June 2014

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Drainage Plan put off for further consideration

AISD Superintendent resigns position

City updating Comprehensive Plan

MEDC authorizes infrastructure improvements

Building moratorium renewed for Rodeo Palms

Council considers changes to zoning ordinance

 

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Drainage Plan put off for further consideration

June 4, 2014

 

Manvel city council failed to approve the required second reading of a proposed ordinance that would have adopted a Master Drainage Plan for the city. At a prior meeting the vote for the first reading was unanimous for its adoption but after members had an opportunity to more closely study the proposal and better understand its details significant questions were raised as to its perceived adverse effects on current residents and their property limits. A motion to table the proposal to allow for greater enquiry and discussion was approved.

The city had prepared a Plan with the underlying objective to provide recommendations for drainage improvements in order to meet continued growth and future needs. The Plan submitted involves two scenario recommendations for future drainage improvements. The scenarios are not easily described in a few sentences as the plans include many considerations. Succinctly, scenario one basically entails a combination of strategies that includes individual on-site detention. An example of on-site detention would be a development sharing its property with a dug out pit designed to collect and hold storm water runoff until such time that it can be dispersed downstream with no adverse impact to its neighbors. This scenario would require less land for common drainage flows through bayous, creeks, and reliefs.

The second scenario provides for regional detention ponds that would be accessed from developments. This scenario would allow for a more attractive city in that each development would need not engineer a unique detention pond just to manage its impact. It also would allow developers greater flexibility in what and how they can design. Since the portion of the development that would have been required for detention would no longer be necessary more land would be available for the project. The downside to this scenario is that more community property would be required to house the regional detention ponds and the common drainage flows through bayous, creeks, and reliefs would need to be even larger that the first scenario.

Gary Struzik from Klotz Associates presented the Plan to council and explained its purpose as “providing guidance for council, future developers, future interested parties, engineers, special interest groups, MUD Districts, and others to have a feel for what drainage improvements would be needed to improve and take care of the drainage within the city. As developers come forward will need some kind of direction on how much right-of-way will they need to donate or provide as part of their drainage plan for their development. The Master Plan is simply a guide to work with for future developers.”

Council Member Melody Hanson said she had concern for her next door neighbor who would likely see the majority of their backyard “wiped out” if the proposed widths of waterways as spelled out in the Plan were implemented. She sees the Plan as radically changing neighborhoods and ecologically compromising large oak trees that rely on water from the natural overflow of swollen waterways. “You could wipe out an entire wooded area,” she said. “If you take out the dynamic of the bayous and the trees here, that is about all we’ve got going for us; they are among the few things we have that make Manvel unique and beautiful. We are taking a natural tributary and we are altering it hugely. I have concerns about that.” Hanson went on to posit her feeling that “if drainage is this bad then why are we allowing the density of development in this area that we are? Maybe we should go back to open single family residential.” She says the Plan as proposed impacts most severely the people downstream that have lived in Manvel the longest as most of their homes were constructed near waterways. “What I derive form this is that we can’t handle the intensity of development that we are talking about bringing into this city; not without having severe impact to people who currently live here and to the environment and the areas surrounding us.”

Member Maureen DelBello motioned for the matter to be tabled for further discussion feeling “there are too many questions we all have.” Member Adrian Gaspar suggested a meeting to consider the Drainage Plan in conjunction with the Comprehensive Plan which currently is in process of updating. Council unanimously agreed to the motion.

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AISD Superintendent resigns position

June 4, 2014

 

The superintendent of Schools for the Alvin Independent School District (AISD), Dr. Fred Brent, surprised and disappointed many on Monday when he announced his intention of leaving his position to become the superintendent for the Georgetown Independent School District. Brent described the announcement as “incredibly difficult to share” and that the “process has been challenging for my family and we felt it was in our best interest to accept this opportunity.” He went on to say that “serving Alvin ISD has been an incredible honor and I am thankful for each day I was allowed to do this work.”

Brent leaves Alvin ISD as one of the fastest growing districts in the state with 23 campuses, over 19,700 students, 2,500 employees, and an annual budget of $143 million to accept the new position at Georgetown ISD with 18 campuses, 10,400 students, 1,600 employees, and an annual budget of $103 million.

Brent was named the superintended for AISD in December 2010 after serving five years as the superintendent for the Anderson-Shiro Consolidated School District, a district in its entirety that had fewer students and teachers than all but two of AISD’s campuses. Nonetheless, at the time of his hire Trustees were enthusiastic. Then Board President Pete Vincent said he felt the district “found the ideal person to lead the district.” Trustee Bobby Verdine expressed his feeling that “I think he is going to be great.” Brent was ultimately selected from 36 applicants and according to the former Director of Communications for the district he was selected because of “his knowledge, skills, vision, enthusiasm, energy, and personality.”

