

Due to recent ordinance changes voted on by city council, AISD is required to petition city council for a Special Use Permit in order to redevelop the junior high site. While preliminary drawings show a possible site plan, district officials point out that they are very early in the planning and design phase and that input from Manvel’s PD&Z as well as input from other stakeholders and site limitations will likely change the plan as it is currently rendered.

According to a national CTE association, about 12.5 million high school and college students are enrolled in CTE across the nation and claim it “prepares youth and adults for a wide range of high-wage, high-skill, and high-demand careers. High school students involved in CTE are more engaged, perform better and graduate at higher rates. Eighty-one percent of dropouts say relevant, real-world learning opportunities would have kept them in high school. The average high school graduation rate for students concentrating in CTE programs is 90.18 percent, compared to an average national freshman graduation rate of 74.9 percent. More than 70 percent of secondary CTE concentrators pursued postsecondary education shortly after high school.”

Janis Petrini, an employment expert based in Michigan uses convincing information in espousing the value of CTE. She says that “one-third of the jobs created in America through 2018 will require an associate’s degree or a certificate and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 14 of the 20 fastest-growing occupations in America require an associate’s degree or less.”

According to a Georgetown University study, “27 percent of young workers with licenses and certificates out-earn bachelor’s degree holders, and 31 percent of young workers with associate’s degrees earn more than those with a bachelor’s degree. When you consider that an individual with a bachelor’s degree invested much more time and money into his or her education, you realize that CTE can be a smart investment.”

“Student loans now account for the second-highest form of consumer debt and represent six percent of the overall national debt. In total, Americans owe around $1 trillion in student loan debt. For some student loan borrowers, that means bearing the financial burden of a college education well into the middle of their lives and delaying other life events like buying a home, starting a family or opening a business.”

“The average tuition and fees for a two-year degree at an in-state school are roughly $6,400. Contrast that with the average bachelor’s degree tuition and fees of more than $35,000 for a public in-state institution. These costs are even greater for a public out-of-state school or for a private school at $110,000 and $118,000, respectively. A recent report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that roughly 44 percent of working recent college graduates were in jobs that did not require their degrees. Nearly four out of 10 young people ages 20 through 24 are underemployed.”

Petrini feels that “to make America more globally competitive and to better prepare the next generation of workers, the country needs to recognize the importance of CTE.”

 

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Steve the barber succumbs to cancer

August 27, 2014

 

Long time Manvel barber Steve Moore passed away last week at the age of 61. Barely one month ago Steve was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer after being prodded into a doctor appointment by his longtime friend and business partner John Cox. Steve passed at his home with his family by his side.

Steve founded the Manvel Barber Shop in January 1997 with a cousin who had just graduated from Beauty College. The arrangement proved disappointing and Steve liked to tell the story in his usual good natured manner: “she really didn’t want to work full time. She wanted to be able to take off whenever she wanted.” Steve and John Cox became friends upon John’s semi-retirement from the car business and his helping with his wife’s embroidery shop which at the time was a neighbor to the barber shop. Their friendship grew to an eventual business partnership and as Steve enjoyed explaining: “his wife talked me into it; she didn’t want him hanging around her shop! I felt sorry for him.” Steve and John regularly joked good naturedly with one another and it was a customary thing patrons were entertained with upon a visit to the shop. Many will miss Steve’s sly humor and quick wit and the fun bantering between him and John. Clients would receive an earful from Steve on any number of topics that that one would expect to be discussed at a men’s barber shop. Regular customers can attest that he always had an opinion and it was not in any way ambiguous. Steve will leave many in Manvel feeling privileged to have made his acquaintance.

Steve was born on March 23, 1953 in San Antonio, Texas and was a long time resident of Manvel. He is survived by his wife, Kirsten Moore, sons Taylor Michael Goody and Nicholas Thompson Goody, sisters Darlene Stewart and family, Gwendolyn Cochran and family and numerous other family members. Kirsten, his wife, said Steve was proud to proclaim he was the youngest person to receive a barber license in the State of Texas at the age of 16 in 1969. He was also an avid fisherman who loved being at the beach and on the water fishing with his boys, friends and family as often as he could. Steve had a collection of over 200 fishing rods, many of which were displayed at the barber shop. He explained his interest in collecting rods: “When I got married and had the two 7-year old boys I started taking them fishing and before long I started cleaning reels for people who would bring them in and give them to me. It eventually turned into a hobby. A lot of my rods and reels have never been used and probably never will.”

