Friday, January 29, 2010

Interesting thoughts from a councilman...

Most people I know understand what I mean when I talk about libertarianism. It is not an advocation of drug legalization or anarchy. It is the assertion of freedom from governement intervention in your pursuit of life, liberty, or happiness( or property). In the words of Dr Thomas Sowell: Freedom ultimately means the right of other people to do things that you do not approve of.

Which brings me to me to this article by one of our councilmen:

"Which leads me to another point. There are some who believe the city should allow any business to come to Rockwall anywhere they decide they want to come. This opinion is held by a very small, but very vocal minority of people. But that mindset is dangerous—just ask the City of Houston.

The City of Houston has no zoning—this means businesses can locate anywhere they can buy land. You can have houses next to oil and lube shops next to pawn shops, etc. It’s a horrible way to run a city, and most people realize that certain businesses belong in certain areas or in proximity to other similar businesses. "

If I asked Houston, they would tell me it is a horrible way to run the city? Why hasn't Houston then instituted hard nosed zoning like Rockwall?

From Wikipedia:

Houston is second to New York City in Fortune 500 headquartes (26)

Houston dominates the U.S. production of three major resins: polyethylene (38.7% of U.S. capacity); polyvinyl chloride (35.9% of U.S. capacity) and polypropylene (48.4% of U.S. capacity).

Houston is home to more than 10,700 manufacturing establishments. The city ranked as a Gold Medal World-Class Community for Manufacturing for four consecutive years by Industry Week magazine.

Houston is projected to experience a 2.7 percent increase in manufacturing employment by 2012

Metals manufacturing is a $12.0 billion industry in Houston, with nearly 2,100 establishments employing more than 67,000 workers in the region.

Approximately 250 establishments employ more than 20,000 people in Houston’s electronics manufacturing industries. Hewlett Packard employs more people in its Houston operations than any other HP facility in the world.

Of the world’s 100 largest non-U.S.-based corporations, more than half have operations in Houston.

In 2006, the Houston metropolitan area ranked first in Texas and third in the U.S. within the category of "Best Places for Business and Careers" by Forbes.

I've read some other things pro and con for Houston's policy, but the price of freedom IS others doing things you don't like.

Another interesting article:

What is unique about Houston is that the separation of land uses is impelled by economic forces rather than mandatory zoning. While it is theoretically possible for a petrochemical refinery to locate next to a housing development, it is unlikely that profit-maximizing real-estate developers will allow this to happen. Developers employ widespread private covenants and deed restrictions, which serve a comparable role as zoning. These privately prescribed land use controls are effective because they have a legal precedence and local government has chosen to assist in enforcing them.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Rockwall County Elections

Here is an excellent questionnaire with specific county issues sent out to all candidates for county office. Not all responded, I guess they don't want you to know where they stand.

Or if you want to vote based on best yard signs, you can do that instead.

Rockwall City Council 19 January

Full council present for the full meeting, how'd that happen?

Actions from executive committee:

1. Reappoint Councilman Sevier to Fire Dept Pension board.

2. Julia Marianat? (Sounded like Julia, a marionette, but that can't be right) appointed to Architechtural Review Board.

III. Consent Agenda.

4 Pulled by Glen, 2 Pulled by Mark

2. Minutes approval.

Remainder approved 7-0.

4. TxDOT wants to put an antenna on a water tower for controlling or monitoring traffic signals. Glen pulled because he wanted information on an electronic sign (which I heard is around $70,000) the city wants to put somewhere on TxDOT right-of-way. TxDOT has yet to even visit Rockwall for the purpose of finding an appropriate site for the sign, which has been a long time coming.

Glen motions to table until next meeting, hoping that TxDOT will visit Rockwall, but according to City Manager and Parks Dept Director probably won't happen.

IV. Appointments.

1. P&Z Chairman Hunter presented recent actions of the P&Z for the upcoming public hearings.

V. Public Hearings.

1. Fella wants to build a car port on the back of his house and needs a replat to do so. Twenty-eight (28) notices went out to neighbors, zero (o) came back to P&Z. Maybe shoulda sent notices out 1000'!

Passes 7-0

2. Proposed 7-11 at the corner of Tubbs and Horizon. Failed P&Z 4-3 mainly (as I understand) because it wasn't as fancyas the new one at 552 and 205. Applicant withdrew case, so no council action and no public hearing.

3. Some guy wants to build a 4,000 sqft building on his 8.5 acre lot, exceding city's max allowed sqft of 2,000. SUP would also allow considerations for not meeting height maximum and exterior requirements. Of the notices that went out, neighbors opposed because they would have to look at the building. Applicant could not make the public hearing, and it is continued until next council meeting.

4. City changing terms of P&Z commissioners from 2 years to 3 years. Passes 7-0.

VI. Action Items.

1. City teaming or getting involved with a health/fitness initiative. Will get some logos and links placed on some websites promoting fitness activities in Rockwall.

2. Rockwall Honda Yamaha's existing sign cannot be seen from I-30 when travelers are estbound. It also fails to meet franchise requirements Yamaha has for franchisees. They would like a sign 20' higher than it is now.

Mayor Cecil makes a motion to approve, Councilman Scott seconds.

Then begins Concilman Farris' ever diligent and irrational opposition to any type of useful or visible sign directing customers to businesses.

Glen oppositions:

1. The new sign will not be visible from the interstate.

2. He hates signs that can be seen by anyone who isn't looking directly at one from a distance of more than 1 meter (i.e monument signs).

3. If the council allows this sign, others may follow in their desire to more effectively promote their business.

4. Too much "sign clutter" already, many of which predated Glen's arrival to Rockwall.

5. Rockwall Honda's marketing is good enough (particularly email) that Rockwall Honda needs no other help a new sign may or may not offer even if the majority of Rockwall Honda's sales are impulse purchases, and not a result of email marketing or repeat business.

