January 2015

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2014: Year in Review

County seeks change in election procedure

Long-time City Controller to be replaced

Manvel PD upgrades fleet

Manvel mourns students

Council discusses Master Drainage Plan

Rodeo Palms to resume building

City hires attorney

City's residential development continues its momentum

Questions remain unanswered at Shiloh Treatment Center

 

 

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2014: Year in Review

January 7, 2015

 

The year 2014 saw classes conducted by the Homeland Preparedness Project in emergency response training at the Manvel EMS station. A program certified by FEMA known as CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) presented a myriad of topics on personal and family preparedness for natural disasters and potential acts of terrorism.

Manvel city council member Lew Shuffler spearheaded the effort to get the program established. Upon receiving his certificate in March he commented: “This was a wonderful class. It is not just for the major disaster that may occur in the community, but also in your own home. It is good for young families that have kids around the house. It shows you exactly what you have to do in an emergency and what actions you can take to make sure that emergency may not happen in your home.” A second class graduated in June.

The Manvel barber shop experienced some good fortune and some misfortune. In January the shop was recognized in a television story on Houston’s Channel 13 newscast. The story was prompted by a customer who described the shop as a step back in time. The shop was opened in 1997 by Steve Moore who described his collection of old things barber related as not having anything to do on weekends so he would drive a 300-mile radius, stopping in little town antique shops. Unfortunately, Steve met with misfortune in August when he succumbed to cancer. His long time business partner and friend, city council member John Cox, assumed the business and transformed the shop from an old-timey feel to a more modern and clean one.

In February city council unanimously agreed to raise the pay of the city manager, Kyle Jung. The amendment extended his contract to January 2017 and provided a 3% increase to his base salary, one additional week of paid vacation, and payment of the employee portion of his retirement package. Jung began working for the city in January 2012 on a three-year contract. In January 2013 council awarded him a raise of $2,000 per month and agreed to fund the total cost of the health insurance premiums for his entire family. City employees typically are covered only for their individual premiums. The2013 contract amendment provided annual compensation of $124,000. The 2014 revision provides Jung a total of 3 weeks paid vacation and will see city taxpayers fund both the employer and employee portions of his retirement contributions to the Texas Municipal Retirement System. Altogether, Jung realized a salary increase approximating 10%.

The Police Department was pleased to accept delivery of three new cruisers. At a cost of approximately $37,400 each including the communications and electronic equipment, Chevy Tahoes replaced older vehicles. An additional three Tahoes were included in the current budget and the department should be receiving the vehicles early in 2015.

City council agreed to accept a new agreement for city trash service that included a recycling component. Customers were issued two trash cans, one for regular trash and one for recycling with each being picked up once each week. Some citizens expressed little enthusiasm for the recycling program and were not happy about the reduction of their trash pickup to once per week. In an appeasement effort the new agreement provided customers the option of taking two regular trash cans with no recycling but trash still would be picked up only once each week.

In March the Lady Mavericks won the state basketball championship. Manvel overcame an early 18-4 deficit to win the game. The city celebrated with a parade and pep rally with many local dignitaries in attendance. The team played to a 38-2 overall record. All-American Briana Turner led the team and was awarded the MVP trophy. She also was named the National Gatorade Player of the Year and was recognized in Hollywood as part of the ESPY awards. She also participated in a national competition where she won a gold medal. Turner received many basketball accolades and will be attending Notre Dame under a full scholarship.

In April Manvel High School made regional news for two incidents at the school. Before the first bell a call was received alleging a student bringing a weapon to campus. The school was locked down for about ten minutes until the named student was intercepted before entering the building. No basis was established to substantiate the report. Later the same day two male students got into an argument with the dispute eventually escalating to a physical confrontation. The perpetrator was arrested by AISD Police and a District spokesman emphasized the two incidents as “totally isolated from each other. It just so happened they were both on the same day.”

