Following mayoral transition, Oak Ridge North City Council discusses infrastructure projects, fee changes

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Oak Ridge North’s mayor retired from his position and was replaced by a City Council member at the June 10 regular City Council meeting, which also included several community updates and discussion over city policies.

Before council began its regular business, Jim Kuykendall stepped down from his position as mayor after nearly eight years in the role. Paul Bond, a council member and the mayor pro tem, was then sworn in and will serve the remainder of Kuykendall’s two-year term ending in May 2020. Former Council Member Tom Coale returned to City Hall to fill Bond’s seat through his term, also ending next spring, and Council Member Dawn Candy was elected by the council as its new mayor pro tem.

Tom Coale is sworn in to fill Mayor Paul Bond’s seat on the Oak Ridge North City Council, in his third stint as a council member. (via Ben Thompson)

After Kuykendall’s exit, Bond presided over his first council meeting, beginning with city staff reports. Public Works Director Joe Sherwin informed council that the city’s final right of way acquisitions for construction on Robinson Road have been completed, opening the door for Montgomery County Precinct 3 to move forward on the Woodlands Parkway overpass redesign at I-45. Sherwin said the county is completing final engineering plans related to the city’s acquisitions and is expected to begin work this summer.

“The county’s ready to go, and we’ve gotten all the properties secured and ready. The engineering has not quite yet been finalized from the county side with the revision that they were going to do,” he said.

Sherwin also said two of Oak Ridge North’s ongoing infrastructure projects will likely commence in July and are now open for bidding. The initiatives include the second phase of the city’s I-45 waterline extension between the residential and commercial zones running from near Robinson Road to Paula Lane, and the ninth phase of sewer updates funded through the Texas Water Development Board.

Police Chief Tom Libby followed Sherwin’s report and highlighted the police department’s recent participation in an inaugural summer safety festival sponsored by the Shenandoah Police Department and Conroe ISD and held June 1 at the Woodforest Bank Stadium. Libby said hundreds of community members attended, and he and Shenandoah Police Chief Raymond Shaw are planning to build upon the event next year with more funding and possible state-level participation.

“We’re going to meet here probably in about a month or two to start working on next year. It should be bigger and better,” Libby said.

The council went on to approve an update to the city’s residential dwelling permitting fees as required by the recently passed House Bill 852 in the Texas Legislature. The city’s prior system of basing fees on home values or project costs is now prohibited, so the council approved a new flat permit fee of $0.72 per square foot of work or building area. City Building Official John Beisert said the new figure was calculated by averaging the square footage and building permit fees of residential projects in the city over the past three years.

The council also approved several changes to the city’s schedule of fees, including increases for special-use permits, zoning variance and special exception fees. Beisert said those fees were increased to avoid losing money due to the costs of advertising notices in local newspapers and to account for the time and effort required of city staff to draft and mail notices. The permit fee was increased from $250 to $600, and the zoning variance and special exemption fees were increased from $250 to $300.

The council session concluded with council members unanimously approving a resolution requesting Gov. Greg Abbott veto HB 2439, which would prohibit the regulation of building materials.

“If this gets signed into law, cities like this one will no longer be able to tell residents, ‘Sorry, you can’t use corrugated steel on the outside of your house.’ They could use whatever is approved at the federal level on any property, any residential or commercial,” Council Member Alex Jones said. “We’d have no control whatsoever over it.”

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