At their regular meeting January 13, City Council heard a presentation from John Patton, a representative of Sonic Drive-Ins for the Greater Austin area, requesting a zoning variance in order to construct a new Sonic at 1020 S. Hwy. 281. At a special meeting January 8, the Planning and Zoning Commission had recommended by a 3-2 vote to deny the variance, based on the amount of impervious cover or paving, which exceeds the UDC’s requirement of 65% for mixed use zoning and 70 % for commercial. P&Z chair Jud Prince explained that the designation of mixed use had been given to that stretch of 281 because of existing development there. Other factors in P&Z’s decision included concern for a large tree at the back of the property , drainage issues on the site, and the fact that the structure’s drive-in canopy would violate the UDC setback requirement on one side of the property. Council member Rebecca Howerton expressed her opinion that “The land is too small for that place.”
Prince acknowledged that Patton had proposed alternative solutions, and Patton mentioned donating funds for a park land fund. He also explained that the plan had been re-drawn to bring the impervious cover down to 78 percent. The increase in tax revenue and employment—approximately 30 new jobs—were also selling points he emphasized. He proposed planting additional trees and creating a landscape barrier at the rear of the property to slow down rainwater runoff. Council member Ron Houston responded, “It would be nice if we could do it—we’d all like to see a Sonic.” Houston also said that re-zoning the area commercial would make it more palatable. Chamber of commerce director Julie Dill suggested an alternative paving solution such as pavers, to which Patton responded that he would take the idea back to the company for review. Prince suggested that P&Z members would probably find the proposed site plan changes satisfactory. Council voted unanimously to grant a conditional variance based on Sonic’s ability to reduce the impervious cover to 70 percent.
PEC representative James Crawford presented council with the annual check for $46,927.80 and reminded those in attendance of the 50 $1000 scholarships awarded by PEC each year to seniors who are children of PEC members or employees. The deadline for applications is March 2. Check the PEC website for more information.
Chamber of Commerce director Julie Dill reported that a special account has been set up for the Hotel/Motel tax monies, not to be mixed with other chamber funds. By her calculation the amount for the first quarter of fiscal year 08-09 would be $4057.27, or 90 per cent of funds collected. These funds, according to Dill, will be used for publicity for Lavender Lights and the upcoming Lavender Festival, including print and media advertising. Upcoming chamber events include the annual banquet on February 3 at Uptown Blanco and the first of several “Lunch and Learn” meetings February 12. Plans to promote the chamber include a new website, a MySpace page, and a presence on YouTube and FaceBook. Dill explained, “Sixty percent of tourism decisions are made because of information found on the Internet.” Council also approved/amended the budgets for the chamber and for economic development funds, at $7500 each.
In other business, council approved resolutions to apply for grants from the Texas Department of Agriculture’s Go Texan Rural Community Bootstrap Bucks and the Hometown Stars programs in order to promote the Blanco Farm and Garden Show at Yett Park in cooperation with the lavender growers.
Retta Martin reported for Keep Blanco Beautiful that a fundraiser will be held in January or February to fund Blanco’s annual Trash-Off day and to purchase more lighting for the Trail of Lights in Bindseil Park. The goal, according to Martin, is “to paint a vision for Blanco” for families to enjoy during the holidays and to increase tourism. The trail would be patterned after one in Wimberley. Ron Houston asked if there is a concern for electrical wiring in the floodplain area, but Rebecca Howerton explained that the cables could be placed in conduits. Keep Blanco Beautiful also plans to plant more wildflower seeds in Bindseil Park. A fundraiser is planned in May for the David Key Lamplighter Project.
Police Chief Ed Sonier reported an increase in speeding tickets in December, up to 119 from 102 in November. The number of call sheets increased to 82, and 11 citations were issued to minors.
Council voted to order an election for May 9, 2009, to elect two council members for the seats currently held by Dr. Doug Pautz and Danny Ray, and for the mayor’s position, currently held by Jim Rodrigue.
In the Open Comments portion of the meeting, resident Doug Hain requested that a bike trail be designated through town to correspond with the Safe Routes to School routes. Upcoming events such as the Real Ale Ride could utilize the routes, according to Hain, with the goal of “making it a little more bicycle-friendly in Blanco.” Mayor Rodrigue asked Hain to develop a plan and offered support.
In the Mayor and Council Reports portion of the meeting, Mayor Rodrigue and the council recognized the work of Barbara Gourley of Home Care Elite, who recently received an award for her service. After the executive session, council voted to offer a contract to Pete Kinney for performing building inspections and code enforcement. City employee Doris Hughes and police officer Robert Armstrong were removed from probationary status.