May saw Manvel Fire Marshall and Code Enforcement Officer Aaron Bell leave his position with the City after 16 years of service. Bell began work for the city’s police department in 1998, eventually reaching the rank of captain. In 2010 he was appointed as the city’s first Fire Marshal and Code Enforcement Officer. City council honored his years of dedication by hosting a going-away event in his honor.

Also in May city council authorized the acquisition of heavy road building equipment. Formerly the city depended on Brazoria County to provide the necessary equipment and machinery to maintain its roads. The county continues the road rebuilding, which is more intensive than the typical paving overlays that city crews do. It is estimated that about 60% of city road maintenance entails just an overlay and not a rebuilding. Even with questioning by some on council on the obtainability of the funds, council was unanimous in its approval of the purchase. Member Lew Shuffler acknowledged that the equipment should “go a long way as we have heard a lot of people say that we don’t take care of our roads.”

In July Manvel Mayor Delores Martin, having become increasingly fed-up with the amount of illegal dumping occurring in the city, took the initiative to arrange for the installation of cameras in the most violated areas of the city. Police Chief Keith Traylor explained a violator would be ticketed and arrested and subject to a fine ranging between $500 and $2000.

August brought sad news to the community when the husband and son of Manvel High School Principal Charlene Liptak were killed in a plane crash. According to reports, the plane was attempting a landing when it crashed in a field and burned. In a show of support a crowd gathered outside Manvel High School to conduct a prayer vigil.

In September the new Dr James “Red” Duke elementary school was opened to help alleviate crowded conditions at other west side schools in the fast growing Alvin School District. Duke Elementary houses classrooms for 800 students in grades Prekindergarten through fifth grade, and includes areas for physical education, art, music and special classes.

In other AISD news, Superintendent Fred Brent resigned his position. AISD Trustees named a new Superintendent in November after an “exhaustive search.” Dr. James “Buck” Gilcrease will assume his new position in January.

Also in September city council became disturbed that city finances may not be accurately presented by the city’s finance department and that the approved 2015 budget may be based on errant numbers. Questions surfaced as a result of the annual audit being significantly late in completion. Auditors reported several issues of concern, most notably that monthly reconciliations had fallen behind. It was explained that no evidence of impropriety was present. Nonetheless, the matter led to several contentious discussions among the city manager, city council, and the city’s finance director. The city is poised to make the position full-time in 2015 and the current part-time director will not be in consideration.

In December Manvel lost one of its longtime residents when Buddy Williams passed away. Williams was active in city government having served on city council two different times, first from 1992-1994 and then from 2005-2011. He recently was involved in the committee charged with revising the city’s comprehensive plan.

 

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County seeks change in election procedure

January 7, 2014

 

Brazoria County has taken the first step in changing the elections law so that voters would be able to vote at any polling precinct within the county on the day of election. That policy is better known as “Vote Centers” or “Super Precincts”. Currently voters enjoy that option in the early voting process but on Election Day itself the law requires voters cast their ballot only at their precinct location. The county has filed the required notices hoping to be able to enact the new policy for the city and school elections on May 9, 2015 with these Vote Centers.

Prior to being accepted into the Vote Center Program public hearings must be made available throughout the county to solicit input from the voting public. At the hearings information will be presented on how the Vote Centers work and how it will change the way Brazoria County votes. The hearings will be recorded and sent to the Texas Secretary of State to be used in the county approval system. The county requests input from council members, board directors, mayors, school superintendents, citizens from minority and disability groups, and just average citizens. A list of the dates, times, and locations of the public hearings is shown at the end of the story.

The Voter Center idea was begun in 2006 with several iterations of the idea being tested in a few sample counties in subsequent elections. In a report filed by the Secretary of State, it was suggested to require the first election at which countywide polling places are used be an election other than the November general election for state and county officers. This would allow county election officials and voters to become familiar with the concept and in effect run a smaller scale election with countywide election day polling places before deciding whether the county should apply to use the countywide polling places in a November General Election.

