Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Rockwall City Council 15 March

III. Consent Agenda.

1 & 6 pulled by Matt Scott. Rest approved 7-0, including the new sign ordinance which is comprehensive and will not at all create any issues for those needing signs at their businesses.

1. Minutes from meeting Matt Scott missed.

6. Replat of an area that is part of Pebblebrook Apartments for the purpose of building more apartments as allowed by the current zoning of Multi-family. Seems a couple people who live in a house nearby oppose the idea of more apartments or the way the apartments were going to be built. Planning and Zoning approved. Council is trying to play peacemaker by trying to get the HOA and the apartment to agree on the replat. Seems as though council can't really stop this, and the replat will automatically go throuhg by virtue of the P&Z approval in less than 30 days.

Motion to postpone/table passes 6-1, Glen Farris opposed.

IV. Appointments.

1. P&Z Chairman Michael Hunter spoke of the public hearings on the agenda. Regarding the first public hearing, the applicant withdrew the case.

The second public hearing was for a proposed 7-11. That was tabled as P&Z could not come to a decision to allow a business to bring employment and taxes to Rockwall, or deny a business bringing employment and taxes to Rockwall. P&Z will hear again and then once again back to council.

The 7-11 wants more than 2-pumps (as allowed by the current Planned Development), and somehow the types of brick and roof pitch affect how the number of pumps decision.

The 7-11 has met the masonry standard, not asking for any building or landscape variance, and have gone above and beyond and met all the architectural demands the P&Z had asked for that caused the denial the first time.

Rockwall welcomes all businesses.

Matt Scott further expressed that the 7-11 will increase the number of people (kids) at the 3097/Tubbs crosswalk, and that the street lights are inadequate.

VI. Action Items.

1. Glen Farris loves social media and wants the city to love it too. The city has started the process of looking into what possibilities can be considered when they get around to utilizing social media.

There is a lot of training available for government employees to learn how to use Facebook, Twitter, etc. I suggest hiring 14-year old girls to run the Facebook page, sounds a lot cheaper and most are experts already. A "not free, but not cheap" conference has piqued the interest of staff that will offer training on how to use social media. Seems it's all about how to do stuff, and not legal type stuff.

Glen then (again) reminded people how awfully wrong the "blogosphere" is in Rockwall. And that misinformation was rampant from the blogs about Rockwall. Especially that report of $150,000 lights that weren't approved by council, YET.

FROM THE TOP OF THIS BLOG: ...and report a biased opinion of what I witness.

Of course if it wasn't for misinformation, there would be no information coming out of council meetings.

Glen Farris also mentioned that Ustream could be utilized to broadcast the meetings for free, and would only require a small purchase of a web cam or two. Quite a sensible difference than the estimated $40,000-$80,000 estimate from a while back!

The discussion also delved into policy, what can and cannot be posted and who would control, etc. David Sweet mentioned that something popped up on the REDC Facebook, but he wasn't sure what was on there and if it was or wasn't something. I think he's talking about this:

No city staff saw anything wrong with an official arm of the city (essentially the City of Rockwall) joining Facebook pages advocating the election of a candidate or two, even if one of those candidates sits on the board of the REDC. Well, no staff except the city attorney who recommended the removal of those from the REDC Facebook page, even though he didn't think anything was wrong (legally) with it.

New improved page:

I seriously doubt either candidate knew that some rogue REDC employee had done such things.

3. The new Tom Thumb shopping center (that's what normal people will call it, but it's really "The Shops at Stone Creek") needs a sign plan approval, because what they want and need will exceed the allowance by the sign ordinance. They would like to add 2 useful signs to the property, but due to the sign ordinance they are required to have signs they don't want or need that read "The Shops at Stone Creek" and the number of signs allowed will be exceeded with the approval of the two additional signs. Doh!

Margo Nielsen thinks even the number of allowed signs seemed like too many.

Glen hates signs.

David Sweet and Matt Scott thought that two more signs were "overkill".

Glen Farris wanted to know if certain signs could be combined, but during the sign ordinance discussions both council and P&Z said no to that idea.

Glen then made a motion to deny the request.

Mark Russo noted that the city's sign ordinance is what is causing the conflict!

The land can get a replat and get one of the signs without having to jump through any unnecessary hoops and fully comply to the ordinance. I'll be that's what they do...

One councilman (forgot which) asked if the council could block that move, and P&Z Director Robert LaCroix said no.

Motion to deny the "Shops at Stone Creek" the ability to advertise, thereby increasing revenue and taxes paid to the city denied 4-3. Mark Russo, Mayor Ceci,l and Councilman Sevier opposed the idea of denying the "Shops at Stone Creek" the ability to advertise, thereby increasing revenue and taxes paid to the city.

