In an op-ed published in the weekend edition of the Kerrville Daily Times, the CEO of the Kerrville Convention and Visitors Bureau reminds us of the tremendous economic impact that tourism brings our community. According to Charlie McIlvain and CVB research, tourism supports over 17% of local jobs and reduces the tax burden for local residents by one-third.
McIlvain goes on to note that local amenities funded by local government are big reasons that visitors flock to our area — specifically, the sports complex and the ag barn.
The CVB’s research indicates that the tourism industry contributed around $14 million in tax revenue to the city, county, and other local taxing entities.
Each time the City of Kerrville or other local government entities considers a “quality of life” project, it’s not simply the recreational benefits to the residents that are considered — it’s the economic impact that’s the real prize. Quality of life projects such as the River Trail, Sports Complex, and downtown streetscape enhancements are not simply a way to entertain locals and provide aesthetic improvements for us to enjoy, but these projects also represent real economic impacts that we all benefit from.
If you want to know what Kerrville will look like in one year, five, or twenty, a good place to start would be at the Economic Improvement Corporation’s meetings at Kerrville City Hall. The EIC met on Monday afternoon, January 14, and during the meeting, Deputy City Manager EA Hoppe presented the monthly projects update as well as the multi-year Community Improvement Plan. These updates and reports provide a glimpse into what Kerrville might look like in the near future.
The reason the EIC is privy to such exciting prospective information about future projects is because the EIC holds the purse-strings for 4B sales tax revenue. As you’ll recall, 4B sales tax is a 1/2% tax collected within the city on all taxable goods and services, and those monies must be used for certain types of economic development projects. The total revenue totals about $3 to $4 million per year. Past projects have included things like the Sports Complex and the River Trail. So the EIC oversees one of the largest pots of development money in the area, and therefore many projects start off in front of the EIC to ask for funding.
Here are some updates and information presented to the EIC this week.
Current Project Updates
River Trail Extension
Last week City Council approved $1.5 million in EIC funding for an extension to the River Trail that will run from the G Street trailhead to Schreiner University along the northeast side of the Guadalupe River. Schreiner will construct a trailhead and restrooms and will contribute financially to the project, which could be in use by 2020.
Currently the city is working on a scope of design services and they anticipate that coming back to council in the near term.
Reuse Distribution Lines
With the construction of a large impoundment pond near the water treatment plant, the city was able to provide additional effluent water for irrigation customers like Comanche Trace golf course, Riverhill golf course, the municipal golf course, Schreiner University, Peterson Middle School athletic fields, and the new Sports Complex on Holdsworth Drive.
Some of these lines were damaged in the flooding that took place in recent months. Specifically, the aerial lines that crossed the Guadalupe River near Loop 534 were destroyed. The city is continuing to assess disaster recovery funds for the removal of the aerial pipe bridge and the long-term fix for it. The city just completed an application to the Texas Water Development Board for their assistance in that effort.
In the interim, the city will provide a short-term fix by April to serve the existing customers. A long-term, permanent fix may be a year to two years away.
Tennis Center Improvements
The city has let the construction project for the HEB Tennis Center improvements. That project will begin very soon.
Aquatics Feasibility Study
The consultants are working up various options for the improvements that the community input sessions identified. At this time, they are working up some cost estimates for the various options that are available for the Olympic Pool. Another public forum for feedback will be hosted in February.
Legion Lift Station
A construction contract was let at the last city council meeting, so the project is moving forward. The bids came in under the estimates. The total bid was about $5.5 million, and the total project cost, with contingencies, is about $7.7 million. This is less than the previously anticipated cost of around $10 million. The difference may be applied to another project.
Community Improvement Plan
Last year, the EIC requested a report from the city about all ongoing and upcoming projects that are on the table (or could be on the table) for EIC funding. EA Hoppe, Deputy City Manager, provided a large spreadsheet and a report with anticipated funding levels for the various projects on the horizon, including the following. These projects are not necessarily fleshed out, but they provide an interesting look at what could be coming to our city in the not-so-distant future. If you’re interested in the city’s priorities for major projects, this is a good place to look.
Watch the video below starting at 33:45 to hear about these plans.
