Friday, December 31, 2010

Rockwall City Council 20 December

Last meeting of the year and they didn't waste anytime screwing over the taxpayers!

Few actions from Backroom Dealings aka "Executive Session".

- Development agreement with Presbyterian Hospital. Passed 7-0

-Something about park projects. Passed 7-0

-From the minutes: "Councilmember Scott made a motion authorize the city manager to execute
development agreements with Harbor Heights Investors subject to resolving the insurance questions, confirming the legal descriptions of the properties involved and approval of the agreements as to legal form." Passed 6-1, Councilman Sevier opposed.

This was regarding PD-32, part of the failed (regardless of what some clueless morons say) Harbor Project. This motion was to move ahead and spend $9,000,000 to put in infrastructure for a new speculative office building.

What you say? When did we start absorbing costs for developers? New to me, too. It is far beyond normal and customary practice for the city to pay for costs that are part of normal commercial development.

There are the defenders of this action (which was a deliberately ambiguous motion if you remember) who will say this will do "this" or "that" and bring in trillions of dollars to Rockwall and this will help the Harbor (why would it need help it it wasn't a failure as some state?) If you recall further the reason for the taxpayer "investment" into PD-32 was to increase "foot traffic" from new residents in homes and apartments...

Anyway what's really going on is political favoring and backroom deals at the expense of the taxpayer. Nothing is being discussed openly or honestly. No one will know anything about it until this part of the harbor fails and we'll be sitting on even more millions upon millions of debt.

Merry Christmas from the City of Rockwall.

Only Councilman Sevier cast the honest vote. The rest gave the proverbial middle finger, albeit secretly, to the rest of us.

III. Consent Agenda.

Councilman Scott pulled items 2,3,6.

Remaining items passed 7-0.

Items 2 and 3 regarded minutes.

Item 6 was Mr Scott's traffic light project at Ralph Hall and 3097. $31,200 for the project, not to mention the destruction of all the foliage. Reason pulled 12% - talk about the project, 78% - grandstand for the audience.

IV Appointments.

1. Planning and Zoning Chairman. Quite a few items, nothing reaching national security level, so I won't detail.

VIII. Action Items.

3. City renaming a portion of FM 3549 to Stoghill Rd. Sounds easy, but it was apparantly Grandstand Night at the Apollo, so Mr Sweet, Mr Scott, and Mr Russo blathered on for 20 minutes about how easy a decision it was to make renaming a street. Not quite as easy as screwing over the taxpayers for $9 million, but still pretty easy.

6. Renaming Caruth Lake to Raymond Cameron Lake. Mr Cameron has been a long time resident of Rockwall and contributed much to the city.

Also, as Councilman Scott noted, the city got involved in litigation with the Caruth family which "caused a lot of heartache" a short time ago, so renaming the lake was a great opportunity to show others what happens if you mess with the city. Watch out, Mr Hubbard.

IV. Appointments.

2. Leadership Rockwall is going to build a Rockwall County dog park at Harry Myers. It was pProposed that it won't cost the city anything to build or maintain for one year. City will resume maintenance (the Parks Dept already does maintain the area in question) after the first year of operation.

Mr Russo commended the project and expressed how this has been a "need" for Rockwall.

(Quick question, does any politician really know the difference between a "need" and a "want?)

No money has been raised (around $11,000 needed), but there are many companies that have pledged support.

Few comments from various council including one jerky response from Mr Scott to Mr Sevier's comments about a previous motion from Mr Sevier to keep dogs out of the Kids Zone at Harry Myers.

The Mayor noted that it was a county project, but all contributions from governmental entities were from the city of Rockwall.

The answer was basically that Rockwall as the only city with any means.

Acceptance of project passed 7-0.

3. Presentation of City's Strategic Business Plan.

Truthfully, the girl who did the presentation was nice and professional, but the content was drier than a klejner.

V. Public Hearing Items.

1. Lady wants to open a B&B in one bedroom at her house.

-Would only operate Friday nights and Saturday nights
-She met all requirements for the SUP
-SUP would be reviewed in 6 months (basically, giving her a trial run)

Caused a lot of debate and discussion, but when it came down to asking the neighbors' opinion (via 14 or so mailed inquiries), 5 supported (all on her cul-du-sac), 3 opposed (actually 4 opposed, but ANONYMOUS RESPONSES ARE NOT CONSIDERED UNLESS THEY ARE MENTIONED DURING DELIBERATION THEREBY SKEWING THE OBJECTIVITY OF THE DISCUSSION).

The 3 opposition came from one residence on another street and 2 from Lake Pointe Church (2 of the churches soccer fields were in the notification zone).

Mathematically speaking 5 for, 2 against. And the non responses are tacit acceptance, therefore affirmative votes. Not that anyone on council cares enough to know that.

Not quite the 50% opposition Mr Scott and Mr Sweet kept espousing, but lawyers don't need math and muffins always come in 12's, so math ain't a daily brain battler for these two.

In the end the neighbors' opinion was not considered and Mr Scott didn't believe anyone would stay in a B&B near a Target and Home Depot and gave several other subjective reasons why he opposed.