"The most pro-business council I have ever seen" I was once told by a sitting councilman.

4. Parks Department director Brad Griggs presented a plan for the Northshore Park located north/adjacent to Reinhardt. It is an expansion of the existing park with some upgrades and new equipment. Total cost $145,000, with money coming from the Park Development Fund. Will be completed by July.

5. San Jacinto Street between Rusk Street and Washington Street will be closed off every 2nd Saturday from May to October for a arty/crafty sale. All property owners affected were ok with the idea. Motion to approve passed 7-0.

Cliff Sevier gave a shout-out to the downtown coordinator for all the work she has done to revitalize downtown and helping businesses grow. I can't wait to see the hard numbers that I am sure the city has been keeping to verify that!

I wonder why the city didn't just hire a dedicated code enforcement officer to force people downtown to comply with the vision the city has for the area. Worked for Lake Rockwall (or did it??)!

6. Put in some radio stuff for the city's Radio Communication System so code enforcement and police can respond more quickly to parking violations at the Park at Fox Chase passed 7-0.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Banning and No-ing Commission.

I was not present at this meeting; a little birdie was my source for the following info, so if any of the information is wrong, blame that person.

Planning and Zoning a public hearing for a proposed 7-11. An SUP is needed for "retail store with gasoline product sales with more than 2 dispensers". 7-11 would like to install 6 pumps.

I clarify: 7-11 needs an SUP to get more pumps than currently allowed (2) by the Planned Development zoning.

This item was before P&Z not too long ago, and 7-11 withdrew to make changes to things P&Z objected. And they did. They improved the "look" as they were asked.

HOWEVER, some of our more central planning minded and micromanaging commissioners have once again put up a roadblock to progress.

Some of the new objections from some commissioners:

-A DVD rental kiosk designed to be outside located outside
-Propane rental located outside (Unlawful to locate anywhere else, but who cares, amiright?)
-An ice machine located outside (The stupid is strong with this one)
-Anything located outside - (Only low-life jerks like things displayed outside, I guess.)
-7-11 (Opposed just cuz)
-6 pumps because there are already enough pumps on 3097 (!!!)

Some of the objections from the Fox Chase HOA (1 of only 4 neighborhoods at that corner):

-Kids will cross 3097 to get to the 7-11. Why was there no opposition to the crosswalk that was painted there as well? AND, people (including kids) already cross 3097 to get to the Park at Fox Chase. I am unaware of ANY incident/accident ever happening at that intersection. But, people do like to use false claims of unsafe conditions to get their way.

Did I mention people cross that intersection all day long?

-People will buy alcohol and take it to the park. By people, I think they mean "those" people at Lake Rockwall Estates. Also, it is unlawful to drink any alcohol in any park in the city. Well, except the Harbor, the "Outdoor Entertainment Area" that isn't a park which is just an area that is used for entertainment outdoors.

-There will be an increase in traffic. I assume they don't mean people who drive passed that intersection already, and instead they mean people all over Rockwall will pass several convenience stores already in town and go way out of their way just to use this 7-11. Plus, there is no traffic light and that will further increase the traffic problem because people will line up for miles and miles just to get a Big Gulp.

-There will be lights. Similar to the bevy of lights at the Hospital right next door?!?

The Hospital likes the idea and supports the idea. They would love to have a convenient convenience store.

Rob Whittle (developer) noted that the plan for this area was done in 1986, and has turned out better than envisioned. The plan for that corner has always been for a convenience store. There is also a plan to put a retail center around the 7-11.

After 2 dead-locked votes of 3-3 (Minth, Stubbs and Buchanan were the anti-business side, while Chairman Hunter, Vice Chairman Herbst, and Jackson were the pro-business side.)

Mr Hayes was absent, hence the deadlock. A motion to table until next meeting was passed.

Rocwkall may have the "most pro-business council ever seen" as I was once told, but this action by P&Z sure doesn't reflect that.

Even it passes, what will that really mean? More sales tax and property tax for the city? Maybe the-anti business commissioners are right, we can always use rainbows and unicorns to pay for needed services.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Why is this surprising? David White for Rockwall City Council, Place 6

It has apparently shocked a few that I have filed to run for council. And these are faithful fans of the blog!

I filed last year, but was ineligible. I said then I was likely to run. Very few have asked if I would run, and no one has asked me to run, but I thought the tone and content of this blog was sort of obvious of my intentions.

If you want to know where I stand, it should be evident from the year-plus history available for anyone to read.