The report went on to say that effects on voter turnout in countywide polling were difficult to gauge based on the small sample size of the trial counties. Anecdotal evidence from the participating counties along with the turnout percentages did suggest countywide polling locations offer a way to ensure that voters have an increased opportunity to vote, just as with the early voting process.

Challenges noted in the report appear to predominate in larger counties with higher turnouts. If the countywide polling place does not have sufficient equipment and personnel, delays can occur. The bottlenecks have seemed to occur due either to insufficient equipment to process the voters or backups for when those devices fail. With a reduced number of polling places one of the benefits of the Voter Center method, voting machines can be congregated at a countywide polling place so that an adequate number of voting systems should be available. Brazoria County officials appear confident that they have sufficient equipment and personnel to provide the Voter Center method.

Dates, times, and locations of public hearings follows:
• Hearing No. 1: Tuesday, January 13, 2015, at 7:00 p.m. at the Pearland City Hall, 3519 Liberty Dr., Pearland, Texas
• Hearing No. 2: Wednesday, January 14, 2015, at 7:00 p.m. in the Commissioner’s Courtroom in the Brazoria County Courthouse located at 111 East Locust, First Floor, Angleton, Texas.
• Hearing No. 3: Thursday, January 15, 2015, at 7:00 p.m. at the West Columbia City Council Chambers, 514 E. Brazos Ave. West Columbia, Texas
• Hearing No. 4: Tuesday, January 20, 2015, at 7:00 p.m. at the Alvin City Council Chambers, 216 W. Sealy St., Alvin, Texas
• Hearing No. 5: Wednesday, January 21, 2015, at 7:00 p.m. at the Lake Jackson Civic Center, 333 Highway 332 East, Lake Jackson, Texas.

 

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Long-time City Controller to be replaced

January 14, 2015

 

Manvel Mayor Delores Martin offered an emotional acknowledgement to long-time City Controller Phyllis Herbst at this week’s city council meeting. Herbst will be leaving her position overseeing the city’s finances after twelve years of service. City council considered making the city controller a full-time position during last year’s budget negotiations and did in fact earmark funds to do so in this year’s operating budget. Herbst would likely have been considered for the position but reportedly declined due to an unwillingness to become a full-time city employee.

In recognizing Herbst for her service, Mayor Martin presented a plaque of appreciation which read “for her faithful dedication of twelve years of service guiding the City of Manvel through financial challenges and helping to achieve our AA+ bond rating. We say thank you and God bless you.” Herbst expressed gratitude to council saying she enjoyed her time working for the city and hopes she leaves it in good enough shape for her successor.

In a subsequent action, council did concur with the city manager’s decision to hire Wes Vela as Manvel’s new finance director. Vela will start his work with the city on February 1.

 

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Manvel PD upgrades fleet

January 14, 2015

 

The Manvel Police Department took delivery of three new 2015 Chevy Tahoe vehicles in a significant upgrade to their fleet. Chief of Police Keith Traylor explained the vehicles they replaced had more than served their useful life expectancy. According to the chief the city was spending more money to repair the older units than they were actually worth over the budget year. He said the new vehicles will enable the officers to complete their duties in a vehicle that has been designed around the day to day duties of the officer. He expects the maintenance on the new units to be low and says they will hold up well with their heavy use.

Last year the department added three 2013 Tahoes at a cost of $34,700 each. Chief Traylor said the cost was a little higher on the new vehicles explaining it as due to the newer model year and the increase cost of the equipment. It has not been uncommon in years past for the department to transfer some equipment from older units to use again in the new ones. But according to the chief the new vehicles are all new as the older equipment, like the cars they were part of, had outlived their useful life expectancy. As the chief explained it, “Like all technology, the equipment that is used in these vehicles has to be upgraded over time.”

The Police fleet now consists solely of the six patrol units.

 

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Manvel mourns students

January 14, 2015

 

A gray, damp, and dreary sky established a suitable context for mourners who poignantly released hundreds of balloons last Friday to honor and remember three Manvel High School students who sadly lost their lives in a car crash in Manvel. In moving silence the balloons grew ever faint as a cold blustery wind carried them higher and farther until finally they could be seen no more, suggesting a suitable passage to three young lives who will be missed by so many.

