In a May 6 email to Community Impact Newspaper, Jersey Village City Manager Austin Bleess said the petition residents signed in an effort to keep City Hall on Lakeview Drive "has been rejected, as it was invalid."
The agenda for the upcoming city council meeting on May 10 includes the discussion and potential authorization of a construction contract with Brookstone for a new City Hall in Village Center.
Originally posted April 22 at 12:23 p.m.
A petition filed by Jersey Village residents earlier this month may put plans to move City Hall south of Hwy. 290 up for a vote in November.
The petition, filed with the city April 14 by resident Ashley Brown, calls on the city to keep the City Hall building at its current location on Lakeview Drive. City Manager Austin Bleess confirmed the city received the petition in an April 20 phone interview and said it was being examined by the city attorney.
Replacing City Hall has been a part of city plans since officials adopted a comprehensive plan in 2016 that identified significant electrical and structural issues as well as water damage within the building. In 2019, the Jersey Village City Council approved a design contract for a new City Hall with intentions to have it built in the Village Center, a planned mixed-use project south of Hwy. 290. A preliminary plan for the building was released several months later.
Brown, who is also running for Jersey Village City Council Place 3 in local May 1 elections, said the petition itself was simply one line long: "We, the below signed citizens of Jersey Village, wish to petition the following: The City Hall location for Jersey Village to remain at 16327 Lakeview Drive, Jersey Village, TX 77040." She said she personally opposes the City Hall move because she does not think the move makes sense and believes more citizen input should have been sought.
After encountering like-minded residents on the campaign trail, Brown said she decided to start a petition.
"Around mid-February, I realized there were a lot of people who agreed with me that we wanted a say in where [City Hall] goes," she said. "It started off informal. I didn’t anticipate the life it would take on and how it would take over my campaign. Suddenly it was the only thing people wanted to talk about."
If the petition passes legal review, Bleess said it will then be sent to the city secretary to certify the signatures. If it is certified, a process than can take up to 30 days after the filing date, it will then be sent to the Jersey Village City Council, per the city's charter. According to the charter, council has three options when a petition is certified: pass the initiated ordinance without amendment, submit the ordinance to a vote that would take place during November elections later this year or submit the ordinance to a vote alongside another ordinance drafted by the council as an alternative.
To be brought to the council, a petition must receive the signatures of at least 15% of the city's populace that is registered to vote. Brown said she garnered 895 signatures, including 842 registered voters, which she said was about 16% of the city's registered voters. Bleess said more will be known about the next steps once the legal review and certification process is completed.
"It certainly raises a bunch of what-if questions," he said.
Council Member James Singleton said he supports moving City Hall to the Village Center but applauded the work done by the petitioners. He noted council is prohibited by the city charter from calling for a vote, and the process requires citizen involvement.
In response to the argument that citizen voices were left out of the process, he said he has heard from many residents and had faith the majority of citizens would reject a ballot item requiring City Hall to stay where it is.
"My cell phone number is widely dispersed and provides an easy avenue for citizens to have a voice," Singleton said. "I would encourage any citizen to contact me and discuss their questions and concerns."
Brown and several other residents spoke in favor of keeping City Hall at its current location at an April 19 meeting of the Jersey Village City Council with some arguing space in the Village Center should be reserved for development that can bring more tax revenue and foot traffic into the city. Resident Nancy Yetter said she agrees the City Hall building needs to be replaced but said moving it across Hwy. 290 had the feeling of taking it outside of the city.
"It needs to be close to home, close to the people," she said.
Residents also spoke in favor of the City Hall move at the April 19 meeting. Some residents said they thought City Hall would provide strong synergy with the rest of the Village Center development as more office and retail tenants move in. Others said they liked the idea of using the existing City Hall space for an amenity that could cater to the residential districts nearby.
"The move of City Hall to Village Center would eliminate the traffic brought by events ... and would also allow for the space to be used for neighborhood use—another park, a community garden [or] an expansion of our city's farmers market twice a month," resident Kim-Ling Sun said.
Michelle Mitcham, who is running against Brown in the race for Place 3 on City Council, spoke at the April 19 meeting as well. Although she did not address the petition specifically, she said she believes the city in general is on a good trajectory and that her plan as a council member would be to continue those efforts.
Residents on both sides of the debate largely supported the overall vision for the Village Center and the city's efforts to bring development and businesses south of Hwy. 290.
Singleton, who is not up for re-election this year, said he believes moving City Hall to the future Village Center was both the most economical option as well as a strong investment in an underutilized part of the city.
"The land is being provided at no cost to the taxpayers. If we rebuilt in the same location it would require a temporary office that would likely be outside of Jersey Village," he said. "While City Hall is a symbol, it is not what makes Jersey Village a small community. The people and events create our small-town feel. I treasure that feel as much as our residents and will fight to preserve it."
Bobby Warren, council member and mayor pro tem, who is also running for mayor this May, said at the April 19 council meeting that he encouraged citizens to speak out on issues they care about.
"It’s always good to hear opposing voices; it’s always good to hearing different opinions," Warren said. "It’s not even just for [the council's] benefit. It’s for the benefit of the overall conversation we have as a community, and it makes our city better when we engage in that conversation."