Promote Fertile Economic Environment
Promote Frugality in Government
Promote Common Sense Policy
Control bureaucracy, not citizens

There will certainly be some attacks from some low-lifes, but my email is to the right and I will answer any question anyone has about anything.

No web site up, but using free things like Facebook and the blog site goes along with my own personal practice of not spending money just to spend it.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Rockwall City Council 01 March

Quick note: I worked as an alternate judge for the election yesterday. I had multiple opportunities to talk to voters throughout the day. If it's true that "ignorance is bliss", there are a lot of very happy people in this county. Not the majority, and not a large minority, but large enough to affect reasonable assumptions about possible outcomes.

I will no longer encourage the popular mantra "Go Vote" just to vote and "make sure your voice is heard".


Action from Executive Session: Approval of Parcel 32 at Airport Road. Approved 6-0.

III. Open Forum.

1. Pastor Robbins saw the item about the cemetery on 205 and mentioned concerned.

2. Former Councilman Stephen Straughn taken over duties at the Boys and Girls Club. He mentioned that negative things had been said (1) (2) (3) (4) regarding the club between council and the club, and publicly apologized for things said.

Translation: We still broke and gonna be hitting the city up for some cash pretty soon, sooooo sorry.

Glen Farris hopes Mr Straughn can turn it around.

David Sweet offers "anything you need". (Is this, "How much you want?")

Mark Russo wants the city and the club to "work together." (Is this, "How much you need?")

IV. Consent Agenda.

Glen pulled 1 and 6.

Cliff pulled 5 and 9.

David Sweet made a motion to approve rest and then blew a giant bubblegum bubble and popped it breaking world records for size and loudness.

1. Concerned minutes, approved with Glen abstaining.

5. Cliff was confused regarding a speed limit change on 205, he thought the council had already voted on a change. The bypass speed limit was what had been approved, this was for the REAL 205.

6. City wants to put up "historic" lights along 205. Glen wanted to know if the lights would be low energy, like LED, lights. City Engineer Chuck Todd said that type of fixture was not available for that exact model of light. Glen stated he wants the city to set the standard for using low-energy and LED lighting.

City initiating a leadership role and setting an example?!? Be still my heart!

Cliff opposed the lights and the $152,000 price tag for lights no one will notice, and further that the state should be putting lights on a state highway, not the city.

Approved 5-1, Cliff opposed. Maybe Cliff is the only one who thinks $152,000 sounds like real money.

CORRECTION (3-8-10) The motion was to table.

9. Cliff questioned a $14,000 change order for Squabble Creek Wastewater Phase 2. This is to add 4 taps for future use. This was an idea put forth by a citizen and the city staff said it was a good idea [that must have slipped by the city staff and engineers involved in the project] that they just didn't think about.

V. Appointments.

1. P&Z Chairman Michael Hunter didn't have anything to report other than his desire to go get ice cream.

2. The manager from Applebee's wanted his item regarding a late hour permit to sell alcohol removed from the agenda. His permit for selling mediocre food was renewed.

3. A fella has his land in the ETJ of both Rockwall and McClendon-Chisholm (yes, that's a real city) want's it to be just in the ETJ of one city or neither. Motion to dicuss with McClendon-Chisholm passed.

VI. Public Hearing.

1. Continuance from previous meeting regarding fella trying to get a wedding shack built before his daughter's weeding in June. After much discussion betweeen staff, which seemed like it could have been discussed prior to presentation to council, it was approved.

VII. Site Plans/Plats.

1. Right after his annexation, a guy poured a big-o-foundation for a future building. He didn't know that he had been annexed after a 3-year process that involves multiple discussions between land owners and city staff, followed by multiple public hearings where all land owners are notified for each hearing, ending with two separate votes to pass an ordinance to complete the annexation. Oh, and he never got a permit to pour the foundation.

The plan is to build an enclosed building with all steel siding.

P&Z approved his desire to get exterior requirements waived, fire code requirements waived, and parking space requirements waived.

Glen visited the site and spoke to the owner, and Glen was under the impression the owner was going to build a 3-sided "car port" (open on one side, 50% exposure on the other.) Glen expressed that another owner down the street was required to comply to exterior requirements (90% masonry) and did not want to set a precedent for others.

Cliff Sevier has a problem overriding the advice of the Fire Chief, who did not recommend approval of the fire code waiver.

Margo Nielsen wanted to know if the exterior waiver could be approved, and the other two requests denied. Yes.

Glen made motion to deny the request.

Cliff asked why a month ago a similar situation with multiple waivers could not be voted on separately, but this one could. I'm not sure what blank stares from staff mean.

He could build the "car port", but as it is the motion was denied.