Mr Sweet concurred with Mr Scott by taking out a small tape recorder and just before playing back into the microphone what Mr Scott finished saying seconds before He said, "And my personal opinion of this is: "

Mr Russo asked from whom the anonymous opposition came.

Mayor Pro Tem Farris and Councilmember Nielsen were the only ones who wanted to give the chance to see how it would play for the next 6 months. Failed 5-2.

2. Rezoning of some land from Ag to Commercial. Continued to January 18th.

3. Guy wants to open a bail bond place and needs an SUP. Passed 7-0.

4. New McDonald's by Tom Thumb needs drive-thru (will be a double drive-thru) approval. Got it 7-0.

VI. Site Plans/Plats.

1. New bank going in by Home Depot doesn't meet the masonry standard of monotony. This time the masonry standard wasn't important and the exception was granted 7-0.

(Mr Scott left at this point.)

VII. Action Items.

1. Sign variance for new JoAnn store. Passed 6-0.

2. Annexation item postponed to January 18th.

4. Contract for vet to fix animals at the animal clinic. Passed 6-0.

5. No idea, something vague about Chandler's Landing. Probably something about spending a was of taxpayers money. Passed 6-0.

7. State law forcing the city to change the employee benefits due to population change. Passed 6-0.

8. Big damned electronic sign to let folks who drive passed the sign know when community events are happening.

Gonna cost somewhere between $40k and $100k and no one can agree where to put it.

I've got a suggestion where to put it.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Rockwall City Council 6 December

Actions from Executive Committee.

Reappointed a bunch of cronies to various boards.

III. Proclamations.

1. Council recognized city staff that completed "Rockwall University"; staff members spend time learning about other departments. Upon completion they get knowledge, a certificate, and money, amount not disclosed.

VI. Open Forum.


V. Consent Agenda.

Councilman Sevier pulled #7, rest approved 7-0.

7. Councilman Sevier asked to postpone the vote to next meeting for the owner of land in conjunction with a 212 agreement would have time to fill out paperwork.

Councilman Scott verbosely opposed the plan.

VI. Appointments.

1. P&Z Chairman Herbst presented the P&Z's decision on a new business at the bankrupt Harbor project. Paradise Burger had presented plans for a metal canopy that didn't look the same once built. P&Z didn't like the new roof "look", and claimed it didn't "fit" the Harbor. (If it were a closed-down business, it would definitely "fit.")

Want Paradise Burger to change the canopy from patchwork to uniform. Rockwall loves monotony.

2. Moved to next council meeting.

3. Judge Cathy Penn presented the yearly report for the municipal court.

-17,000 cases had gone through court at the end of the fiscal year (Aug 31, 2010).
-Mostly traffic violations.
-17% were state code offenses.

VII. Site Plans/Plats.

1. Paradise Burger from above.


-Exceeds the 10% maximum of non-masonry material standard.
-Built canopy different from presented plan
-P&Z ok with metal roof, but not look of "rusty" panels.

The representative of Paradise Burger explained that the plan didn't show the 2D vs 3D difference. They are also trying to create a more relaxed atmosphere at the Harbor to attract more patrons. (Note to burger guy, attractive stores offering goods that people want will not positively affect patronage at the Harbor. According to the council, "foot traffic" from apartments they want built nearby is the only remedy.)

Mayor Pro Tem Farris opposed, stating "we spent a lot of time planning the (bankrupt) Harbor."

Nose, say good-bye to face.

Passed with P&Z recommendations, 6-1.

VIII. Action Items.

1. Addendum to contract with trash company to extend to 5 years. This does not lock in the rate. Passed 6-1. Councilman Sweet opposed not going out for bid.

2. Discussion of upcoming citizen survey. Discussion revolved around content and a lucky few who gets the special survey.

When mentioned that the survey would include questions in Spanish, Councilman Scott's finger moved so fast for the speak button, it nearly detached from his hand.

Mr Scott expressed opposition to certain questions and doing the survey in Spanish for "philosophical" reasons.

Councilman Russo asked about online options.

Mr Farris asked about including a question asking if people are willing to pay for the city's wish lists.

Councilman Sweet stated he agreed with Mr Scott's position about including questions in Spanish.

Councilman Sevier noted that the 3000+ non-English speaking new citizens in Rockwall didn't move to Rockwall, Rockwall moved to them (us) (That is Lake Rockwall Estates, aka The Zoo.) Not including the opinions of those residents will skew the survey. He concluded that the city knew before annexation that the vast majority speak Spanish as a first language.

Mr Farris made a motion to table until the 2nd meeting in January for more time to consider the survey. Passed 7-0.

3. Councilman Russo wants the city to help you find your lost dog using the website and social media. Staff is looking into this idea.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Rockwall City Council 15 November

The Youth Advisory Council (or YACs) was present "shadowing" council and staff. Never too early to start learning about liberty infringement and financial irresponsibility.

After many time-consuming jokes where the word "yak" was replaced for the word "YAC", the meeting was started.

III. Consent Agenda.

Councilman Russo pulled item 1 regarding minutes, passes 5-0-2.

Remaining pass 7-0.

