Zoning issues bring land owners before council

By BRUCE ALSOBROOK | News-Telegram Managing Editor

May 2, 2007 - Johnny Dobson got a nasty surprise Tuesday night when he tried to talk to Sulphur Springs City Council members about zoning on 20 acres of his land that had been annexed into the city limits.

Turns out the city annexed another 83 acres he didn't know about.

The property in question was listed on Tuesday's council agenda for rezoning from agriculture to light industrial use. Dobson told council members he has owned the 103 acres between Interstate 30 and Main Street for 42 years. He said it has operated as a farm and ranche ever since, and he still runs 50 to 60 head of cattle on the property.

Dobson told council members he wanted to keep the property designated for agricultural use.

"I don't think the tax base on my property needs to be changed," he said.

City Manager Marc Maxwell said the rezoning shouldn't affect his tax rate. He said that designating the land for industrial use wouldn't stop him from claiming an agricultural exemption, which would keep the tax rate low.

But then Dobson had questions about the map that showed all 103 acres of his land had been annexed last year. He said he had agreed to let the city annex 20 acres some years ago to allow the local economic development corporation to complete a project, but he wasn't aware the city had taken in the remaining  land.

"To my knowledge, the 83 acres has not been annexed into the city limits," he said. "I would think I would have received some form of notification."

But Community Development Director Johnny Vance said notification wasn't required by law.

"Your property can be annexed without the owner being notified," Vance said, although he noted that public notices must be issued to the general public.

Dobson stayed calm, but obviously believed the spirit of the law, not the letter, should have been followed.

"I have a problem with this," he said. "I'm not going to be unruly, but I would expect some sort of notification — a courtesy call, at least."

Council members tabled the zoning matter, and requested that city staff investigate to verify if the land was annexed.

Other land annexed last year and being rezoned also brought appeals from homeowners.

One section on State Highway 19 south of Interstate 30 was scheduled to be rezoned to light commercial use. Catherine Williams said she and her husband have owned land there for 20 years and have constructed a $140,000 building where they wanted to put in a business. She said they currently manufacture doors in Mineola with crews working two shifts, and they hoped to do the same here. Such an operation would be prohibited under light commercial zoning.

"Why tie our hands to just light commercial?" she asked, noting the property was located on a major highway, the type of location that attracts businesses — and jobs.

"That's what everybody should be interested in," she said.

Councilman Clayton McGraw, noting some of the other businesses already operating in the area, wondered if even heavy commercial was a high enough business classification.

Councilman Larry Powers suggested approving the light commercial use, with directions that the city initiate a rezoning effort to change the designation to heavy commercial. The motion passed.

Williams noted that the letter she had received indicated it would cost her $200 to try to change the zoning, but City Manager Marc Maxwell calmed her worries.

"You've got a councilman right here" — pointing at Powers — "who will initiate it."

Powers made the same suggestion for a similar piece of property scheduled to be zoned for light commercial use.

Ronnie Burchfield, who said he has operated a business performing work on heavy equipment — think diesel trucks and the like — for the last 20 years asked for a different classification.

"We were there before anybody else bought houses out there," he said. "If they were fine with it then, they should be fine with it now."

Without a heavy commercial zoning, he said, "Our hands are going to be tied."

Powers made another motion to approved the light commercial zoning, with instructions that the city initiate a rezoning for heavy commercial.

"And waive the fees?" asked City Secretary Gale Roberts.

"Oh, yes," Powers said.


NOTES: The council set in motion the process of issuing combination tax and revenue certificates of obligation to the tune of $6.975 million in capital improvement projects — $3.5 million for street work, $2.5 million for water and sewer, and $975,000 for equipment ... Council members also approved an amendment to the allowing the police department to use about $90,000 of drug forfeiture money to buy new video cameras for patrol cars and upgrade the software used by the department. That still leaves about $190,000 in the account, while another $90,000 is pending court action ... City Manager Marc Maxwell thanked Larry Powers for his 12 years serving as councilman. Powers decided not to run for re-election this year. "I will throughly miss your presence on the council," Maxwell said. "Thank you very much," Powers responded. "The feeling is mutual." "It's the end of an era," added Maxwell.