VIII. Action Items.

1. Cemetery on 205 (ooh, good name for a Psychobilly group). The staff investigate a bunch of options for historical significance and other things to help keep the cemetery maintained.

Mark made motion to pursue the steps laid out by staff.

Glen asked how much staff time would be used to move through the process, but no one knew.
It was then asked (by Glen, I think) if volunteers could be used by the city to do the leg work associated with the process. Yes, and passed 6-0.

Second motion was to do something else (???) first. Passed also, 6-0.

2. SIGNS ordinance ready to be passed. Pole signs are verboten any where except the I-30 corridor. I guess there is an assumption of exemption for pole signs the city uses for street signs as requiring those to be monument signs would be leading by example. Oh, that and it would be hard to find things.......

Vehicle signs are also permitted. The owners can park their vehicles anywhere on their property.

What a concept. Sheesh.

City Manager Julie Couch got too busy to do a City Manager's report.

Some points were noted:

1. Sales tax for November was up, but down for December and January, and the city was on-track to meet budget.

2. Glen asked about the crime stats from the Harbor, if they were higher than other areas of the city. Cliff asked why the Harbor gets a special report. Chief Moeller answered that council wanted one. Glen wanted to know if the city could work with the Harbor to help reduce incidents, especially people using their position to not pay for valet parking.

3. The city has some corporate sponsors for the Concert by the Lake, notably Rockwall Ford.

4. The downtown association wants to have a ribbon cutting in conjunction with the reopening of 205 to remind people that downtown has stores and resaturants ready to take your money in exchange for goods and services. (Well, except that one that doesn't seem to want to engage in that exchange....)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Waste not, want not. Or not.

Imagine for a minute your home is missing a front door. While at Home Depot to buy a door, you notice that Milwaukee has 19-piece power tool kit on sale for $4,999.00. You don't have $4,999.00, but you do have a credit card. You have no use for a 19-piece Milwaukee power tool kit. But, it's so pretty in it's red and white color scheme, and you will be the envy of all your neighbors!

Imagine still: You don't work in construction. You can't afford it. There is no guarantee you will like it. And very likely, your significant other will be angry at you for purchasing it. In fact, were you to call and ask for permission, the answer would likely be "no". Likely because you cannot afford it. But you do so want it, and after all, Home Depot takes a credit card!

I will focus on the "afford" aspect, rather than the "want" aspect for now.

Not living within your means rarely leads to financial prosperity. I cannot think of anytime running up lots of debt for luxury items, like a 19-piece Milwaukee power tool set, has had any sort of payback to the purchaser. Such is the case for luxury items.

Everyone in Rockwall pays taxes, either property or sales. Tax is the city's income or "paycheck". We are expected by society (whether one does or not) to live a lifestyle that can be supported by one's income. Large purchases bought on credit (mortgage or vehicle) tend to serve utilitarian purposes. Large purchases (like a guitar-shaped swimming pool or vacation to Machu Pichu) may seem fun and great, but unwise should such a purchase jeopardize future financial stability.

Wanting is not the same as needing. Sounds simple enough.

Rockwall has several elected or appointed officials who want a lot of things. Just like a kid going through a toy catalog at Christmastime.

There are several pet projects in the hearts of several of our officials. None are things Rockwall needs, just things those officials want.

It is an irresponsible use of our taxes to fund monuments to egos:

The natatorium where only a select few get to swim.

Football stadium improvements that don't make people run faster or catch more footballs.

The twice-defeated-in-a-bond-election courthouse with gilded toilet seats atop commodes carved from Italian marble.

The "giant tub of concrete" down by the lake. (Not my words, crazy woman on Topix.)

If a wealthy individual decides he needs 15 classic cars and a 100,000 sqft home and has no trouble paying for it, god speed to him. What anyone does with his money is no concern of mine, unless sometime down the line I have to end up paying for it.

This is the case with the city. No matter what the city does, we all end up paying for it. Whether roads or services or city hall or the harbor.

The question then begs, when should the city fund our own Taj Majal? Personally, I would say never. But a different opinion might be when all the necessities (roads, sewers, services, emergency fund, etc - maybe even an area with 40 years of neglect the city heroically decided to rescue.) are fully funded and we have a mountain of surplus. Of course what is a surplus of tax money other than over taxation?

There are reasonable uses of our taxes than can fund recreational or non-vital uses, but we should never go into debt for ten's of millions of dollars every few years to fund such projects.

From Webster's:

: v. to keep in a safe or sound state; especially : to avoid wasteful or destructive use of

Also, n. a delicious jam-like concoction, usually with added nuts and whole fruit.