Four candidates are seeking election to three seats (two year terms) on the Village of Salado Board of Aldermen: Rodney W. Bell, John Cole, Dr. Amber Preston-Dankert and Linda Reynolds.
Salado Village Voice posed the following questions to them and their answers follow. Introduction of the candidates and answers to previous questions can be found in the April 11, April 18 and April 25 editions and at saladovillagevoice.com.
1. Will you support or oppose recommendations from the Lot Size Task Force committee if it recommends changes to the ordinances to allow for smaller lots sizes (0.20 acre to 0.25 acre)? Why or why not? (150 words)
2. Will you support or oppose voluntary annexation of proposed subdivisions that have smaller lot sizes? What considerations will have an impact on your decisions to support or oppose voluntary annexation of small lot subdivisions? (150 words)
3. Aldermen were recently presented with a road assessment that suggests that $4 million in repairs/rebuilds/improvements should be made in the coming years to the roads in the Village of Salado. At $200,000 per year, it would take 20 years to address the issues of the road assessment. What approach to road repairs/replacement/resurfacing would you suggest or support? How would you suggest the costs of infrastructure like this be funded? (200 words)
4. Should the Village work actively to bring in outlying areas through voluntary annexation in order to affect development and growth or leave those areas to the county? (150 words)
5. Several years ago, the Village took in a great deal of Extra Territorial Jurisdiction (ETJ) to protect those areas from possible annexation into the ETJ and/or city limits of larger cities like Killeen, Temple and Belton. Since then, none of those areas have requested annexation into the Village of Salado. Should the Village de-annex those areas of ETJ that have shown no inclination of ever being annexed into the Village? Why or why not? (150 words)
Rodney W. Bell
1. I would only support smaller lot sizes in a mixture with larger lot sizes within a subdivision. A subdivision similar to Mill Creek that has .5 acre lots and lots that are .25 acre is a good example of a mixed subdivision project. My hope is the Lot Size Task Force is allowed to work independently and approach the BOA with a comprehensive recommendation. Once that is done, then the BOA can build from their ideas and recommendations.
2. I would support annexation of completed subdivisions with smaller lot sizes. However, the subdivision would have to be completed. Annexation of proposed subdivisions should meet the standards decided by the new committee and the BOA. Again, my opinion on this is that a mixture of lot sizes would be preferable. Consideration need to be made to the regard to future street maintenance and first responders ability to cover that area effectively. In the end, the voluntary annexation should benefit both parties. Land owners should expect services in return for the taxes they pay.
3. As I stated last week, the BOA needs to review and update the 5 year vision for the village. The emphasis on this planning must be streets and public safety. In the plan, the process should be a “rolling” plan to ensure continued success and make appropriate changes. Salado should continue to work closely with TxDot and Bell County for repairs/replacement/resurfacing projects. A funding mechanism should be set up to allocate funding from Sales Tax based on a percentage. As new businesses come in, additional revenues would automatically flow to ensure street maintenance projects are funded appropriately.
4. Since annexation is voluntary, it is a decision of the property owner to request this process. If property owners of a subdivision approach the BOA about annexation, the process should benefit both parties. The property owner should receive services and the village should provide effective services. In the process, the BOA should work with the property owners and agree mutually to the annexation. Annexation just to “grow” should not be the goal.
5. The village should NOT de-annex those areas of the ETJ. Just because they have not approached the village in the past, does not mean that they have not considered the annexation process. Releasing the ETJ would just open the opportunity to Belton or Killeen to annex these areas. Once that is completed, then the land in that area is gone forever. In my discussions with property owners in the Salado ETJ area, they would rather have the Salado ETJ than to be released and consumed by another entity. It is not in the best interest of the village to release the ETJ.
1. “YES” Salado needs to have a variety of homes lot sizes with-in the village limits to provide affordable housing. A 0.25-acre lot would accommodate an affordable home with an estimated 1700 square feet, 3 bedrooms and 2 baths and a small yard, a starter home of sorts. A 0.20-acre lot would be more suitable for smaller duplex housing design or row housing. Both of which now exist within the village limits and are very nice homes. But I believe it is not the responsibility of the Alderman to get into the home design business. We need to focus on: comprehensive plan compliance along with smart development, forecasted revenues, impacts to the village and its residences, the developer responsibilities; required village annexation, all needed access roads provided, waste water connection, green belts and trees planned into the final design, and the forecasted natural resources required and needed utilities etc.
2. “YES” in full support and will review the following: impact on infrastructure, increased traffic to include construction equipment damage to existing roads, village police force capabilities, village VFD capabilities, septic vs waste water system connections, and potential revenues collected, and the overall impact to the village and its citizens. But I will also make every attempt to hold to the .25-acre minimum lot sizes. When making these decisions a broader view needs to observed, and what is best for the village. Just because something is small does not mean it is not in the best in interest of Salado.
3. A response to this question needs to be carefully crafted by reviewing in detail all data that was provided to formulate the $4 million price tag. Being I was not part of that process; I will not commit a response until all data has been displayed for review.
4. “YES” only if such a move will benefit the village and its citizens. When considering such actions, the same concerns / impacts as noted in question 2 need to be fully recognized.
5. No; I don’t think anyone needs to be de-annexed for any reason. Maybe we need to be asking the fundamental question; why have they “NOT” requested annexation?