Although these events don’t directly affect Kerrville or its citizens, we believe it is useful to keep abreast of issues that affect nearby communities so that we may learn from their efforts, successes, or mistakes. Our neighbors to the north are exploring (or bracing for) the possibility of two new rights-of-way that would require purchase or acquisition of private land or easements across private lands: 1.) a highway “relief route” to divert traffic around the core downtown; and 2.) a new natural gas pipeline planned by Kinder Morgan. As these two infrastructure deals take shape, the city of Fredericksburg is also in the news for being named the “least affordable” place to live in the state of Texas.
Highway Relief Route
According to the fact sheet, “The City of Fredericksburg and Gillespie County, acting through the Gillespie County Relief Route Task Force and with support from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), are conducting a feasibility study to explore a potential US 290 relief route around Fredericksburg. The relief route would give people the option to travel around, rather than directly through, the city.”
According to the support materials, high traffic volumes and downtown congestion have increased in recent years, and the need for an alternate route has been an important issue for the community. The Fredericksburg Relief Route Study would identify route options for construction of a loop or alternate route for through traffic. This alternate route would be constructed in cooperation between the City of Fredericksburg and TxDOT, and would require significant purchases of private land.
However, realization of this idea is still a long way off. If it proceeds according to plan, the actual construction of this project might be 7+ years off. Several meetings have already been hosted by the City of Fredericksburg and TxDOT, including meetings on May 31 and September 24. Another public workshop will take place on January 24, 2019, at the Pioneer Museum Sanctuary.
Although a number of routes are being considered, the most cost-effective route may be the one that is closest to the city, requiring the fewest number of miles for easements, acquisitions, and construction. Some of the conceptual routes are pictured below.
For more information about the relief route project, visit the following links:
A project that is not looked upon nearly as favorably as the relief route is the proposed Kinder Morgan natural gas pipeline that is planned to traverse Gillespie County along its route that starts in west Texas and ends near Katy.
Kinder Morgan, one of the largest pipeline companies in the US, is currently surveying the route and seeking contractual agreements with property owners along the way. Construction could begin as early as this fall and the pipeline would be operational by 2020. These companies are authorized by the State of Texas to seize private land through eminent domain, as long as the property owners are “fairly compensated.”
Some property owners near the proposed route are calling this plan “another assault on one of the most iconic regions of the state,” and some property owners also recall the recent electric transmission lines that came through this part of the hill country.
The proposed route through Gillespie County would be south of Fredericksburg, cutting perpendicularly across State Highways 16 and 87. See the approximate route in the graphic below, or visit this link for a more accurate map of potentially affected lands.
For more information about this proposed pipeline project, visit the following links:
A website known as Walletwyse studied the relationship between the minimum wage and the median-priced housing market in various cities across the country, and computed the relative affordability of living in these places as a minimum-wage earner. Fredericksburg was listed as the least affordable city in Texas using this metric, which assigned debt-to-income ratios based on those minimum wage rates and median home prices.
The minimum wage in Fredericksburg is $7.25 per hour, as it is in every city in the state of Texas. The median home price is listed at $305,600. In comparison, Kerrville’s median home price is listed at $206,700.
While we know that median housing prices are not a perfect model for overall affordability of living in a place, this study provides an interesting set of metrics to compare across the country.
As we mentioned at the outset, these events have little impact on the average Kerrville resident, but we feel that it’s a good idea to look to neighboring communities and examine how they deal with challenges such as transportation, infrastructure, housing, costs of living, etc., because our community must also deal with those issues on an ongoing basis. Fredericksburg and Gillespie County will have a lot on their plate in the upcoming year as they deal with rapid growth, increases in tourism, and economic development issues.
The Kerrville City Council met for the first time in 2019 this past Tuesday evening at Council Chambers within City Hall. The meeting lasted from 6 PM until almost 9 PM with a jam-packed agenda contributing to a longer than average meeting. Some of the highlights of the meeting included the following:
Support state tax rebate to help fund hotel/conference center
Council passed a resolution supporting state legislation to allow Kerrville to become eligible for a tax rebate that would be used to support the funding of a hotel/convention center. City Manager Mark McDaniel explained that this legislation would allow Kerrville to receive a rebate from existing taxes, and that no new taxes are proposed, nor any increase in taxes.
This program is part of the Texas Tax Code Chapter 351 Section 102b, which allows eligible cities to receive these rebates to support specific hotel/conference center projects. The rebate comes from the 13% hotel tax that is currently collected. Currently, 6% of the hotel tax goes to the state, and 7% goes to the city. Under this plan, the 6% going to the state would come back to the city for up to ten years to help pay for a public/private partnership for a hotel/conference center. 39 other Texas cities have taken advantage of this tax program.
