San Angelo City Council Tackles an Inactive Board, Man Camps, and a Fear of Prostitutes Near Butler Farms
Water Advisory Board member Paul Alexander spoke to the Council during public comments to inform them that the board is totally inactive.
He said Mayor Morrison and City Manager Valenzuela had drafted a “very well written and proactive” letter to all members of the Water Advisory Board at the end of February, asking members to pool their brainpower and come up with some solid ideas to help us through the drought, but they still have yet to convene.
“I just want to say that your board members are not meeting,” Alexander said. “They have not met since I was appointed last year, and that’s a long time when we’re in the midst of a water crisis.
“I don’t think they want to meet. I’m not sure what’s going on, but they are not talking.”
Alexander, a former Council member from SMD 1, said in his opinion there were several things the board could discuss, and he believes there’s no time like the present.
Council member Fleming said he would like to see a list of who attends the meetings and Alexander informed him the last time the board met was to recommend the Hickory Aquifer well-expansion project.
“[The board] has got to do a better job because we’re in a crisis.”
Morrison asked Council member Johnny Silvas, who appointed Alexander to the board, if he agreed and Silvas answered in the affirmative. The mayor said he and Silvas would work to get things moving on that front soon.
Following the meeting Alexander gave a telephone interview to talk about the current water situation and things he thinks the Water Advisory Board could do to help.
Alexander said he feels the board members may be operating under the false assumption that the board exists strictly to find new sources of water. He said according to their bylaws this is definitely not the case.
“The bylaws talk about conservation, so there is no roadblock to prevent us from working on that,” he said. “Drew Darby created that board; so I called him to ask if [finding new water sources] was the board’s only purpose and he told me ‘No, we created a board that could do anything with water’ so we talked with the mayor about it, and that’s why the letter was written.”
He would like to see the board actively seeking out new ways to save water.
“There are plenty ways to save water and the people on this board are smart,” he said. “We need them right now. If we can’t be useful during the worst drought in decades, what good are we?”
Alexander has several ideas that he thinks could be helpful and said we are losing more water every day than most people realize.
“I’m an analytical guy,” he said. “I like to break things down and look at the numbers, and when I tell people how much water we’re losing they always think I’m exaggerating.
“Nobody in this town would be Ok with going over to a fire hydrant and opening it up for 24-hours, letting the water run down the street,” he said. “But that’s how much water we are losing every day from the South Concho River below Nasworthy.
“We could look at lowering the levels in Metcalfe and Lone Wolf Reservoirs, we could discuss running a pipe from the South Pool at Twin Buttes and using that water to keep Lake Nasworthy mostly level--we are in the middle of a severe water crisis and we need to be doing everything we can to save water.”
The Man Camp Ordinances
The San Angelo City Council made some progress on ordinances crafted to prevent problems with the man camps during their meeting.
Council and staff have been working extensively with local park owners to make sure they are exempt from any of the new rules being put in since the man camp moratorium voted on last year.
The moratorium expires in May and Council is trying hard to keep everything on schedule.
Several park owners were present to make their voices heard as the agenda items were brought up during the day.
Before lunch they tackled Agenda Item #9, concerning a fee schedule for RV parks which ended up being tabled in a 3-3 vote.
Council member Self was absent leaving them with six, and that was whittled down to 5 after the lunch due to a thirsty-cattle emergency at Council member Wardlaw’s ranch.
Farmer said she would rather put off working on new ordinances until they had a full Council, but Development Services Director Patrick Howard said it was important they try to reach a decision on the ordinances, so the panel decided to take action.
During the session that followed the park owners took turns coming to the front, and Council members Vardeman and Fleming worked with Sr. Assistant City Attorney in an effort to find verbiage that would satisfy everyone and still have a good shot at accomplishing its intended purpose.
The deliberations caused no small amount of confusion, prompting the Mayor at one point to say “I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a more convoluted piece of ordinances as this--I can’t say that enough, this is so convoluted.”
Eventually the Council voted 5-0 to make existing parks exempt from new fees and annual inspections.
In the end Mayor Morrison said he was glad they had made some progress and allowed that the process had “been tough” to work through.
“We wanted ordinances that would address man camps; we did not want an ordinance that would restrict or cause any extra problems for existing owners--so we have been working to control the man camp situation while exempting and grandfathering in all of the existing parks.”
The Council also voted 5-0 to remove a prohibition against separate electrical meters being installed on accessory apartments.
Fear of Prostitutes Near Butler Farms
Before lunch the Council looked at rezoning a small parcel near Butler Farms.
Mike Walters is the operations director for MK-Allen, the property owners seeking the change. They want to change 1.9 acres of a larger tract that is already zoned for commercial use and he said they were looking to “square up” the parcel by rezoning the wedge-shaped piece on the southwest corner that is currently under Ranch & Estate.
Betsy Garrett came to talk about it too. She is close to moving into her new home just around the corner and she said that she is not opposed to a store, per-se, but absolutely does not want a truck-lot store.
Garrett said she and her husband have seen goings-on at similar locations around town that she does not approve of, and would rather her children not see. (Garrett intimated that there was a prostitution problem.) She feels that the rezoning would make it more likely to result in a truck-lot store and she opposes it for that reason.
Mike Walters said his group had worked very hard to “be good neighbors,” and talked about a land deal where they sold acreage to nearby residents specifically for a wooded buffer zone between the residential and commercial strips.
Council member Farmer made a motion to deny the zoning change and Mayor Morrison pointed out that the landowners have plenty of area for a business, expressing skepticism that denying the zoning change would prevent a truck stop from popping up later.
After further discussion, the mayor informed Walters that if the vote went against him they would have to wait one year before asking again, and Walters expressed a desire to withdraw the request. Farmer refused to withdraw her motion forcing a decision and Walters got his zoning change with a 4-2 vote.
After lunch, Council approved another property at FM 765 and Chadbourne Street, consisting of 71 acres, to be changed to Light Manufacturing in a 5-0 decision.
City Manager Valenzuela made a statement about the Val Verde Water letter telling everyone that the City had better prospects elsewhere and there were no plans to deal with VV Water, LLC.