To the Editor:
At the Nov. 19 Village Workshop, our elected officials and Village attorney left the large meeting area and moved into the far North room with shut doors to meet in Executive Session for more than two hours.
The large audience had waited all evening for the Sanctuary discussion, but by the Mayor’s orders were ushered by police outside into the cold night air to wait. If an individual needed to use bathroom facilities, they were denied, per instructions by our Mayor, or so we were told. Obviously, our elected officials didn’t want anyone to stick around to hear the final vote on Sanctuary agreements. One by one folks who had patiently waited hours to participate in a historic Village moment, finally left for home to care for children or elderly.
Villagers who could wait it out, without freezing, watched our Board of Aldermen walk back into the meeting room, hear our Mayor open the Regular Session back up, read each agreement, and then watch as each Alderman voted.
Results are as follows:
• Donation Agreement between Salado and Billy Hanks, and Salado Utility Company, Inc. for the donation of 6 acres and a Wastewater Quality Permit they possess. Vote was 4-1 (Preston-Dankert voted NO)
• Wastewater Service Agreement between Salado and Sanctuary for the funding and constructing of improvements to the Village’s wastewater collection, pumping, treatment and disposal system, and the terms and conditions for retail wastewater services to the proposed 297 acre development to be constructed by Sanctuary Development Co. Vote was 4-1 (Preston-Dankert voted NO)
• Development Agreement between the Village of Salado and Sanctuary Development Company, LLC, for the terms and conditions of economic development incentives related to the proposed 297 acre development to be constructed by Sanctuary Development Co. Vote was 4-1 (Preston-Dankert voted NO)
The Mayor and Billy Hanks and the partners in the Sanctuary are scheduled to sign the agreements at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 25 at the Municipal Building.
It’s my understanding that Dankert voted NO to each Sanctuary Agreement because she could NOT agree to providing eminent domain rights to Billy Hanks, Jr. and Robert Sulaski the developer. For those of you who do not know what Eminent Domain means…..in my opinion, the developer would have the right to take real estate property for development means. Payment would be required, of course, but if there is a dispute over the value of property the seller would be obligated to prove value. After going through this same procedure with the State of Texas, I can tell you that proving worth can cost an owner unnecessary thousands of dollars in surveying, attorney, and appraiser fees. So, eminent domain can be akin to a declaration of property “war” on individual property rights. Thank you Alderman Amber Dankert for your bravery in voting NO in an effort to protect individual property rights.
Also, I believe that Alderman Amber Dankert felt the public should have the right to know what’s in agreements prior to signing with Mr. Hanks/Sanctuary. Thank you AGAIN Alderman Amber Dankert for your leadership and for your consideration of all Salado taxpayers.
Following are some questions, in my opinion, the public might want answers to before our elected officials obligate taxpayers financially, and otherwise, for decades.
• What are the final agreement details with Billy Hanks?
• What bills are taxpayers responsible for, and what is Billy Hanks responsible for?
• Must taxpayers, and the Village, support a Public Investment District (PID) so Billy Hank’s developer can pay for infrastructure?
• How many years, and at what percentage, does Billy Hanks gets tax abatement for houses or retail/commercial properties?
• Does Billy Hanks have a required schedule of development so we can plan for additional property & sales tax revenues?
• What financial obligations must Village taxpayers pay to Billy Hanks / Sanctuary ?
• What, if any, penalties must Billy Hanks pay if no development occurs?
• What type businesses/housing can be built on Billy Hanks property and will there be opportunity for public input i.e., low income housing, or gas stations/drive thru’s in the Historic District?
• Is there ANY prohibition against Billy Hanks/Sanctuary building an open air music venue for thousands on the 8 Lakes Property (next to a Village neighborhood of hundreds) ?
• Must Billy Hanks/Sanctuary adhere to the same procedures for zoning and planning required of every other developer in town?
• When does Billy Hanks/Sanctuary annex ANY of their property?
• When does Billy Hanks provide title to the six or eight acres and for the wastewater plant (WWTP) permit?
• Must the Village WWTP permit be amended? If yes, what is the cost and how long will it take?
• Is it true that the Village must pay for hauling sewage if treatment is not available for Billy Hank’s property?
• How long before the user income pays for the operation and maintenance of the WWTP?
• Are engineering and drainage studies by Billy Hanks/Sanctuary required to insure storm water, and/or wastewater doesn’t flood Village neighborhoods or streets?
• Can Billy Hanks continue to claim Agricultural Exemption for land? For how long?
• How long does the Village provide free wastewater to Billy Hanks/Sanctuary?
NOTE: Salado, I believe, is on the verge of changing from primarily a tourist destination. The only question is will the residents, business owners, and Village government demand to be part of that change, or will they sit back and sign over our Village’s future and its planning to outside developers? I have tried to inform the Village taxpayers/businesses what’s now taking place with Sanctuary, but it’s ultimately up to all of you to come to meetings and to speak out. I have tried to encourage the Mayor, and our Alderman, to focus on improving OUR CURRENT Village business districts BEFORE making deals with outside developers. However, in my opinion, they seem intent on reconfiguring our town so that “Town Center” is South and East of our current business districts.
I fear our citizens will wake up too late, however. In my opinion it may take wastewater flowing down Smith Branch Creek flooding Mill Creek homes, or a leak of sewage and/or water runoff down Royal Street, or ever increasing property taxes to pay for the operation and maintenance of our wastewater treatment plant, or maybe our businesses will finally figure out that Sanctuary never did want to become part of our Village…….they want to become our Village. Therefore, It’s my opinion that hard times are just around the corner for our Village because of our current debt, and the contractual promises I believe our Village is about to make with Mr. Hanks. The focus on our special Village has been lost but I still have faith in the people of Salado. Even if the Sanctuary deal is signed between our BOA and Mr. Hanks this week, there will still be plenty of opportunity for our citizens, and businesses, to speak out.
I would like to thank the Salado community for supporting me and for your words of encouragement over the past six months.