Council and McDaniel were careful to explain that no specific site or project has been committed to at this time. A developer would partner with the city to construct such a project. McDaniel also reminded council that a study was conducted in 2018 that researched what Kerrville could support as far as a hotel/conference center. The study concluded that a large demand for space is currently not being met in Kerrville, and visitors and conferences that would prefer to be in Kerrville are actually forced to go to other locations since we do not have the facilities in place. Since that study was completed, the City has worked to develop funding measures to implement the recommendations from that study.
Council voted unanimously to approve this resolution.
HEB plans move foward
Council held public hearings for a zoning change on the HEB Main Street property as well as on the closure of Hays Street between Main and Jefferson — both items to facilitate the construction of a new HEB building oriented facing Lemos Street, and new gas pump stations on the property.
After hearing citizens’ concerns regarding legacy oak trees that would be removed, and concerns about closing Hays Street, the council voted unanimously to pass both the zoning change and the street closure ordinances.
River Trail extension to Schreiner University receives EIC funding
Council considered a request to use EIC funds for about a mile of new River Trail that would extend from G Street to Schreiner University north of the Guadalupe River. The route is pictured below.
In the agreement, the EIC would provide $1.5 million in funding in two installments to allow the city to construct this portion of the trail. Schreiner University would contribute $50,000 in cash, provide a public trail head, and would construct public restrooms near the trail head. The project would be complete by 2020.
Council voted unanimously to approve this funding agreement.
Contract to construct Legion Lift Station
Council unanimously authorized a construction contract with Keystone Construction for $5.5 million dollars to build a new Legion Lift Station. This sewer infrastructure project has sought for many years and will alleviate the wastewater bottleneck that hampered new development in that portion of the city. This project will be paid for with monies from EIC, the Texas Water Development Board, and the city’s water and sewer revenues.
Council appointed new members to the following boards:
Charter Review Commission
Animal Services Advisory Board
Recovery Community Coalition
Senior Services Advisory Committee
Planning & Zoning Commission
The next regularly scheduled City Council meeting will take place on January 22.
The Kerrville Parks & Recreation Department recently announced a new concert series slated for summer 2019 entitled, “Concerts by the River.” The department will host five music concerts at Louise Hayes Park on the dates listed below, and admission will be free. Food and refreshments will be available for purchase. The concerts will begin at 6:30 PM on the following dates.
“The purpose of our free “Concerts by the River” series is to bring people together to enjoy a relaxing yet stimulating social and cultural experience,” Kerrville Parks and Recreation Director Ashlea Boyle stated. “The concerts will present a variety of different styles of musical entertainment in an atmosphere the entire family can enjoy.”
The Kerrville City Council will convene for the first time in 2019 tonight for a regular meeting at 6 PM at City Hall. A busy agenda awaits the council’s consideration. Tonight’s meeting can be viewed live at this link.
Council will officially declare May 4, 2019, as the official election date for municipal elections. As we’ve reported, Place 1 and Place 2 are up for election this year — places currently held by Vincent Voelkel and George Baroody, respectively.
Executive Session for “Hotel/Conference Center”
The council is scheduled to adjourn to executive session to discuss a business prospect for economic development described as a hotel/conference center. Because of the sensitive nature of negotiations and business proprietary information, the council will discuss these matters in a meeting room that is not open to the public. No immediate action is posted on the agenda following this session, so it’s unclear if any action will be taken after this secret meeting.
Zoning and Street Closure for HEB
The council will consider changing the zoning classification for the current HEB site. In addition, council will discuss the closing of a portion of Hays Street to allow the proposed new 100,000 square foot building to be constructed as pictured in the site plan below. The changes will also allow for an expanded fuel station and car wash at this site.
The portion of Hays Street that would close is valued at $250,000. HEB will incur the costs to relocate certain infrastructure relating to storm drainage, and will compensate the city with $102,000 in addition to the value of those infrastructure changes.
The proposed HEB development sits within the TIRZ that was established in late 2018, so any increase in property values will begin to add to the “TIRZ piggy bank” that will be used for future downtown development and enhancements.
PDD for 318 Leslie Drive
Council will consider creating a Planned Development District at 318 Leslie Drive for a proposed office plaza at this location.
City staff is recommending approval of this PDD.
