Bee Cave City Council puts home rule status, charter on May 11 ballot

On Feb. 26, Bee Cave City Council unanimously passed an order calling for a special election May 11 to allow voters to determine whether the city will adopt home rule status and a new city charter.

Bee Cave Mayor Caroline Murphy announced City Council's home rule vote to a standing ovation from spectators.

Charter commission

The draft charter was created during six public sessions by a 15-member Home Rule Charter Commission appointed Feb. 17 by Murphy.

HRCC Vice Chairwoman Heather Cadenhead said the commission represented a cross-section of Bee Cave neighborhoods and was composed of one member from Meadowfox, one from Bee Cave West, two from Falconhead, three from The Homestead, four from The Uplands and four from Falconhead West.

Lindsay Withrow, director of community services for the City of Bee Cave, provided an analysis of the city's population showing more than 5,000 inhabitants, the first requirement for a city to attain home rule status.

The charter's creation was necessary for the city to seek home rule status; for City Council to place the proposal on the May ballot, the commission needed both to draft a charter and to establish 5,000 inhabitants by March 1.

Extraterritorial jurisdiction

HRCC Chairman Mike Murphy outlined a few significant sections in the charter, including one that grants the City of Bee Cave power to annex land contained within its extraterritorial jurisdiction, or ETJ, with or without a property owner's consent.

Councilman Bill Goodwin questioned why home rule status was proposed following City Council's Dec. 11 denial of Covert Auto Group's preliminary plat proposal for a dealership on Hwy. 71 in the Bee Cave ETJ.

"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."

Goodwin voiced concern that annexation could affect long-established working ranches within the ETJ borders and asked for a discussion on protecting those homeowners.

City Attorney Patty Akers said ranches that have been granted agriculture tax exemptions 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, annexation would be triggered.

Charter highlights

Also included in the draft charter are sections adopting a "council-manager" form of government with an enumerated list of powers granted to the city manager, giving the mayor a right to vote on the dais and establishing a City Council quorum of four members.

The draft also states that a council member or mayor who leaves office cannot be hired for a compensated position within the city government until a year after the term's intended ending date; establishes a city taxation department; and grants citizens the ability to petition to put initiatives, referendums and recalls on a city ballot.

"This proposal gives the city greater ability to regulate powers in a broader region," Councilwoman Zelda Auslander said. "The way it is written, it provides a great deal of flexibility to future councils to pass ordinances that comply with state or federal laws and gives us room to grow."