Brent will continue his work with Alvin schools through the end of June. The AISD Board of Trustees has already begun the process of deciding on an interim superintendent and the method of securing a permanent replacement. The district’s Director of Communication, Daniel Combs, said it would be unlikely to have a new superintendent in place before the start of the next school year in August. Board President Cheryl Harris said, “Dr. Brent is a vibrant leader that has accomplished many great things during his time in Alvin ISD. We are sad to see him go yet we wish him and his family all the best in Georgetown.”

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City updating Comprehensive Plan

June 11, 2014

 

A joint workshop was conducted last week among the Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee, City Council, PD&Z, and MEDC in which the final draft of an updated Comprehensive Plan was discussed. The Comprehensive Plan serves as an enduring document used by city planners and developers that sets forth the goals and vision for the city’s progress.

In 2008 Manvel adopted its first version of a Comprehensive Plan. A revised Plan adopted in 2009 has guided the city’s decisions and practices in managing its growth and development. In keeping with the city charter requirement that an update to the Plan occur at least every five years, in 2013 authorization was provided by city council to establish a Steering Committee to begin the review process.

The Steering Committee is comprised of twelve appointments and includes PD&Z members, ex-officio appointments, and the citizenry at large. The mayor, city manager, city staff, city council, and MEDC all provided important input as well. The public also participated in the process at two public hearings last November where attendance was described as “great” by some committee members. Public input supported the major theme of the Committee that calls for an effort to “maintain the city’s rural character and to improve and maintain public services such as water, sewer, and drainage.”

Given various studies and statistics, the Committee worked under an assumption that Manvel’s population will see growth commensurate with Brazoria County at large and the City of Houston. The 2010 census tagged Manvel’s population at 5,179. The 2013 estimate was 8,000. With the anticipation that 10,000 homes will be built in the next 15-20 years, Manvel is projected to see a population of 130,000. To sufficiently prepare for that growth, the Committee says the city’s “administrative infrastructure will have to grow.” It also supports annexations feeling they can provide “substantial long-term benefits while protecting against certain nuisances.” The Plan acknowledges the city should “better inform citizens of the positive benefits of annexations” and suggests “consistent, timely, and reliable sources of information will improve the relationship between the local government and the residents.”

A common theme throughout the Plan is that current residents “treasure their small town values” and they “want to preserve the rural character without deterring growth and development.” A desire to provide for a variety of lot sizes was “integral to the topic of future development” and the Plan provides for diverse lot sizes that “will be able to provide for future and current residents with different needs and in different life stages.” The Plan sets a goal of minimizing the number of cul-de-sac and dead-end streets in favor of a grid pattern that will increase circulation and connectivity. It further explains the need for more open space and a wider variety of park and recreational amenities. The Plan clarified the need for increasing water and sewer capacity, allowing “for greater business development.”

It identifies two separate business districts with SH 6 permitting “smaller scale urban development while larger box store retail are encouraged to develop along SH 288.” The Committee feels this strategy will “help the city maintain its mostly residential land use character while balancing the city’s strong desire to bring in a grocery store as well as develop a town center with smaller business fronts.”

Flooding remains an important consideration and the Committee states a “general concern that more development will worsen the flood conditions. Drainage is likely to remain a major issue that will need to be addressed on a continuous basis.” Describing it as a “regional issue that requires coordination with other governmental entities,” it “is essential for successful construction and management of local drainage in Manvel.”

Committee members “identified the opportunity to capitalize upon the city’s unique rural characteristics by developing and promoting horse, bike, and walk trails. This would help balance between the rapid development in and around the city while also attracting new tourists and businesses to the city.”

The Plan suggests Manvel break away from its partnership with Alvin and establish its own “proper Chamber of Commerce”, citing “there may be conflict in the type of businesses that would be directed to be situated in Manvel. MEDC could play a pivotal role in initiating the process to create one and that it would have a desirable impact on the city’s ability to attract new business.”

In addressing traffic, the Plan acknowledges that “pressure will increase on Manvel’s roads as single-driver automobiles will remain the main source of transportation to and from work. The intensity of development along these streets (SH 6, SH 288, FM 1128) has proven difficult to manage while still maintaining the city’s aspired rural character.” The Committee suggests the city “continue to explore alternative options for the movement of traffic” and considers it “essential that the city work closely and with transparency with residents in order to improve buy-in and avoid conflict further on.” Committee members also want the city “to include alternative methods of transportation” positing that “pedestrian and bike traffic will become more important as positive solutions to the pending traffic congestion.”