Steve was proud of his shop. Earlier this year Houston’s TV Channel 13 did a story at the suggestion of a customer who was sufficiently impressed on his first visit with the feel of an old-time barber shop. Walking through the door customers experience barber fixtures and equipment from the past. There is a large old cash register that will ring up a maximum sale of just $5.99. In the glass display case the register sets on are numerous old-fashioned styling utensils such as razors, scissors, and the like. He said the old small town feel is the atmosphere he wanted to capture when he set up the shop. Steve described his collection of old things barber related: “I was single for a lot of years and didn’t have anything to do on weekends and I would get in my car and make like a 300-mile radius, stopping in little town antique shops. That was my weekend event.”

John Cox intends to keep the barber shop in operation and hopes to find a new barber to come in and help fill the void with Steve’s passing.

 

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2015 Tax Rate and Budget

August 27, 2014

 

Manvel city council held the first of two required public hearings to hear comments from citizens on the proposed tax rate and budget for the 2015 fiscal year which will commence on October 1. No citizens offered a reaction. A second public hearing will be held at the next scheduled council meeting on September 8 at 7PM.

Council appears set to vote a tax rate of .58 per one hundred dollars of appraised valuation, offering some relief to taxpayers who will likely experience increased appraised values this year. The tax rate has remained unchanged for each of the seven previous years at .587863. The .58 rate is broken down between maintenance and operations at .506393 and debt service at .073607. The Brazoria County Appraisal District calculates an effective tax rate for each taxing jurisdiction which if implemented would net the same amount in property tax revenue that it received the previous year. That rate would be .570610. In keeping with state law, a jurisdiction that sets a tax rate 8% or higher from the effective rate would allow its citizens to petition for a roll back election. That rollback rate would be .585259 which is below the previous seven years rate. Jurisdictions generally prefer to dodge rollback elections and the city is able to do that with the proposed rate. The city still expects to see increased revenue of $225,000 for next year due to new property being added to the rolls, primarily from the Lakeland development. $38,000 will be the net increase earned by the city from previously established taxpayers.

The 2015 budget projects revenue of $4,840,360, an increase of $792,460 (19.5%) from the 2014 budget revenue of $4,047,900. In addition to increases in ad valorem taxes the city will enjoy growth in state franchise and sales taxes and fees for building permits and licenses. Full-time employees will see a 3% cost of living adjustment and some adjustments in staffing and departmental budgets are planned. The Police Department will hire a criminal investigator and a patrol officer and will add full-time positions for a city attorney, finance director, permit clerk, and wastewater treatment plant operator.

 

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Economic Development

August 27, 2014

 

Council approved the first of two public hearings on a rezoning request with a Specific Use Permit (SUP) that would allow EZ-Line to construct a new building at their campus on State Highway 6. The request was made in order to avoid meeting the city’s design criteria as established in a special district along highways 6 and 1128. The so called Overlay District mandates the types of materials allowed on building facades and other design matters with a goal of ensuring some consistency of appearance. The request would allow the building to use non-qualified material along the back portion of the side facades. An EZ-Line spokesman told council that the material is a high quality metal siding that will be painted to match the District approved materials along the front and near side portions of the façade. It was explained the structure will look much like their current building. PD&Z recommended council approve the request and council unanimously agreed.

Council also approved a new budget for the Manvel Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). A portion of the city’s sales tax revenue is allocated to MEDC and includes essentially all of the organizations funding. Last year saw $244,000 budgeted for sales tax revenue. This year it is expected to increase to $300,000. Administrative expenses and professional fees comprise approximately 18% of revenue, a slight decrease from last year’s 19.3%. Actual expenses are projected to increase in real terms by $7,000. The MEDC is charged with enhancing the community through business retention and expansion and working to provide a favorable environment for new businesses to establish operations in the city. The group recently awarded funding for the installation of water and sewer infrastructure along Hwy 6. Construction is expected to commence on that project within the next month or so.