By BRUCE ALSOBROOK

News-Telegram Managing Editor

Johnny Dobson got a nasty surprise Tuesday night when he tried to talk to Sulphur Springs City Council members about zoning on 20 acres of his land that had been annexed into the city limits.

Turns out the city annexed another 83 acres he didn't know about.

The property in question was listed on Tuesday's council agenda for rezoning from agriculture to light industrial use. Dobson told council members he has owned the 103 acres between Interstate 30 and Main Street for 42 years. He said it has operated as a farm and ranch ever since, and he still runs 50 to 60 head of cattle on the property.

Dobson told council members he wanted to keep the property designated for agricultural use.

"I don't think the tax base on my property needs to be changed," he said.

City Manager Marc Maxwell said the rezoning shouldn't affect his tax rate. He said that designating the land for industrial use wouldn't stop him from claiming an agricultural exemption, which would keep the tax rate low.

But then Dobson had questions about the map that showed all 103 acres of his land had been annexed last year. He said he had agreed to let the city annex 20 acres some years ago to allow the local economic development corporation to complete a project, but he wasn't aware the city had taken in the remaining  land.

"To my knowledge, the 83 acres has not been annexed into the city limits," he said. "I would think I would have received some form of notification."

But Community Development Director Johnny Vance said notification wasn't required by law.

"Your property can be annexed without the owner being notified," Vance said, although he noted that public notices must be issued to the general public.

Dobson stayed calm, but obviously believed the spirit of the law, not the letter, should have been followed.

"I have a problem with this," he said. "I'm not going to be unruly, but I would expect some sort of notification — a courtesy call, at least."

Council members tabled the zoning matter, and requested that city staff investigate to verify if the land was annexed.

Other land annexed last year and being rezoned also brought appeals from homeowners.

One section on State Highway 19 south of Interstate 30 was scheduled to be rezoned to light commercial use. Catherine Williams said she and her husband have owned land there for 20 years and have constructed a $140,000 building where they wanted to put in a business. She said they currently manufacture doors in Mineola with crews working two shifts, and they hoped to do the same here. Such an operation would be prohibited under light commercial zoning.

"Why tie our hands to just light commercial?" she asked, noting the property was located on a major highway, the type of location that attracts businesses — and jobs.

"That's what everybody should be interested in," she said.

Councilman Clayton McGraw, noting some of the other businesses already operating in the area, wondered if even heavy commercial was a high enough business classification.

Councilman Larry Powers suggested approving the light commercial use, with directions that the city initiate a rezoning effort to change the designation to heavy commercial. The motion passed.

Williams noted that the letter she had received indicated it would cost her $200 to try to change the zoning, but City Manager Marc Maxwell calmed her worries.

"You've got a councilman right here" — pointing at Powers — "who will initiate it."

Powers made the same suggestion for a similar piece of property scheduled to be zoned for light commercial use.

Ronnie Burchfield, who said he has operated a business performing work on heavy equipment — think diesel trucks and the like — for the last 20 years asked for a different classification.

"We were there before anybody else bought houses out there," he said. "If they were fine with it then, they should be fine with it now."

Without a heavy commercial zoning, he said, "Our hands are going to be tied."

Powers made another motion to approved the light commercial zoning, with instructions that the city initiate a rezoning for heavy commercial.

"And waive the fees?" asked City Secretary Gale Roberts.

"Oh, yes," Powers said.


NOTES: The council set in motion the process of issuing combination tax and revenue certificates of obligation to the tune of $6.975 million in capital improvement projects — $3.5 million for street work, $2.5 million for water and sewer, and $975,000 for equipment ... Council members also approved an amendment to the allowing the police department to use about $90,000 of drug forfeiture money to buy new video cameras for patrol cars and upgrade the software used by the department. That still leaves about $190,000 in the account, while another $90,000 is pending court action ... City Manager Marc Maxwell thanked Larry Powers for his 12 years serving as councilman. Powers decided not to run for re-election this year. "I will throughly miss your presence on the council," Maxwell said. "Thank you very much," Powers responded. "The feeling is mutual." "It's the end of an era," added Maxwell.

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