Dr. Amber Preston-Dankert
1. I think smaller lot sizes should be the exception, and not the rule. The ordinances should reflect a half-acre lot size minimum, with exceptions for multi-family residences such as duplexes and apartments. Any exception to a half-acre lot should be brought forth to the BOA as a variance, and variances should be highly scrutinized before approval. The approval should not be solely based on a need to increase density due to availability of the sewer, but should focus more on the betterment of the entire community.
2. This is another area where the BOA must conduct its due diligence prior to blanket approval of such a variance. If subdivisions are proposed to have lots less than half an acre in size, they do not meet the county specifications. Therefore, they would most likely not have received approval from the county, either. We should ask those subdivisions to have a minimum number of lots that are the appropriate size, and then negotiate the smaller lot tract numbers. As stated before, lots below a half-acre should be an exception, and not the rule. Just because developers plan a small lot subdivision does NOT mean that it cannot be changed.
3. Roads in Salado are very important, since the primary users of most of our roads live outside the Village limits. This is why I have always been adamantly opposed to the Village taking over Main Street from the State. Road and bridge repairs are extremely costly. I support increasing the Village’s sales tax to maximize income in that area, as this would mean more visitors would be contributing to our budget. I also would consider realigning the budget to allocate more of our funds to road repairs. But, I would not support a bond or any form of tax increase to repair/replace roads until the current sewer debt has been alleviated. Our Village simply cannot afford a tax increase at this time.
4. Yes, the Village should work diligently to bring willing landowners into the Village. However, we must also work towards incentives to make landowners want to come into the Village. Currently, there is no real incentive for landowners to pay more in taxes. What benefits can we offer? In my opinion, tax breaks or deferrals are a good start. And, expanding of the sewer to these areas will definitely be beneficial to both new developers and current business and residential landowners.
5. It is a difficult decision to de-annex landowners, as they obviously prefer being part of Salado over some other nearby cities. However, these areas place a financial burden on the Village, since there are many man-hours that go into reviewing plats and plans for development with very little potential of ever being inside the Village. That said, we should de-annex outlying areas while negotiating with neighboring cities to also annex some of their ETJ. The boundaries should be much closer – at least under 10 miles – from the current Village limits. And, those properties adjacent to the Village limits should prepare to at least entertain coming into the Village, or understand that they may become part of another ETJ in the future.
1. FULL DISCLOSURE…. I live on a tiny lot! And a tiny group of selected individuals, some of whom do not even reside in the village, should not dictate village ordinances.
I think it is more important to ask for input from the entire village. That is why Aldermen must post an ordinance change, and hold public hearings.
Since all the aldermen candidates were asked about lot size in the forums, I’m not sure why we need to discuss the issue before the election.
Right now, I support the village ordinance that states 1/2 acre lots are required in both the village and the ETJ. I would not ask anyone to make development decisions for me as an Alderman.
I believe in following our ordinance, unless compelling evidence requires a variance. Profit would not be compelling evidence. Infrastructure, safety and liveability issues would factor into any decision I would make.
2. Each annexation must be carefully considered. Will the subdivision drain our resources and infrastructure, or will the tax benefit more than make up for required services?
Between the over 65 tax freeze, veteran’s benefits, and tax free church and school property, younger families and the business property owners shoulder a significant tax burden.
We still have over 300 acres of Sanctuary land annexed into the Village. No one can tell me what will be built. Could it be apartment buildings? Could it be an RV park? Could it be affordable housing on tiny lots?
The village is already bound by a contract that gives us very little control over that land. Let’s put the Sanctuary development behind us before we move ahead.
3. We have a village of grey roads with fading black squiggles, patches here and there, and road edges deteriorating.
Our village manager proposes a dire financial future for Salado roads out one side of his mouth, and out the other side he proposes the village should take on road maintenance for 171 lots at the corner of Smith Branch and Royal (with drainage issues sure to impact long time Mill Creek residents) PLUS, miles of county roads to the not-taxable schools, and all the roads yet to be created in the 300+ acres of the Sanctuary land. It feels like the Village of Salado may go bankrupt attempting to keep NEW ROADS in repair, let alone the roads in front of current village taxpayers.
And this does not even consider the perennial call to take over the maintainance for Main st, currently under State responsibility.
How to give voters an honest answer?
Don Ferguson will need to give the new BOA a clear picture of the past five years expenditures and accomplishments. Then he, our county commissioner, and the BOA must draw up a new five year plan.
4. I am happy to work actively to bring outlying areas into the village through voluntary annexation.
I would never want to be a part of forced annexation. That would draw my brief political aspirations to a halt. Forcing people to do something they don’t want to do is not my idea of the good Life in Texas.
I would be excited to head up a Voluntary ANNEXATION Committee made up of representatives from our ETJ. I will provide drinks and snacks at the Village office, and graciously invite them to join our beautiful little village. I’ll even encourage the Salado Village Voice to take photos of our gatherings.
5. Bobby Whitson, Judge Engleking, Judge Coleman, Bill Bartlett, Melanie Kirchmeier, Dr Novotny, Jeff Kelley, Bear Rosamond, Dave Swarthout, Claire Hartman, Dottie Shirley, Tiffany Schreiner, Tim Brown, Sandi Wicker, Elaine Ory, the Shipmans, Mary, Glenn and Ryan Hodge, Rita Zbranek, Jim Ruesch, Woods of Salado, Hidden Springs, and Tenroc are all part of our Salado family in the ETJ.
I can’t imagine presenting them with the threat of abandonment for a few tax dollars!! It took three votes for this little village to incorporate. Why does everything have to be bullying and threatening? How have we fallen to such desperate measures in so short a time?
(Any chance we can disannex all our roads, and let Bell County take charge of repairs?)