“As an important element to maintain Manvel’s rural character, the Steering Committee was particularly interested in conservation and maintenance of parks and open space, as well as the encouragement and promotion of green and sustainable development practices.” It is proposed that some form of a Parks and Open Space Plan could be “coordinated with the Master Drainage Plan and the Major Thoroughfare Plan in order to capitalize on the use of right-of-way easements along roads. As water will be an essential part to the sustainability efforts by the city, the Plan suggests the city seek new sources of water and would like to see a promotion of “rainwater collection, recycling of effluent, and use of grey water.” It also calls for the regulation of directional lighting and the recycling of construction materials. There is an interest in “promoting native landscaping and promoting increasing density in subdivisions in order to keep large tracts of land intact and preserving natural habitats.”

City council will have the final vote on the Plan in the coming weeks.

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MEDC authorizes infrastructure improvements

June 18, 2014

 

At a specially called meeting of the Manvel Economic Development Council (MEDC) last week, authorization was granted for the city to move forward with the installation of water and sewer infrastructure along the north side of State Hwy 6. The improvements will expand current utilities from near the Burger Barn establishment to State Hwy 288.

After several iterations of the plan, the north side of Hwy 6 was determined a requirement due to easement challenges on the south side. Most recently, a large landowner wanted “a sizeable amount of money” as stated by the city manager, Kyle Jung. More than $314,000 was the price he demanded. “MEDC decided they would spend the money by installing the infrastructure on the north side,” Jung explained.

Final drawings are all but complete with surveying and geotechnical work in progress. Final approval is expected to be granted by the Gulf Coast Water Authority this week and the two Brazoria County Drainage Districts the first week of July. “Things are moving rapidly,” Jung says and he expects to have all the approvals in hand by the first week of July. “Shortly after that it would appear that we might be ready to go out for bid. We are getting much closer.”

The infrastructure project has been in the works since April 2012 when Manvel city council approved an authorization for the city manager to develop engineering plans and specifications for the extension of water and sewer utilities on state highway 6. City Manager Kyle Jung explained at the time that the plans and specifications would be the first step in getting the project authorized and underway. He estimated construction would require four to six months once the plans had been prepared, approved, and financing established.

Mayor Delores Martin has said numerous times that in the many years she has been mayor various types of businesses have come to Manvel excited about establishing operations only to be discouraged once it is realized that the city does not have the water and sewer infrastructure to accommodate their needs. She considers this infrastructure project as the first step toward expanding business activity in the city and stimulating economic growth. The mayor worked hard to secure the easements required to allow the improvements to move forward with the final settlement delivered earlier in the day that council authorized the agreement that will be considered by the Gulf Coast Water Authority this week.

The improvements will provide a 12” water line and a 24” gravity sewer line on the north side of State Hwy 6. Businesses wanting to locate on the south side will be able to bore under Hwy 6 and tie into the service on the north side. The cost of the project is expected to be in the range of $800,000 to $1.3 million. MEDC will fund the bulk of that sum with the exact amount yet to be determined. The city will finance the balance.

In other council news, a public hearing was conducted in response to a request by a drilling entity, Hawkeye Stratigraphic, Inc, requesting city council consider an appeal from the 2000 foot limit from a drilling rig to a residence or building as stated in the city’s Code of Ordinances. The company wants to drill at a location just north of the Lakeland subdivision and approximately 1200 feet southwest of the intersection of Dogwood and Pollard. Letters were mailed to each affected property owner within the ordinance range notifying them of the public hearing to voice comments. Several citizens were present to offer comments that focused on safety and the feared disruption to the peaceful enjoyment of their homes. Mayor Martin interjected that there is normally a noise factor to consider as well and several members expressed concern about the damage to roads resulting from the heavy truck traffic. The city secretary indicated no written or telephone comments were received either.

In making their case, a spokesman for the company told council members that they “knew what your limitations were here. We actually put it off as long as we could to make sure that we could verify that our data (was good) and we are compelled to try and drill a well in that location. We have been apprised of the ordinances and the limitations and we fully expect to comply with all of those as written and if for some reason there are issues we will work to do whatever is necessary to satisfy any of the citizens of Manvel.” The drilling time would require approximately 30 days to determine whether or not the well would be productive.

Council was not receptive to the proposal. Member Maureen DelBello said flatly, “I don’t feel comfortable with it. I personally would not want it in my backyard.” Mayor Martin would consider it an “injustice to the people who live there.” She told the group that she “hates to hear about all the money you invested but maybe you should have done your homework a little bit sooner. That is just my opinion.” Member Melody Hanson noted that the resultant pipeline infrastructure that would be required should the well prove productive would "have a huge impact on any potential development in that area.” The council ultimately rejected the proposal with a unanimous 6-0 vote.