The bereavement marks the second this year the school and community have endured. In August, just as the new school year was dawning, Manvel High School’s principal lost her husband and young son to a plane crash. Students and the community rallied in support then and are once again dealing with indefinable grief and incomprehension of a senseless loss. Faith has been challenged as the despair provides little more to cling to than trusting a higher purpose results from the tragedy.

The dead were all seniors, enrolled in dual credit classes with Alvin Community College, and described by their school principal as actively planning their futures. Josh Rodriguez was a resident of Pearland and played football and soccer. He was an active student who was always happy and loved life. He was enthusiastic, vibrant and athletic. He was making plans to attend the University of Houston with a major in engineering. Josh left behind a 10th grade sibling at Manvel High School and a 5th grade sibling at Mary Marek Elementary, as well as an older sibling that was a 2013 graduate of Manvel High School.

Zornitsa “Zori” Petrova was also a resident of Pearland. Zori was the senior class president and a member of the Manvel High School swim and tennis teams. She had an outgoing, contagious personality. She was a brilliant student and an integral member of the debate and academic decathlon teams. She had been accepted, and was planning to attend Texas A&M University. Zori left behind a 10th grade brother also at Manvel High School.

Sara Silvas was in her second year at Manvel High School previously attending Brazoswood High School. She was a resident of Clute, Texas. She was a key member of the Manvel High School varsity softball team. Sara always had a bright smile and was a vibrant part of the Manvel High School community. She was kind, hardworking, and always helpful. She was making plans to attend the University of Texas at San Antonio. Sara is the daughter of Manvel High School Dual Credit Advisor, Monica Silvas, described as an instrumental part of the Maverick (Manvel High School mascot) family. Sara leaves behind older siblings who did not attend school in Alvin ISD.

On Friday afternoon, students from Manvel High School, in collaboration with the campus and many community members, conducted the memorial service to honor the memory of their classmates. In speaking for AISD, Daniel Combs explained the school district wants to provide all the support it can for the students and families. He expressed gratitude and appreciation to both Pearland and Manvel communities which have reached out with tremendous support for the High School.

Principal Charlotte Liptak described the three as model students and loved by all. She said, “they were exceptional athletes, brilliant minds, and great friends. They all loved and were loved passionately.” Liptak went on to say that she has found no words to provide comfort. She could only assure that the Manvel community was holding them in support and that a Creator, “stronger than any of us”, does so as well. She encouraged the grievers to lean on those supports and let them help.

In reaching for anything positive from so distressing an event, perhaps a consequence of the single vehicle crash will be a resultant pause to young drivers. Automobiles controlled by teens are too often the cause of their death. Traffic crashes, in fact, are the leading cause of death for teenagers across the United States. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, teenagers drive less than all but the oldest people but their numbers of crashes and crash deaths are disproportionately high. The fatal crash rate for 16-19 year-olds is nearly 3 times the rate for drivers ages 20 and over. Risk is highest at ages 16-17 and is nearly twice as high as it is for 18-19 year-olds.

 

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Council discusses Master Drainage Plan

January 21, 2015

 

Manvel city council again discussed the Master Drainage Plan that was presented initially in early 2014. Klotz Associates was retained by the city at a cost of $50,000 to prepare the Plan with the underlying objective to provide recommendations for drainage improvements to the city in order to meet continued growth and future needs. Authors described the Plan 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.”

Manvel deals with three unique Drainage Districts. Pearland’s Drainage District 4 oversees 27% of the area primarily in the central northern and some of the western portions of Manvel. Brazoria County Drainage District 5 oversees 15% of the area primarily in the southern portion of the city. And the Conservation and Reclamation District 3 oversees 55% of the area primarily in the eastern portion. Three percent of the city has no Drainage District authority at all. Analysis of the area shows that 34% of the city is in a floodplain and 3% is in a floodway based on FEMA criteria. A floodplain is an area near a river, stream, or bayou which floods when the water level reaches flood stage. A floodway consists of the stream channel and adjacent areas that actively carry the flood flows downstream.