IV. Appointments.

1. P&Z Chairman Herbst presented the most recent P&Z cases. Three weeks is too long for me to recall any details.

2. Archer's Care Care, that has been operating out of compliance and without an SUP, is back again to get his building legal.

Quick recap (as I understand it):

-About 3 years ago, Archer's had to move as the previous location was in the way of the widening of SH-205.
-Archer's moved to a building that required an SUP to accommodate the business on Washington St.
-An agreement was made that by the end of 2 years (the length of the SUP), Archer's would move to a new location or bring the building on Washington into compliance with the fire code, specifically, fire sprinklers.
-Some time after the end of the SUP, Archer's came back to the city and explained he could not afford to move, nor could he afford to install a fire sprinkler system. More time was given. (Essentially, the city turned a blind eye to compliance.)
-He could now comply by installing the sprinkler system at a cost of $16,500, but needs the city to foot the $5,000 bill for move the water line (for a tap) across the street to his shop and 6 months to complete the install.

Mayor Pro Tem Farris made a motion to spend the money and give the time for "his friend", but not because they are friends.

Councilman Scott asked about other beneficiaries from the city doing this.

Chief Poindexter: No one else.

Councilman Scott also asked if the city had done this for anyone else.

The Chief explained that during the downtown renovations, including water, the city added taps at buildings if the tenants decided to put in sprinklers, the taps would be available.

Councilman Sweet concurred with Mr Scott's concerns and added that he was "struggling" with the $5,000 gift to Archer's.

Councilmember Margo Nielsen noted that the building would still have to be zoned and what would happen if the zoning failed, that Mr Archer and the city would have spent money and not be able to reap the benefit.

Mr Farris stated that the city "should have known" that this building could some have a business that would require a sprinkler system and should have included it in the renovations the Chief mentioned. Bascially, the city is at fault for Archer's problem.

Mr Scott disagreed with Mr Farris assertion of an "oversight" and has a problem spending the $5,000.

(Repeat discussion.)

Asst Manager Crowley stated that the city has secret money tucked away for exactly this sort of thing.

Councilman Russo believed that this would provide "safety" to surrounding businesses and special treatment should be given as his friend Archer has been in Rockwall 30 years.

Councilman Sevier inquired about the magic money Mr Crowley has stashed.

The city has been setting aside money to give to businesses downtown to bribe them to come downtown.

Motion to gift $5,000 to Archer's and grant a 6 month SUP to comply passed 4-3.

Only Councilmembers Scott, Sweet, and Nielsen respected taxpayers' money on this issue.

3. Appointment with Connie Cannady, with J. Stowe & Co, LLC., to discuss the compliance review of cable services franchise fees, Public, Educational and Governmental fees, and selected other provisions of the Franchise Agreement between the City of Rockwall, Texas, and Charter
Communications, and take any action necessary.

It was even more boring than it sounded (like watching slow drying paint in slow-motion). Only thing that seemed relevant was the $31,000 owed to the city by Charter.

4. YAC kids showed a power point explaining their ideas for this year's project.

1st idea is a Senior (Citizens) Prom.

2nd idea is a recycling program.

Kids want to do the Prom.

Mr Russo objected to the idea of pretend gambling at a fake casino.

Mr Sweet made a joke about the City Manager's age.

V. Public Hearing Items.

1. Some change in Teen Curfew ordinance. No one on council thought anyone needed to know any details, passes 7-0 without discussion.

2. Rest Haven needs an SUP for a mausoleum. After some jokes and assorted stalling, passed 7-0.

3. Guy up in the Shores built a fence in his front yard and needs a variance to let him keep it.

Of the notices that went out to neighbors, 7 came back with 2 in support and 5 opposed.

Mr Farris opposed as it "doesn't fit the Shores, doesn't blend with the neighborhood, and sets bad precedent if allowed."

Mr Scott agreed with Mr Farris.

The owner stated his backyard was all concrete and his dogs won't defecate on concrete, only grass. (I'll bet a million bucks, given enough time the dogs WOULD "go" on concrete.)

Council made no motion, so the request was denied.

VI. Action Items.

2. Annexation! Passed 7-0.

3. Annexation, but excluding the fireworks stand! Passed 7-0.

1. Once again, discussion about streaming council meetings via the internet. Staff looked into what "other cities do" (because God forbid we do something unique and different than Frisco or Plano) and found that for the low price of $90,000 plus $795 per month, the city could be on the internets!! Finally!

Mr Farris balked at the cost and stated, as he has in multiple meeting previously, there were lots of free options with inexpensive hardware options available. Rockwall doesn't need an offsite director or editor or producer (no foolin') to handle the broadcast of council meetings.

Mr Russo concurred.

Motion to send it back to staff to come back with another ridiculously over-priced proposal passed 7-0.

4. Approval of the corridor plan for John King Blvd, aka the "Road to Nowhere".

Councilman Sevier asked if this would be at no cost to the city.

Mr LaCroix: There will be costs. (My notes said "These are just the costs the developer would incur, not sure what I meant, but it sounds like $$$$ going down John King Blvd.)

Passes 6-1, with Mr Sevier opposing.