The city manager is working to accommodate council members varied schedules to plan a budget workshop to begin work on a new budget. The city’s new fiscal year commences October 1. City Manager Kyle Jung explained that several hours will be needed: “The idea is to have the staff members come in to give reports on what they have in mind and we want to get goals and direction from council members.”

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Building moratorium renewed for Rodeo Palms

June 25, 2014

 

Manvel city council renewed the moratorium on construction in the Rodeo Palms subdivision at this week’s council meeting. The moratorium was initially issued in June 2013 due to a question of insufficient water capacity available from Municipal Utility District (MUD) 29 which serves the subdivision. Existing wells have failed to produce at the capacity they were designed for resulting in a struggle for the MUD to increase water capacity. A new well is being constructed and according to MUD 29 officials it is expected to take care of all the water needs throughout the complete build-out of the development.

Manvel’s consulting engineer, Dan Johnson, reported to council that good progress is being made and the new plant should be up and running by the end August. The well itself is pretty much complete but according to Johnson they want to have everything done and right before asking council to remove the moratorium and authorize new construction to commence. Johnson says it will definitely be a good improvement for Rodeo Palms and explained that there is excess capacity currently for about sixty homes attributed to an interconnect with an outside water source.

In November council was sufficiently convinced by the Mud’s attorney that capacity to accommodate an additional 32 connections was available and they agreed the MUD could utilize the time during the moratorium to provide evidence of successful operation of the wells at the increased capacity. Johnson indicated in his comments to council that no further request for a modification to the moratorium has been received.

Rodeo Palms residents will no doubt be pleased to have the additional capacity as they have been working under a rationing program for more than a year. To fund the new well, MUD taxpayers were hit with an increase in their tax rate last year from .80 cents per $100 valuation to .94 cents per $100 valuation. In addition to their MUD tax, Rodeo Palms residents also bear the city water tax that all Manvel citizens pay of .58 cents. Builders will also be hit with higher costs as they will be required to pay a $500 fee over and above the customary water connection charges for each new home once the moratorium is lifted.

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Council considers changes to zoning ordinance

June 25, 2014

 

Manvel city council tabled an agenda item calling for updates and changes to the city’s zoning ordinance. The modifications were submitted for consideration after crafting by the city’s Planning, Development & Zoning Commission (PD&Z). The matter will be taken up again at the next regular council meeting scheduled for July 14.

Much of the changes are in verbiage and procedure. Among the highlights of the changes include a requirement for a Specific Use Permit (SUP) for educational land uses in all zoning districts. Locations of accessory buildings on single family lots currently are not allowed in front of a house; the revised ordinance will allow it on lots greater than one acre. In a single family residential district the minimum lot size will be increased to 7000 square feet from the previous 6300 square feet. Cul-de-sac lots will require 20’ measured from the street and 66’ measured from the setback line, which is increased from 60’. The side yard setback for both single family and manufactured homes will require the primary structure and any accessory structure to be eight feet, a change from the previous five feet.

Parking space requirements were added for schools and buildings housing educational uses. A gun range restriction will be removed from the zoning ordinance and put into another section of the code. Considerable changes will be seen on Open Planned Unit Development (O-PUD) Agreements affecting new subdivision improvements. O-PUD's spell out the terms between the city and a developer of a large subdivision development.

The decision to table the matter was agreed to allow time to gather information on policies from neighboring cities on building setbacks and the frequency allowed for citizens to conduct a garage sale. The suggested change given by PD&Z calls for twelve garage sales per year to be allowed before it be considered as a commercial use. Mayor Martin wondered how that will be tracked: “Unless you have some type of registration, whether you charge or not, how will you know how many sales have been?” Other council members felt that twelve is too many. Six seemed to be a consensus agreement but data on how other cities manage them will be among the information included in the next consideration in July.

Debate was had on the side setback requirements with some expressing an opinion that a larger setbacks will maintain greater safety in case of a fire to a neighboring structure. Data on side setbacks required in other cities will be available for council to consider at the next meeting as well.

Another change to the zoning ordinance considered as a separate agenda item would provide for the default zoning classification at the time of annexation to Open Single Family Residential unless the city council decides to assign a different type. City manager Kyle Jung explained it as “something to have on the books to prevent what happened over at a Rodeo Palms property,” where a couple tracts of land were annexed with no zoning classification attached.

Two readings of the proposed changes will be required prior to the adoption of the revised ordinance. Citizen comments in support or opposition are welcomed at all city council meetings and for all public hearings.

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