Two scenarios were proposed in the Plan. One deals with currently existing flows within the banks of all major channels, and ultimately within the proposed right-of-way. This scenario reflects an option for the city to prepare for and promote future channel improvements primarily by adding sub-regional detention ponds located at areas north of Hwy 6 or by on-site detention. A second scenario reflects an option for the city to prepare for and promote future detention mitigation that would convey the 100-year flows within the banks of all major channels and ultimately within the proposed right-of-way. The scenarios are not easily described in a few sentences as the plans include many considerations. In a few words, 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.

Proposed costs for each scenario approximates more than $125 million in today’s dollars. The bulk of the costs would be borne by future developers though the city will be required to fund some improvements as well. Several funding strategies were proposed including external funding sources, utility or special districts, impact fees, and various types of internal funding mechanisms.

Some on council have taken issues with the Plan and its cost and question the perceived adverse effects on current residents and their property limits. Most outspoken is member Melody Hanson. She expresses concerns that some Manvel residents 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.” 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. Hanson goes on to say that the “thrust of the Plan is wrong.” She says the Plan is for developers and future growth, not for the people who live here now and are burdened by poor drainage. New development should shoulder the burden of the changes growth will bring, she believes. “It seems so imbalanced to me.”

Hanson also is concerned that council’s questions have not been answered by the authors of the Plan. She says the revised Comprehensive Plan the city is adopting has an entire section devoted to drainage concerns and feels it is the number one issue citizens have. She thinks sufficient time needs to be devoted to seriously analyze the Plan and it impact on the community. Authors of the Plan have refused to address council inquiries until an agreement is reached that will pay them an additional nine thousand dollars. Hanson says that is a “lot for two pages of questions. I’m not saying let’s reject it. I’m just not ready to enact it and take the word of one consultant and radically change our city because of it. I see it more as a drainage study versus a drainage plan.” Until the questions council has are answered, Hanson emphasizes an emphatic no to any approval of the Plan as it is currently understood.

The city manager has been directed to further negotiate with the authors of the Plan in an effort to come up with a “more reasonable” price.

 

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Rodeo Palms to resume building

January 21, 2015

 

Manvel city council approved the first reading of an ordinance that would lift the moratorium on property development within the boundaries of MUD 29, which services the Rodeo Palms subdivision. The moratorium was initially issued in June 2013 due to insufficient water capacity being available to residents. Existing wells failed to produce at the capacity they were designed for and council authorized the building moratorium until MUD engineers, with verification from the city’s engineer, could verify sufficient capacity is present to adequately serve current residents and to accommodate new development within the subdivision.

A new well was required to be constructed and took nearly a year to complete. City Manager Kyle Jung told council that reports have been submitted and verified that confirm the new well is up and running and certify that the MUD is able to provide ample water capacity for the entire district. The attorney for the MUD said that there is now produced more water than will be needed to finish out the district.

Subsequent to the vote to lift the moratorium, council approved the addition of land to be annexed into MUD 29. A second reading and approval is required before the action can be realized and builders will be able to renew their construction activities at that time.

Rodeo Palms residents had been living 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.

In other news concerning Rodeo Palms, council approved the first reading of three ordinances that will add stop signs at various locations in the subdivision. A four-way stop will be implemented at the intersection of San Simeon Drive at Santa Clara Drive. A stop sign will be placed on Rodeo Drive in both north and south bound directions at the intersection with Palm Desert. And a stop sign will be installed in the south bound direction of Royal Rose Drive at Oakland Park Drive. A second reading is required and it is expected council will approve it at its next meeting on January 26. It is hoped the signs will help reduce speeding vehicles through the subdivision and will create a safer environment for residents.