Funding for River Trail Extension to Schreiner University
Schreiner University is requesting $1.5 million in funding from the Economic Improvement Corporation (EIC) for the construction of about a mile of River Trail that would extend the path to the Schreiner campus.
Schreiner makes their case for this funding by pointing out that the university seeks to expand their enrollment to nearly 2,400 students by 2024, and each student has a local economic impact of about $52,000, contributing to a current economic impact of $63 million per year. The increased enrollment is projected to add 60 new jobs at Schreiner at an average annual wage of $54,000. The university contends that extending the River Trail to the campus would assist them in marketing the school to prospective new students.
As part of this proposed agreement, the City would provide design and engineering services, acquire the easements, and construct the trail. Schreiner, in turn, would provide public access to this portion of the trail, construct a trailhead, and build bathrooms near the trailhead.
The proposed section of trail would connect to the existing river trail near the G Street bridge. It would cross the river at that point and travel along the northeast side of the river until it reaches Quinlan Creek. The new trail would follow the west side of Quinlan Creek generally north to the new trailhead. See diagram below.
Contract to replace Legion Lift Station
Council will consider authorizing a contract with Keystone Construction for a $5.4 million project to replace the Legion Lift Station. This project has been contemplated since 2008, confirmed as a priority within the 2050 Comprehensive Plan, and would provide much-needed upgrade to the capacity for sewage collection on a large portion of the city’s service area.
Council will make appointments to the following city boards:
Via a Facebook announcement posted on January 7, local real estate agent Gary Cochrane has entered the race for Place 1 on the Kerrville City Council. The election is scheduled for May 4, 2019.
Mr. Cochrane will challenge the incumbent Vincent Voelkel, who has served as Place 1 Councilman since 2017. Mr. Voelkel has not yet indicated whether or not he will seek re-election, although he has picked up a candidate packet from City Hall.
Cochrane is a real estate agent with RE/MAX Kerrville. He has served the public in various capacities, including as President of the Economic Improvement Corporation (EIC), the body that distributes economic improvement funds via the 4B sales tax revenues.
In a Facebook post, Mr. Cochrane stated:
After many weeks of consideration and encouragement from friends and family, I have decided to run for Kerrville’s City Council (Place 1). This is my opportunity to give back to the community that has blessed me and my family so much.
–Gary Cochrane via Facebook post on January 7
Cochrane is the second candidate to officially announce an intention to run for council in 2019. Last week, local businessperson Kim Clarkson announced her candidacy for Place 2. The election will be held on May 4, with early voting beginning on April 22.
The 2019 Kerrville City Council election has its first officially announced candidacy — Kim Clarkson announced her intention to run for Place 2 via a press release made available to us on Friday.
Clarkson is the first candidate to officially enter the race and has picked up her candidate packet from City Hall. Only one other potential candidate has picked up a packet, and that’s Vincent Voelkel, the incumbent in Place 1 up for reelection in May. Mr. Voelkel has not publicly announced his intention to run, however.
Kim Clarkson is a Kerrville native and works with her family business, Kerr County Abstract & Title. Clarkson has served in various volunteer and service capacities in Kerrville, including as a subcommittee member on the Kerrville 2050 Comprehensive Plan Committee, and currently serves on the city’s Code Review Committee.
In the press release, Clarkson stated:
“I was first asked to run for city council over a year ago. After careful consideration, I believe my passion for the community, my record of service, and the development of my leadership skills have led me to this decision. I believe, if elected, that serving on the Kerrville City Council will offer me the opportunity to give back to all of the great people in Kerrville who love living here as much as I do.”
Packets for candidates are available at the Kerrville City Hall. Candidates can officially file for a place on the ballot starting on January 16 and the closing deadline is February 15. This year’s election takes place on Saturday, May 4, with early voting beginning on April 22.
Stay tuned to Kerrville United for up-to-the-minute news on municipal politics and elections.
Kerrville’s Planning and Zoning Commission was scheduled to hear variance requests for two proposed electronic signs on Thursday, January 3, 2019, but both requests were postponed or removed from Thursday’s agenda.
For the Chamber of Commerce sign along Sidney Baker Street, the agenda item was removed at the request of the applicant. No information about that variance request was presented at Thursday’s meeting. P&Z Chairman Bob Waller indicated that the item would likely be revisited at a future meeting.
The variance request from Calvary Temple Church was presented, but no action was taken. Instead, the committee voted unanimously to table the matter and to hear recommendations about possible amendments to the sign ordinance at the next meeting on February 7.