In 2011 Manvel voters decided to repeal the ½ cent sales tax allocation to MEDC and adopted in its place a split of the funds so that ¼ would go to MEDC and ¼ would be dedicated to a street maintenance fund. Voter approval is required every four years to continue the allocation and it will be on the May 2015 ballot for citizen consideration. At the time city council authorized the matter be put forth to voters, the city saw a challenging budget environment and the poor maintenance of city streets was a primary source of consternation for many citizens. With a more favorable budget climate currently and the likelihood of continually increasing revenue from ad valorem taxes in future years, citizens will consider the trade-off between longer term macroeconomic benefits verses the short term benefit of street maintenance. Council member Melody Hanson was the lone dissenter of the decision in 2011 making the argument that compromising MEDC funds today will cost the city tomorrow. She claimed that money spent on retaining or expanding current businesses and/or attracting new businesses would provide far greater economic benefits to the city over the long term. Other members disagreed feeling the money would be better spent on badly needed street repairs.

 

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Residential lot sizes and setbacks

August 27, 2014

 

Council revisited the debate on lot sizes and building setback requirements. PD&Z will take up the issue in future sessions and will return to council a recommendation. Some on council favor a variety of lot sizes from 50 foot to 80 foot and higher. Mayor Delores Martin cited a study of Houston area developments currently in progress in support of her desire to make available a diversity of sizes. Martin feels the city can best control lot sizes in developments by requiring certain percentages of varied lot sizes so that they will reach the total market. She feels it should be a matter of choice for home buyers.

Members Melody Hanson and Adrian Gaspar more vocally favor larger lot sizes, primarily in keeping with the claimed desire of most Manvel citizens who favor a more rural community. Hanson says “the density here is more than I like. It seems like if we could still have diversity, still allow those patio homes, but say maybe not as small as 60 foot, let’s go with 70, 80, 90 possibly. There is not that much large land in a 20-mile distance around Houston anymore. We are what’s left and I think we can be a little picky. They will come because there is no place else left. I get the sense the developers are doing (smaller lots) not so much because that’s what the consumer is driving but that’s what they are building for profit and that is what is available and that is what people buy. Honestly, I’m afraid we are going to look like Pearland. That is my concern.” Gaspar agreed saying “if we allow it we are going to look like Pearland.” Member Lew Shuffler said he drove through Sedona Lakes recently and felt some of the areas have houses that “are right on top of each other. It is losing the appeal, I think.”

City Manager Kyle Jung explained that most developers do not use a city’s zoning classifications but rather will negotiate a development agreement that specifies lot sizes, setbacks, roads, parks, and other amenities. Both Sedona Lakes and the new Pomona development are operating under a PUD (Planned Unit Development) agreement. “What is here (in the ordinance) I would strongly suggest is never going to be what they put in. With the exception of Blue Water Lakes and Lakeland all the rest have development agreements that set out what the city council wants in the way of the size of lots and the number of lots,” he said.

Jung concedes the point that “people who live on acreage here don’t want large subdivision developments but there are more people who live in those (developments) than live in the city. The market brought those people to those developments.” Mayor Martin feels it is disingenuous to yield to the concerns of maybe thirty people who voiced a desire for less density when the affected population numbers nearly 10,000.

Council ultimately seemed to reach a tenuous consensus that a reasonable balance would best serve the community. PD&Z will be charged with working up that balanced policy in the coming months.

 

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Charter Revisions?

August 27, 2014

 

Council member John Cox requested an action item be placed on the next council agenda that will ask council to approve a review of the Charter that transformed Manvel to a Home-Rule city in 2012. Cox was on the original commission charged with crafting the document. “All we did was put the foundation on the ground. There are so many thing we hashed out that the sixteen members couldn’t agree on. I think we stripped the mayor of all her power and I think she needs to have some of her authority back. I think with the city growing the way it is we are putting too much load on Kyle (City Manager Kyle Jung). I think some of the load needs to be split.” Cox also believes the city should consider compensating the mayor, saying “the work the mayor puts in to this town, there is no reason she should not be compensated something.” He also would like to see discussion on possibly paying council members some form of stipend citing most nearby communities that already do so. “It’s not a big paycheck, maybe $100 for each meeting they attend. You may get better quality people running for council.”

Not overtly expressed but seeming to percolate among some Manvel citizens is that the Charter grants to much authority to and too little oversight of the City Manager. A review of the Charter could serve to lessen those concerns. The Charter requires a review at least every five years but a sooner implementation is allowed with city council authorization. A minimum of eleven members would be appointed to a review commission with the thought being each council member could nominate two people to participate in the process. Council did not seriously consider previous attempts to authorize a review. They will consider it again at their September 8 meeting.

 

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