 

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City hires attorney

January 28, 2015

 

Manvel city council authorized Mayor Martin to execute an employment agreement with Bobby Gervais to become the city’s first on-staff attorney. Gervais has served as the city attorney on a contract basis for years and is well regarded by city administrators and elected officials. With the growing demands on city legal services council set aside funds in the current budget year to afford the hire. The city should see a savings in their contract expenditures with Gervais coming on full-time. Shown in the photo is Gervais with Mayor Delores Martin.

 

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City's residential development continues its momentum

January 28, 2015

 

Representatives from three of the city’s large developments made presentations of one form or another at Manvel’s city council meeting this week. Sedona Lakes would like to request a change to its development agreement and wanted to provide council notice of its intent and to explain the reasons. Landeavor acquired the development already in process in mid-2013 and has significantly upgraded the development’s landscaping and other things to overcome an image that had been less than favorable. Since acquiring the property, 192 lots have been delivered to builders and 140 are currently under development. The original developer had sold 180 homes in the nearly four years they had control at an average price of just under $400,000. Since the ownership change, 130 homes have been sold at “fairly significant” price points. Sixty foot lots are averaging $350,000, seventy foot lots are averaging around $450,000, and the eighty foot lots are averaging around $575,000. Thirty homes are currently listed for sale with twenty-five of them listed at more than $500,000.

While expressing pleasure at the high prices, the developer says they are missing an opportunity to appeal to buyers desiring a smaller home and lot size and a lower price point. One of their requested changes would allow them to market to those buyers. Phase 4 of the project lies to the south of Mustang Bayou and it is in that phase the developer would like to accommodate that smaller product.

The original land plan included 854 lots. The requested amended land plan would increase that count to 1051. 144 of those lots would come from a twenty-acre tract on the north-east side of the current development that was not a part of the original plan. It is currently under contract. The other 55 lots would come from a revision of Phase 4 of the plan with many attributed to a former parcel allocated to AISD for a school site. AISD apparently is willing to forego the property. Phase 4 was originally planned for all 60-foot lots. The proposed revision would provide a combination of 50-foot, 55-foot, and 60-foot lots. The developer claims the average lot size of the entire development would remain within the required 60-foot average the city mandates.

Another amendment requested by Landeavor would provide flexibility in the marketing of the 40-acres along Hwy 288 originally dedicated to commercial development. No interest from commercial developers has been forthcoming and they would like an opportunity to entertain other potential uses of the property that might include a combination of uses such as multi-family and high-density residential. The site is lacking appeal for commercial purposes due to the lack of easy access from 288. As no frontage road is planned along that portion of 288, access would be awkward and inconvenient. The developer allayed concerns from council that a multi-family development would detract from the quality of the development by explaining its natural buffer from the residential portion of the development by both County Road 94 which runs parallel to 288, a sizeable detention pond, and a natural wooded area “where you can’t even see the apartments from the residential.”

Landeavor feels they are not asking for anything not granted to other master-planned communities in the city and are just wanting a “fair shake.” When the original development agreement was negotiated the city was firm in not allowing apartments in the city. However, the Pomona development, located just across 288 from Sedona Lakes, has a master plan that provides for several multi-family options including apartments. As Landeavor explains it, they are just wanting a level playing field.

Council will expect the desired amendments to be put up for a vote in a future meeting.

The Lakeland subdivision petitioned council to approve variances in the Subdivision ordinance to alter setbacks on corner and cul-de-sac lots in Phase 3 of their project. The ordinance reads contrary to the city’s zoning ordinance which does allow for the actions requested. City staff has been slow to amend the ordinances to read compatible with one another. The corner setback request allows homes to face their respective streets in opposite directions. The cul-de-sac setback request allows for better placement of the home in relation to the circle drive. Both variances had been approved for both Phase 1 and 2 and council agreed to be consistent in its actions by authorizing the variances for Phase 3 as well. Lakeland also received approval for the preliminary plat for Phase 3 which consists of slightly more than 40 acres.

