Community Impact Newspaper hosted a community forum for Bee Cave City Council candidates April 25 in Bee Cave City Council Chambers. Residents were asked to submit questions to the six candidates vying for three positions on the council. The top three vote getters earn the vacant seats.
Each candidate was given time to introduce themselves, answer questions, rebut if necessary and give closing comments.
Michelle Bliss, incumbent Bill Goodwin, Kara King, Paul Kline, incumbent Jack McCool and Chad Wilbanks all answered questions and visited with residents.
The candidates were all asked the same question, chosen randomly by Community Impact Newspaper staff and asked questions in a serpentine pattern.
The following is a sample of the nine questions that were raised by citizens. The responses below from the candidates were edited for space constraints.
What is your view of the degree of guidance that the comprehensive plan provides for granting of ordinances, variances and zoning?
"Like all documents, the comprehensive plan is a working document, which gives long-term strategy and vision. I think you have to take [variances] on a case-by-case basis. The comprehensive plan was put together over 10 years ago. A lot has changed in the past decade. Unfortunately Bee Cave isn't the small city it once was. In the next 12 to 15 years, we will be bigger than Lakeway, so the question is how are we going to manage that growth and keep our taxes down at the same time."
"I've actually learned a lot about the comprehensive plan. I've read it several times and worked on it when I was on [the planning and zoning commission]. It's not very easy to sit up here when the council [chamber] is empty except for the petitioner asking us to do something and try to figure out how to keep that in context with the comprehensive plan because it's a guide. It's not visible like variances. I actually think the comprehensive plan needs more work and needs to be more specific."
"I think it's a pretty clear guide. It's a vision. It's a pattern. It doesn't write the ordinance for us, but it was written to help determine the course of growth. I think it is something that we need to consult on a regular basis and develop our decisions accordingly. All this talk about making decisions on an ad hoc basis is disastrous for a council. When you don't have a plan or a consistent strategy, it is unfair to those people who don't know that all you have to do is ask."
"I believe the comprehensive plan is somewhat of a guide. I do think that there are sections that do lay out specifics, things like the ratio of multifamily homes. As far as granting variances, each applicant has to come to us showing they have met the criteria for granting variances. I think in a case where [applicants] were taking something from an ordinance, as long as they are meeting the five criteria, I think it is something we need to consider."
"The comprehensive guide was written in 2000, but it was amended in 2009 and will be amended again in 2014. When anyone comes before the council, the comprehensive plan should be [the council's] guide because it is a very well-written document, although it has not been followed as of late. When granting variances and ordinances, I think you have to look at intent and allow the guide to allow you to come up with your answer."
"I've also had the chance to read through the comprehensive guide as well. In my opinion it is on the vague side. I would like to see a lot more specificity in the plans as far as what the vision is for the city. Some of the things in the plan emphasize the walkability of the city. If there is a plan around that, we have to figure out what it is. Either we adjust what we are going to do and make it abide by that, or we figure out what does that mean in terms of the broader city centerpiece."
How do you envision the growth for Bee Cave?
"The total landmass for Bee Cave is relatively constricted. I think the key is figuring out how to get the right mix. I think we really need to avoid, whether it's eliminate or extremely limit, multiuse housing. I think we have way more than we need. We have to also be responsible with the zoning for the areas that we have. We have to make sure we control the areas in the ETJ. I think we run a major risk as a city if we don't get control of some of those key areas."
"This is the issue I'm actually the most passionate about in my candidacy. We are at an apex of growth. I think this city is going to change tremendously in the next four to five years. I specifically want to make sure that in growth, we always are protecting and preserving our Hill Country landscape. The nature of our town, the authenticity of our town, the synergy of our town, I want to make sure that when development comes this way we use authentic Hill Country material."
"I think in general, I support anything that is not going to bring traffic to the area. Anything that would bring us together as a community—someone brought up at [the] planning and zoning [department meeting] the other night that the Bee Cave Baptist Church has some wagon trails back there and how neat it would be if whatever gets developed there could use that as a centerpiece—is where I would like to see us go. As far as looks of buildings, I want variations in looks, texture and colors."
"It's obvious that [the city] will continue to grow. It's obvious that the council has some power, limited, to control [growth]. The council is basically a reactive body. We generally react to the developments that come before us, and if they are projects that are included in our zoning descriptions, we have very little power to change them in any fundamental way. What I would like to see is the council better use its leverage when developers do ask for variances to get a better project."
"If I never see another major residential development, I would be quite pleased. I would like to see a lot of individual lots developed. I like some of the things that are happening along Hamilton Pool Road, along the ETJ. I do think, assuming that home rule passes, that we protect some of the neighborhoods from future adverse developments or unwanted land uses. Again, we are not in the land business, and we have to make the best of what's working for us."
"I think that the council has done a great job of encouraging people to come out here because it is such a family-friendly place. My wife and I moved here 10 years ago, not because of the scenery, but for the dark skylines and the young families in the park. When I envision the growth over the next decade or so, I want to make sure that Bee Cave remains family-friendly. We need to have great strategies to encourage the right kind of businesses here to keep our taxes low."