Ever wondered how local ordinances are made? Feel like you’re always behind the curve, finding out about actions the city took not having provided your input? Wonder how new Denton City Council Members Gerard Hudspeth and John Ryan will vote, and how their ideas might influence future decisions? Who knows, if you attend or watch the meeting this Tuesday, it could even be more entertaining than a poorly-matched Netflix title. Read on for our council preview of the first session with two new council members to know what to expect: land transactions, street maintenance, affordable housing programs, and more!
You thought council members only had to show up Tuesday evenings? Think again. They get a heavy packet of reading material to keep them busy over the weekend, and then often meet on Tuesday mornings or afternoons to receive staff reports previewing future ordinances or budget items. Ideally, you want to express your interest to your council members at this point in the process, not at the last hour right before they vote.
This week, the Department of Development Services will present a report on programs that qualify for two federal affordable housing programs which Denton participates in. That’s right, some of your hard-earned federal tax monies are coming back home! They will present these plans also in preparation for the 2017 budget cycle, as some of these programs receive funding both from federal grants and from the city general fund. There will also be a public hearing about this report during the evening meeting where you can make your voice known.
All over town, there are pieces of land which the city owns, through prior purchase for future needs. A parcel of land is owned by Denton Municipal Electric at the northwest corner of 380 and loop 288 which a developer wants to purchase. Long-term future city uses include a fire station for future growth, a bike / mixed use trailhead, a satellite police station, or an extension of the A-train line for a park and ride station. The council will provide direction, which will then determine what type of ordinance the staff puts on the agenda for a future council meeting.
Finally, they will discuss park turf maintenance and reforestation. Who doesn’t like trees?
This is where the fun happens at 6:30pm. From impassioned citizen remarks to tell-tale reactions by council members, this is your opportunity to be heard, see some entertaining dialogue, and get on cable-access television!
After an opportunity for community members to speak on topics not on the agenda, the consent agenda is voted on. This is a group of ordinances and resolutions which there is general agreement on, and the council does not wish to individually vote on these items. The majority of these items are expenditures above a threshold which council must approve even though they were already in the yearly budget plan. Sometimes items are pulled from the consent agenda and deliberated or voted on individually in the evening session, so if you see something you care about, contact your council members sooner than later.
Of interest this week is a residential rate increase for Atmos gas service from $19.12 per month access charge to $19.62 per month, and a rate increase for gas from 11.378 cents to 14.427 cents per hundred cubic feet, along with similar commercial increases. These rate increases have occurred once a year, and this increase is actually 15% less than previously expected. These increases have some oversight by the city because of a previous legal settlement between Atmos and the municipalities it serves, but if the city does not approve the increases, Atmos can go to the Texas Railroad Commission who may overrule the city and could impose an even larger rate increase.
Items for Individual Consideration
First, a tract of land on Eagle drive between UNT and downtown is being purchased through eminent domain. The Hangout Bar and Dine closed some time ago, and with all of the apartment growth in this area, additional electrical substation capacity is needed. Some might want us to raise taxes even more to enclose our substations in fake buildings, but in an environment of rising housing valuations and senior tax freezes, that’s likely a pie in the sky idea. Still, expect council members to be keen to ensure this substation melds with the aesthetics of the developing Eagle corridor. The planning for this substation has been ongoing, with public hearings as far back as May 20, 2015.
Annexations are always a little testy. Sometimes they are necessary to pull in ‘land islands’ which were not previously incorporated into the city limits but are mostly surrounded by city property. Other times, rural landowners are opposed to being annexed since the increased taxes they pay may not be commensurate with the increased services they will consume. A small plot on Ryan road near existing developments will be considered for final approval, and two plots for initial consideration: a plot on McKinney street, east of loop 288, and a small plot along Fort Worth drive in the southern part of Denton.
In 2012 and 2014, Denton voters approved bond programs, primarily for some long-overdue maintenance of streets and roads, after many years of underfunding that part of our infrastructure. Progress doesn’t happen overnight, because we don’t have all of the necessary equipment and personnel to improve all the streets in a short time period—If only we had a Mary Poppins of road construction. An ordinance will be considered to approve external construction contracts to speed up the fixing of our streets and roads. Check out the maps to see if your street will be included, and which projects are already complete.