Matt Scott, saying what everyone familiar with Glen's crusade were thinking: that we could get though this issue without Glen's speechifying.

Councilman Scott stated that this was reasonable and agreed with the request.

Margo Nielsen agreed with the problem of "sign clutter", but stated signs that people can see and are useful for increasing business are a good thing. [emphasis mine]

Cliff asked how long Honda has been there. Answer: 8 years, and the owner said it has been a problem since opening.

David Sweet commended Glen's jihad against signs. I think he then said the size increase won't be that great an improvement. (I THINK.)

Mark Russo then added that no signs or hard to see signs makes it hard to find businesses (note: just visit, Plano, Stonebriar, Frisco)

Passes 6-1, Glen opposed.

3. An existing city ordinance requires that if your business holds a special event (like a tent sale), the event must be affiliated with a non-profit who must carry the permit, whether or not the non-profit actually receives a benefit. (Only a government could think of such a rule.)

The change would be that a business would no longer have to have a non-profit get the permit, but would limit the number of "events" to 4 per year.

Last year, 10-12 business were denied special event permits because no non-profit organizations were involved.

Margo made a motion to approve. Mark asked to remove the limit of 4. Glen seconded the motion, but not with the limit removed. More than 4 can happen with a variance.

Passed 7-0 (I think)

4. At a recent conference, it was determined that city's should be "known for something". "Capital of this" or "Biggest something", etc.

By a 7-0 vote, Rockwall will now be known as "Live Music Capital of North Texas".

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Rockwall City Council 04 January

First council meeting of the year!

Meeting opens with Mayor Cecil recognizing a UN delegation.

A girl who was a foreign exchange student (3 years ago) from Brazil got the honor to sit in Mark Russo's seat (not with Mark, he was sick). She also received a/the key to the city.

Another local resident from Cameroon was also present. The mayor recognized him and his father and mother-in-law. Either the son-in-law or father-in-law had received the key a/the key to the city a few years ago.

Hope that isn't too expensive making all those keys. We need to get a security deposit from recipients, just in case they lose em.

III. Open Forum

1. Pastor Joe Robbins commended the city on a "job well done". Not sure which job he was referring.

He also thanked the city for the construction of 205. Did the city do that? I thought that was a state project.

2. Former P&Z Chair Bill Bricker thanked the city for allowing some development signs awhile back. He wasn't sure if the signs helped, but they didn't hurt.

IV. Consent Agenda.

All passed without any pulled.

Nothing too anger inducing. 2nd reading of annexation from previous meeting.

V. Action Items.

1. Expansion of notification of zoning changes. Currently, property owners within 200 foot radius are notified. Councilman Scott wants that extended to 1000 feet. Staff recommends a tiered approach (based on acreage of land with zoning change) as well as fee changes. Margo Nielsen expressed support of this idea.

The basis is that people don't get notified sufficiently when a zoning change occurs relatively nearby their home or business.

Mr Bricker got the opportunity to read a statement expressing his views as a developer. He seemed generally opposed to the expansion of the notification. Changes such as this can negatively affect a developers decision where to develop.

Mr Bricker also noted that people who are attentive by doing things such as subscribing to eNews and reading the city's website are already informed about things such as zoning changes.

Mr Bricker was called the "exception to the rule" for his due diligence. I like to think Mr Bricker's interest in his city is the rule, not paying attention is the exception.

Matt Scott made the point that many times the city passes an action then receives a lot of flack after the fact.

I encourage everyone to go to council, get eNews, etc. I tell them it's 50% their fault if the city does something they don't like (the other 50% belonging to council). More often than not, there are multiple opportunities to give input to the city prior to an issue ever even making it to council for vote. (For example, zoning changes will have multiple public hearings at P&Z and council.)

Mr LaCroix pointed out that the Rockwall network in a recent case was more effective stirring up a neighborhood, even before any notices went out.

Mayor Cecil thought it was going overboard to send out even more notices than already sent. Also, an issue may get feedback from a party for whom it will not affect.

Glen Farris wants the city to implement social media to assist in getting news from the city out to the public. He also opposed the increase in the cost of implementing this.

Cliff Sevier noted that no matter how far you extend the distance of notification, there will always be one party 10 inches from the barrier who will complain about not getting notified.

Councilman Scott then accused Mayor Cecil and Councilmen Sevier and Farris that they were "not concerned about informing citizens."

Councilman David Sweet expressed his support and his incredulity at the opposition's view.

Cliff noted that even at 200 feet, most notices never comeback with any feedback from citizens.

(note: Very few public hearings ever have more than a couple people show up, if that even. A couple hearings have had a lot of people, but that is pretty rare.)

Mayor Cecil then directed staff to send out notices via eNews and post on the website.

This then further angered Councilmen Scott (Sweet too, I think) that those receiving eNews are the very people who Mayor Cecil didn't think would be affected by an issue.

Mr Scott then demanded to know from the Mayor if his opposition was because "it wasn't his (the Mayor's) idea."

That reminds me, some store called. They were running out of him.

Mayor Cecil heroically chastised Councilman Scott for his inappropriate question and refused to answer.

Failed 3-3.

CORRECTION: Allied does not hand out the recycling as stated in previous post. The city of Rockwall does. Also, a shout out to Mary Smith, Director of the Finance department. One of those (Mr X) who couldn't get his recycling bin was able to get one thanks to Ms Smith going above and beyond and retrieving one for Mr X to take home. Now he can save the planet just like me!

Also, I think regarding the city contribution for the matching grant thing for John King Blvd is $150,000, not $400,000. As one council man told me, "A Savings for the city!!!". Only a politician can spend $150,000 and call it saving money.