Developers of the Pomona master planned community were also in attendance requesting amendments to their development agreement. The changes would alter the path of a roadway and allow for an entry monument sign and a larger sign along the 5-acre lake that will greet visitors upon entering the project. Both requests were approved by council. Also approved was a request by the project’s developers to allow permits to start six model homes and the recreation center prior to the recording of the final plat. The approval will allow the model homes and rec center to be completed sooner than would otherwise be the case, thereby making them available to the public at an earlier date. An update on the progress of the development was given with an aerial photograph showing the site work that has been completed to date. Concrete was planned to be poured on the primary entrance to the project from County Road 101 this week. The 1,000-acre property will eventually contain approximately 2,100 single-family homes and will feature amenities, schools and gathering spaces linked by an extensive trail system. More than 300 acres of the property will remain open space in the form of wetlands and protective waters. Commercial and multi-family sites are also part of the master plan.

As the rooftops continue their progress it becomes increasingly likely that commercial and retail development will soon follow.

 

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Questions remain unanswered at Shiloh Treatment Center

January 28, 2015

 

At a recent city council meeting discussion was initiated regarding unanswered questions on the actions and arrangements at the Shiloh Treatment Center. The facility is located in Manvel’s northern Extra Territorial Jurisdiction (ETJ) at 3926 Bahler Avenue (CR 100) and has been the subject of controversy for years as a cloud of secrecy encompasses the facility on what actually goes on there and the manner in which funds are being spent. It has been reported that federal tax payers were burdened with a price tag in the neighborhood of $5 million last year. The center is reported to have 32 beds. At a $5 million funding level the numbers break down as follows: $416,666 per month, $96,154 per week, and $13,699 per day. The daily per bed rate would be some $428. According to a Houston Chronicle article last December, the federal government has paid more than $13 million to the Center since 2009.

Last year the facility once again found itself on the radar of city officials subsequent to the influx of illegal children that poured across the southern border when it was learned that some of those children would be housed at the facility. Manvel Mayor Delores Martin made inquiries of the facility but received no satisfaction. Concerns expressed to federal officials resulted last summer in a group led by Congressman Pete Olsen to pay a visit to the site in an effort to get answers to its operation. As was the case with Mayor Martin, Olsen also was given little satisfaction in his efforts. Olsen reportedly followed up with inquiries of the federal agency charged with oversight of the facility but again was reported to receive only a standard “boiler plate” response that did little to nothing to allay concerns many maintain today.

A website for Shiloh Treatment Center provides little information other than reporting it as specializing in providing treatment services for children and youth with behavioral and emotional problems. In addition to the residential services the site claims to also provide day treatment and numerous outpatient psychiatric and counseling services.

Council member Melody Hanson requested the matter be put on the council agenda to provide a backstory on what she learned at a meeting she attended with the Mayor and fellow member Lew Shuffler. While acknowledging there is nothing the council can do regarding the facility as it does set outside the city’s limits, she did not want to remain silent and wants her fellow citizens to be aware of how their tax dollars are being spent. She feels the reported abuses indicate the children are not being adequately provided for. She considers the operation a “sham” and would like to see the place closed and feels it will only be so when tax payers come together and say stop.

Member Lew Shuffler said he visited the facility on four occasions and never found one person on site. He said he did not even see a vehicle and they “were supposed to be housing kids there.”

Shiloh’s president is a man named Clay Hill. After Mayor Martin raised questions last summer he reportedly contacted her to request a meeting. Martin said she would be happy to allow him to state his case in front of an open city council meeting but he has yet to respond to the invitation.

A similar facility owned by the same entity controlled by Hill was shut down by the state in 2011 after numerous investigations of abuse and even two deaths of children staying there. The Daystar Residential Treatment Center, like Shiloh today, received much scrutiny from county law enforcement with the District Attorney pursuing criminal charges from the abuse allegations and even sending letters to the state and federal agency charged with oversight of the facility.

Council member Hanson, like many in the county, hopes the publicity reaches citizens and eventually leads to a closure of the facility. According to the Chronicle article, Shiloh’s grant runs through 2016.

 

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