After Bee Cave voters go to the polls in May, the lines of the city limits may need to be redrawn.
On Feb. 26, Bee Cave City Council voted unanimously to allow voters to determine whether the city will adopt home rule status and a new city charter. This would grant Bee Cave the right to annex territory adjoining its boundaries, known as extraterritorial jurisdiction, or ETJ. Under these provisions, should the city’s ETJ be annexed, the new property contained within the Bee Cave borders would be subject to the city’s ordinances, rules and regulations.
What is home rule status?
During its Feb. 12 meeting, council heard a presentation by Monte Akers, an attorney with Akers Law Firm LLP, regarding home rule. Akers said that home rule status would give the City of Bee Cave the authority to annex property in its ETJ with or without the property owner’s consent. Under the current general city designation, Bee Cave can only annex its ETJ property if the landowners request annexation or if the city provides water or sewer service to the area. Once a property is annexed, it falls within the city’s jurisdiction and charter.
Home rule allows citizens to “stamp the charter with the local values of the community,” Akers said. A home rule municipality allows the city to look to its charter to determine what it may do as long as the act is not prohibited by state or federal law, Akers said.
Council accepts home rule charter
Following six discussion sessions, the Home Rule Charter Commission presented its proposed charter to City Council at the council’s Feb. 26 meeting. The proposal passed by a unanimous vote, and the charter will be placed on the city’s May 11 ballot.
During the Feb. 26 discussion, Councilman Bill Goodwin asked other council members why home rule status was proposed only after City Council denied Covert Auto Group’s preliminary plat proposal Dec. 11.
“The entire impetus was to give us the power to annex,” Goodwin said. “I’m not talking about the charter. I’m talking about the reasons for the charter.”
Home Rule City Charter Commission chairman Mike Murphy, who served on Bee Cave City Council for 12 years, said that “the idea of a car dealer and how it impacts [residents’] lifestyles” prompted Bee Cave citizens to pursue home rule status. The mayor and staff talked to Covert and other car dealers about the feelings of Bee Cave residents, Mike Murphy said.
“That’s when Falconhead West [subdivision] came to the city and said, ‘You have to stop this’,” Mike Murphy said. At that point, the idea of home rule was considered as a viable option, he said.
“It’s been an idea that was batted around, but there’s been no push,” Mike Murphy said. “This is normally what it takes—some catalyst to motivate people to stand up.”
Although she currently does not have a right to a vote under general rule, Bee Cave Mayor Caroline Murphy said that she supported the city attaining home rule status.
“Annexation is a very powerful tool because it costs to provide services to those areas of the city,” Caroline Murphy said. “I am committed to a very deliberate process that council and staff would go through to develop an annexation plan.”
Falconhead West resident Paul Kline said that adopting home rule status is one incremental step that helps the city control its boundaries.
Home rule precedent
Charter commission members reviewed Horseshoe Bay’s home rule charter as well as Texas Municipal League information on home rule status to determine sections to include in the Bee Cave document. Central Texas cities Fredericksburg, Boerne and nearby Lakeway have adopted home rule status after meeting the 5,000-inhabitant requirement.
Some not in favor of change
For Carolyn Grumbles, a rancher on Hamilton Pool Road, the idea of being annexed into the City of Bee Cave is alarming. Grumbles inherited the property, more than 75-acres, after her husband died a decade ago. Grumbles said that the property has been in her husband’s family for more than six generations, and three generations of the family currently reside on the acreage.
Grumbles said that after her nephews sold their portion of the tract a year ago, she is “desperately trying to hang on to [the] ranch.”
“It’s the Grumbles’ ranch, and we plan to keep ranching,” said Grumbles, who raised her son and daughter on the property.
Grumbles said that she “never wanted to be in the ETJ” when it was created. She said she is anxious about Bee Cave’s move toward home rule status and its ability to annex ETJ property.
“It’s the law, and we can’t vote in that [May 11] election because we’re in the ETJ,” Grumbles said.
“The only life we have is here on this ranch,” Grumbles said. “When we come through our gate in the evenings, you can’t see houses, just the beautiful trees.”
Grumbles’ concerns were addressed by Goodwin, who questioned commission members as to how annexation will affect long-established ranches existing in the city’s ETJ.
City Attorney Patty Akers said ranches that have been granted an agriculture tax exemption can opt out of being annexed by signing a development agreement with the city. However, if the use of the ranch property changes, as in the case of a sale of the property for another intended purpose, the land would be immediately annexed.
“It’s when they plan to sell and develop that we are cautious as to how that neighboring development affects us,” Councilwoman Zelda Auslander said at the Feb. 26 meeting.
The City of Bee Cave is planning to mail out a printed copy of the proposed charter 30 days prior to the May 11 election to all of its registered voters.