A much-debated revised signage ordinance for Blanco businesses may finally come before council in February, according to Planning and Zoning Commission chair Dana LeBlanc, who reported to city council at their meeting January 11. Because several businesses have sought variances to the current ordinance, P&Z has begun reworking the Dripping Springs ordinance to fit Blanco’s needs. LeBlanc called the January 3 meeting “productive,” and thanked council member Martin Sauceda for attending. There was also “great participation from citizens,” she added. Blanco Historic Commission president Retta Martin added that BHC is also working on signage and lighting issues in the historic district.
Meanwhile, Blanco Chamber of Commerce director Penny Thomas has polled chamber business members as to whether the chamber should weigh in on the signage debate. President-elect Liz Waller reported that 23 members supported the chamber’s taking an official position on the signage ordinance, while nine said the chamber should remain neutral and take no public position. Of those who supported taking an official position, only three supported granting variances for larger signs, while 14 supported putting an end to variances “except in extreme situations and then only with full support and justification from the Planning and Zoning Commission.” Ten members believed that, “The chamber should ask the city council to stop granting variances for signs and consistently enforce those standard(s) established in Blanco’s Uniform Development Code.”
Waller also reminded council members of some important upcoming dates, including the chamber annual banquet January 27 at the Redbud Café, 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., featuring amateur archaeologist Dinosaur George. Tickets are $35 for members, $40 for non-members. The Blanco County Economic Development Corporation will meet January 19 at the Blanco Library at 9:30 a.m. For more information, contact Joe Stewart at 830-868-0873. The San Antonio “Paper the Town” committee will be in Blanco January 14 at 9:15, meeting at the chamber and then putting up signs for the rodeo. The chamber spring mixer will be held March 31 at Onion Creek Kitchens from 5-7 p.m. Uptown Blanco will host a Mardi Gras Party from 6-10 p.m. in the courtyard on March 5. There will be costume contests, fortune-telling, a king and queen contest, and many more fun activities. More info is available at www.uptownblanco.com. This year’s Real Ale Ride will be held May 21. The ride benefits local community entities.
Mayor Chuck Homan reported that he has talked to code compliance officer Pete McKinney, and that the city will be divided into quadrants in order for McKinney to assess which property owners must clean up their properties or pay to have them cleaned up. Offenders in the northeast quadrant will receive letters first.
Police Chief Milton Willmann reported that he has been impressed with the effect of the visibility of the new police vehicles, which, combined with 24-hour police patrols, resulted in no vehicle burglaries during November and December. He said the new vehicles have been more costly than anticipated because the video cameras needed to be upgraded. They now have disks that can be erased and reused, as well as enhanced microphones which pick up conversations farther from the vehicles. These upgrades will help in compiling racial profiling data, according to Willmann. He concluded that the department needs new radar units to replace the current, 12-year-old ones, and that he is looking into finding them at a good price. He commended officer Shaddick for apprehending a man from Marble Falls who had been exposing himself and was a suspect in a previous incident of the same type. New officer Bill Colston gave a good description of an illegal immigrant suspected of family violence, leading to his arrest in Burnet County.
Public Works Director Nathan Cantrell reported that three large trees in the Pecan Bottom need to be removed. Two have their roots undermined by running water, and the third, which is behind Cranberries Antiques, is in danger of falling on the row of buildings on the south side of the square. He stressed the importance of finding a professional company which is bonded and has insurance, thus removing the city’s liability. In response to a question from council, Cantrell responded that an arborist looked at the trees several years ago and recommended their removal. Council member Al Turner recommended that the tree service take down the trees completely rather than just remove upper branches, leaving city employees to finish the job. In response to a question by P&Z member Connie Barron as to whether there is a plan to replace the historic trees, Retta Martin assured her that KBB has a plan.
Cantrell also reported that there is a need to extend the new sidewalk on Pecan Street across the bridge over the Pecan Bottom. He estimates the cost at around $30K but has not obtained an official estimate. Retta Martin expressed concern that the project should be part of the streetscaping project. She said the project consultant, Mr. Winter, stressed that projects should not “run ahead” of the plan, and that Winters said the plan could be adjusted to work with the most urgent needs first. Council member Bobby McClung agreed that the project should be part of the streetscaping project, “unless it is a safety hazard” and if “we are within four to six months of a plan to follow.” However, he continued, some sort of sidewalk needs to be in place before the next Lavender Festival in June 2011. Council directed Cantrell to ask city engineer Marvin Reavis to look at the bridge and come up with an estimate for the city to proceed with at a future date. The bridge will also need to be ADA-compliant.
During the Public Comments of the meeting, Mary Ann Millard questioned whether progress is being made on constructing a city website. City secretary Bobbie Mowery responded that it is progressing, and that Charles Willgren is working on it. Blanco County Inn owner Ralph de Leon asked if city attorney Eddy Rogers was consulted resulting the signage ordinance debate, and he responded that he was not aware of any legal issues associated with it.
The final order of business was to call for an election May 14, 2011, to elect two council members and a mayor. The two council seats up for election are currently held by Danny Ray and Bobby McClung. The first date to file as a candidate is February 14, and the closing date is March 14.