The new fees are in response to House Bill 852, a bill passed May 24 that forbids single-family residential building permit costs to be based on property value. The new fees will be based on square footage, beginning at 50 cents for buildings less than 1,000 square feet and decreasing slowly as square footage increases, according to Dave McCorquodale, assistant to the city administrator.
“In trying to determine a flat rate … it was noticed the fees got really large on a really large home, and we didn’t feel like that was representative of the work going into it,” McCorquodale said. “[With the new rate] as the home gets larger, the fee per square foot gets smaller.”
Council Member Rebecca Huss thanked McCorquodale for his department’s expeditious creation of the new rate to allow the city to remain open for business.
The council also approved several rezoning ordinances, which included properties rezoned to commercial, industrial and residential, except for one—a tract of land by 712 Community Center Drive, Montgomery, which caused debate between citizens at the May 29 meeting and was recommended not to be rezoned.
Huss suggested Patricia Easley, the resident who requested the rezoning, be given a special permit instead of rezoning the entire tract to give her the freedom to expand her small business without changing the nature of the neighborhood.
“I’m wondering if that would solve ... the problems—the concerns of the owner of the property for the use for her business,” Huss said. “[And] the concerns of the council, the concerns of the neighbors, because she would like to use it as she is currently using it or even expanding it but not turn it into a gas station.”
The council decided to table the community center ordinance for its next meeting June 25 until input from residents could be heard.
Police cars, corridors and trees
In other news from the meeting, the council approved the purchase of two new police cars as well as the sale of two old cars. New police Chief Anthony Solomon said his department was able to save $2,700 with the purchase of the new cars.
“What we were doing is we were buying cars that were ... about $32,000. ... We would go out and spend another $17,000 to get them equipped,” Solomon said. “The same place we’ve been buying these vehicles all the time will equip the vehicles for $40,800, and then after that we’ll spend about $6,000 to get the rest of the equipment in. So we’ve saved anywhere from ... $51,000 to about $46,000 [or] $47,000.”
Outgoing City Administrator Jack Yates presented a draft letter that will be sent to buildings within the Corridor Enhancement District. The district was put in place to preserve the historic and aesthetic value of Montgomery, but with the recent passing of House Bill 2439, cities are no longer able to prohibit building products or material that is otherwise approved by national standards.
City Attorney Larry L. Foerster suggested asking the affected businesses to voluntarily agree to keep the ordinance, potentially giving a one-time tax abatement as an enticement.
“I think if we can wave a carrot … rather than a hammer, we may be able to develop a program that will encourage corridor enhancement not only there but [also in] any other future areas,” Foerster said.
The bill was sent to Gov. Greg Abbott on May 29. Abbott has 20 days to sign, veto or allow the bill to become law without a signature. The council voted to table the action.
McCorquodale gave a report on the work on tree ordinance revisions, which prevent developers from cutting down trees of a certain age. McCorquodale said his department has worked to keep the natural historic features of the town intact while also remaining a desirable location for new business.
The report is still a work in progress, but McCorquodale said he plans to present the ordinance to the council at its June 25 meeting.