Bee Cave takes first step toward home rule status

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During Bee Cave City Council’s special meeting Feb. 17, Mayor Caroline Murphy appointed a 15-member Home Rule Charter Review Commission tasked with compiling a new city charter to attain home rule city status. In order for the council to have the proposal on the city’s May ballot, the commission must meet the home rule requirements by the March 1 deadline, a timeline to which Councilman Bill Goodwin is opposed.

“The idea of writing a city charter by 15 people in three meetings is ludicrous,” Goodwin said. “We need to be very careful here. We’re making big decisions very fast, and it’s not addressing the real problem.”

Home rule, as opposed to general law operation of a local government, is the ability of a city to govern by its local charter rather than by state statute to determine what it is allowed to do. A home rule city can take any action not prohibited under state law as long as it is included in the city’s charter. If the City of Bee Cave attains home rule status, it will have greater authority to annex extraterritorial jurisdiction, or ETJ, property without the landowners’ consent as well as impose higher tax rates and fees for those doing business within its borders.

Goodwin said that even if the city were to annex all of the areas within its ETJ, it may not be able to deny zoning permits to a proposed car dealership and other businesses. Last year, a Covert car dealership was denied a preliminary plat on Hwy. 71 within the Bee Cave ETJ based on the city’s subdivision ordinance requiring two entrances or exits in all developments. At the time, Covert lacked approval for the second entrance/exit.

Members of the commission are required by the city to be residents of Bee Cave and must be available to meet during the next two weeks. The newly appointed Bee Cave HRCRC includes Mayor Pro Tem Jack McCool; Planning and Zoning Commissioner Patrick Flores and Vice Chairwoman Michelle Bliss; Mike Murphy and Scott Lineberry of the Bee Cave Economic Development Corporation; and homeowners Sumit Date, Carrell Killebrew, Jim Miles, Paul Kline, Steve Albert, Jim Cook, Michelle Williams, Kara King, Gary Cadenhead and Nell Penridge. The commission has posted agendas for the Feb. 20, 21 and 22 meetings at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

Additionally, Lindsay Withrow, director of Community Services for the City of Bee Cave, presented an analysis of the city’s population showing a total of 5,163 residents as of July 2012 and an estimated 5,371 citizens as of February 2013. According to the last census, the City of Bee Cave had a population of 3,925 residents in 2010. Home rule status is only available to cities with more than 5,000 inhabitants.

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