Hill Country Village is still weighing a May 6 special election that could possibly focus on the future of a prime piece of undeveloped property, and not on a City Hall proposal that local officials and residents have debated in recent months.

City Council on Jan. 19 directed city staff to look at calling a special meeting within the next two to three weeks to receive guidance from the city’s bond counsel on a potential May 6 election.

Council members said, if such an election were scheduled, voters would be asked whether they want to keep in place an option of municipal use on part of a 14-acre city-owned tract at Bitters Road and Tower Drive.

Local leaders and residents have spent several meetings since last summer discussing how best to upgrade Hill Country Village’s municipal facilities.

Options have included repairing and updating the existing City Hall/police station at 116 Aspen Lane, replacing and expanding the same building on the same Aspen Lane lot, or building a new municipal complex on the Bitters Road tract.

But after informal straw polls and a recent mail-in survey where participating residents by a slight margin indicated a desire to retain and modernize the existing City Hall in place, several city leaders said it was time to make a decision on the City Hall matter and turn their attention toward the undeveloped Bitters Road land.

“We’re going to move forward on City Hall,” Council Member Tom Doyle said before motioning to keep the municipal complex at Aspen Lane and decide later on how to improve the structure.

The vote prevailed 3-0 with Council Member Matthew Acock abstaining, saying he would have preferred to wait to have had an absent Allison Francis be part of the council discussion and vote.

Some attending residents at the Jan. 19 council meeting who received the city’s mail-in survey during the recent holiday season criticized language in the document, saying it appeared skewed and pushing a new City Hall project on Bitters Road, and urged local leaders to consider the survey results as illegitimate.

City officials said they released 300 copies of the mail-in survey, and requested returned responses by Dec. 16. Only 103 surveys were answered—with 53 respondents favoring relocation of City Hall to Bitters and 50 wanting to keep the municipal complex on Aspen Lane.

The city offered informal straw polls to residents attending special meetings about City Hall in 2022. According to local officials, 33 residents said a new City Hall was needed, but 21 said they wanted to keep it on Aspen with the rest envisioning moving the facility to Bitters Road.

“It’s a huge decision for the citizens and the city,” Doyle said. “We wanted to hear from our citizens, as many as we could hear from."

In 2019, voters authorized the city to reserve a piece of the 14-acre Bitters Road plot for future municipal purposes, including possibly a new City Hall/police complex.

City officials in past meetings said many residents have expressed their preference to not have commercial or multifamily residential development on the Bitters Road property, although local leaders added it is not impossible to change the property’s zoning in the future, if desired.

Nonetheless, some residents on Jan. 19 said they wanted to their elected representatives to stop relying on nonbinding surveys and straw polls, and make a firm decision about the City Hall situation, and then explore what should happen with the Bitters Road tract.

“You guys just have to get off the dime and decide something,” former Mayor Kirk Francis told council.

Council members did arrive at a consensus of committing to not relocating the City Hall campus to the Bitters Road tract and getting formal input from local voters about how best to deal with the 14-acre plot going forward.

"We would have to say we’re no longer using [that Bitters property] for municipal purposes,” Acock said.

If called, a special May 6 election would be on the same ballot containing any contested races in Hill Country Village’s regularly scheduled council election.