The issue of density was raised by several residents in the Public Comments section of the March 11 meeting of the governing body of the City of Blanco. Julie Dill expressed the view that greater density does not necessarily equate to crime and drug abuse. In fact, she said, there is a trend toward smaller, eco-friendly homes in areas such as Austin. Any problems arising from greater density, according to Dill, can be addressed by city ordinances. Council member Doug Pautz agreed that the infrastructure costs of public services are less when houses are clustered closer together. On the other hand, resident Barbara Ballas reiterated previous comments that higher density, specifically in the proposed Trainer Street development, threatens the rural character of Blanco and defeats the reason she moved here to begin with.
Resident Ginny Bonds, whose home is adjacent to the new Franklin Rec Center, complained of UDC violations at the rec center, asserting, “The city is sitting on their hands,” and that Daylight Saving Time has brought an increase in the noise level with balls bouncing on the basketball courts and loud music. She also complained about fence boards being knocked off between her house and the courts and an increase in trash, including beer cans and even clothing being tossed in her yard. “This sets a dangerous precedent,” she concluded. “This is our home and we will not just suffer in silence.” She requested a meeting with Mr. Franklin, members of Planning and Zoning, and the city council. Todd Ehlers lamented that “Nothing is happening,” and that someone neutral on city council should take a look at his allegations that the rec center is a development and should follow the rules of the UDC dealing with sound buffers and landscaping. “The council member I have met with is a friend of the developer,” he alleged, referring to Bobby McClung’s support of the development of a rec center for Blanco youth. He concluded, “I will have to take another path if council does not listen.”
Retta Martin announced that the city is seeking teams to compete for prizes in the upcoming 9th Annual Trash-0ff and River Clean-up April 5. She asked anyone interested in participating in the river clean-up to call Martha Gosnell. Mayor Rodrigue added, “If you’ve never seen the city yard after this clean-up, you should—it’s quite impressive.”
Auditor Keith Neffendorf presented the annual audit of the city of Blanco through September 30, 2007, asserting that the city “is in good financial shape with no major weaknesses” and $17,814,000 in assets. He also thanked city secretary Bobbie Mowery and the staff for their help in keeping accurate records and to the city administration for “holding the line on taxes.”
Planning and Zoning Committee chair Jud Prince reported on their March meeting, at which Trainer Street property owner Nancy Crutchman and developer Kyle Massman presented a re-plat of the property, dividing it into 28 lots. In response to a question on lot size from council member Bobby McClung, Prince said the lot sizes range from 7000 to 5100 square feet, between the UDC’s designation of R2 and R3, approximately the size of lots in Calico Meadows. No action was taken by P&Z on the presentation. However, several sign variance requests were recommended—one by Bob Riley for the Land Cut Restaurant, one by Julie Dill for the Chamber of Commerce, and one by Michelle Stermon for Michelle’s Salon. After discussion with all three requesting variances and some consultation with Retta Martin, representing the Blanco Historical Commission, the variances were approved. P&Z will meet on March 18 at 4 p.m. specifically to work on UDC revisions, beginning with the signage ordinance.
Blanco State Park superintendent Michael Young gave council an update on accomplishments to date at the park, including programs being developed by new interpretive ranger Mary Alice Partain. “It takes a lot of effort to develop new programs,” said Young, explaining why things may seem to be moving a bit slowly. Council member Ron Houston complimented Young and his crew on the appearance of the park, and council member Rebecca Howerton thanked Young for allowing horses and wagons from the Sesquicentennial re-enactment to park on park grounds last weekend. “We are more than happy to host Sesquicentennial activities,” responded Young. A discussion ensued as to how to encourage local residents to pay for entry and how the city might make up for a loss of revenue by in-kind contributions, but no action was taken. City council candidate Christina Gourley, who currently works for the State Auditor’s office in Austin, suggested a media campaign touting the park as a cheaper fitness alternative to traveling to Austin or San Antonio to visit a gym. An annual pass to all Texas parks costs approximately $60 per person or $75 for a family. Gourley also told this reporter that the park is under pressure both from Texas Parks and Wildlife and the State Auditor to document park usage and revenues.
Julie Dill, speaking on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce, thanked Rebecca Howerton for all her efforts in organizing the recent Sesquicentennial activities. Upcoming Chamber events include a mixer sponsored by Real Ale Brewery on April 10. Real Ale will also sponsor a bike ride in May from which all proceeds will go to the Blanco Library’s expansion project. Because the mission of the chamber, in Dill’s words, is “to be the hub of economic development and tourism,” the chamber plans to have one major event each quarter to draw tourists. In addition to the Lavender Festival the third weekend in June, the chamber will partner with Heritage Days and the Courthouse Lighting to increase the tourist potential of these events. In the near future, an event will be added in the first quarter of the year. To fund these activities, Dill requested council to donate 80 per cent of all hotel/motel taxes to the Chamber. Council voted to approve $7308 and $4000 out of future revenue to the Chamber.
Police chief Ed Sonier reported 109 speeding tickets and 159 total citations issued in the month of February. Ron Houston thanked Sonier’s department for policing school zones and writing speeding tickets in those areas. He also thanked the police department for their assistance in escorting the re-enactment wagons and general help during the Sesquicentennial events.
Finally, council approved $3500 toward new breathing devices (SCBAs) for the city’s fire trucks. Those in attendance were reminded of the Volunteer Fire Department Fish Fry on April 5, beginning at 4 p.m. Julie Dill thanked the fire department for their quick response to the fire in her garage on Monday, March 10.