Tag Archives: kerrville

P&Z rejects proposal to increase size of electronic signs

During the regularly scheduled meeting of Kerrville’s Planning & Zoning Commission on Thursday afternoon, commissioners voted unanimously to maintain the current maximum size of electronic signage at 32 square feet, and also voted to adopt new language to clarify rules for other sign types in Kerrville and the extra-territorial jurisdiction (ETJ). The proposed changes presented by the Code Review Committee suggested enlarging the maximum allowed electronic signage to 64 square feet for businesses with certain road frontage. However, the commissioners voted unanimously to maintain the current 32 square foot maximum after hearing from over a dozen community members that spoke out against the proposed enlargement.

Approximately 16 citizens, businesspersons, and community representatives addressed the commission with their thoughts on electronic signage in general and the proposed rule changes specifically. All but two persons spoke against enlarging the allowed size of electronic signs. Two individuals spoke in support of the proposed rule changes to allow the larger signs — Walt Koenig of the Kerrville Area Chamber of Commerce and Cory Traub of Pro Tech Signs & Graphixx.

After listening to the public comments, commissioners proposed several changes to the proposed ordinance that will now be submitted to the City Council for consideration and discussion. Changes included maintaining the maximum electronic signage at 32 square feet, maintaining the current duration of electronic messages at four seconds, and also some other minor changes to language regarding awning signs. The council will oversee a three-step process including a public hearing and two readings of the proposed changes to the ordinance. Community members will have a chance to speak again when council considers the ordinance presented to them by the P&Z.

Electronic signs have been the topic of much debate in Kerrville in recent months. Several businesses and organizations had submitted variance requests for larger electronic signs or other types of signage that was not in compliance with the current statutes. The topic was a point of discussion leading up to May’s city council elections. The Code Review Committee, an ad hoc city commission made up of approximately 15 citizens, had worked on changes to the Zoning Code, Sign Ordinance, and other matters, from October 2018 through July 2019.

References

Written by Aaron Yates of Kerrville United

Council approves Arcadia Theater funds

Kerrville City Council approved two funding agreements for the renovation of the Arcadia Theater on Tuesday night, moving the ball forward on a $2.3 million effort led by the nonprofit Kerrville’s 4th on the River (KFOR). The group applied for and received a $600,000 grant from the EIC (Economic Improvement Corporation 4B salex tax monies) along with $400,000 of HOT funds (Hotel Occupancy Tax). The group will raise approximately $1.3 million in private contributions to fully fund the project.

The $600k in 4b funds were approved by EIC last week, but council had to give its blessing for the grant to become “official.”

The KFOR nonprofit group plans to open the theater by July 3, 2020.

A short presentation was made to council and some of those slides are presented below.

Plot twist: City receives debt transparency award from State Comptroller

As we near the end of a months-long election campaign that has been framed by a debate over debt and finances, the City of Kerrville reported today that the State Comptroller had issued the finance department a “Transparency Star” in the area of debt obligations. This program recognizes entities whose websites show visual and narrative detail on outstanding debt, tax-supported debt obligations, historical bond elections and more.

For the past two months, candidates for Place 1 and Place 2 respectively, George Baroody and Mario Garcia, have run advertisements and made statements that call into question the city’s transparency in the way the entity reports and discusses its debt obligations. For instance, in this advertisement run by Garcia on March 30, he takes issue with the way the city presented their debt obligations, and claimed that Baroody was the only person to point out this alleged flaw in reporting.

Garcia advertisement on March 30. See this article for the entire ad and discussion.

In each of their respective interviews with Kerrville United (found in the column to the right on this page) the candidates express their dismay at the way the city handles and presents information related to debt and funding methods to pay for the debt service. But the State Comptroller Glenn Hegar points out that:

By providing taxpayers with essential debt information in a variety of formats, the City of Kerrville has shown a true commitment to Texas taxpayers. This effort achieves the goals set by our Transparency Stars program. I am pleased to award the City of Kerrville a star for its accomplishments.

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hagar

The City of Kerrville Finance Department, headed by Amy Dozier, has received multiple transparency and budget awards in years past.


The City of Kerrville Finance Department includes, from left, Trina Rodriguez, Randi Van Winkle, Sureena Cripps, Chief Financial Officer Amy Dozier, Julie Smith, Nina Dunn.

Olympic Drive developments dominate Tuesday night’s city council agenda

The Kerrville City Council will convene on Tuesday night for the last regular meeting before Election Day 2019. Several items on the agenda pertain to the planned development along Loop 534 and the extension of Olympic Drive to facilitate the construction of the new Peterson Middle School campus planned by Kerrville Independent School District.

A portion of 35 acres will be considered for annexation into the city limits. The property’s proposed zoning is “PI” or Public & Institutional District.

The council will also consider a funding agreement with the EIC. Under the proposed agreement, KISD would pay for approximately 50% of the costs of extending Olympic Drive to Loop 534, and the district would also pay for approximately 75-80% of the costs of the utility extensions. The EIC portion would be approximately $1.05 million. The EIC approved this agreement on April 15. The funds would come from 4B sales tax revenue, which is mandated by state law to be used for economic development projects such as this.

An interlocal agreement between KISD and the City will also be considered to help facilitate the project. In November, KISD voters approved a bond issue of roughly $89 million for the construction of Peterson Middle School as well as for improvements to other campuses within the district. That bond election passed with a 65%-35% margin.

Engineers estimate the total cost of the Olympic Drive extension to be $2 million and the sanitary sewer extension to be $234,000.

The full agenda and packet for Tuesday night’s meeting can be downloaded here:
http://kerrvilletx.granicus.com/DocumentViewer.php?file=kerrvilletx_ecc479cb6769675dbf1c8e46d23df238.pdf&view=1

Chamber of Commerce will film candidate forum on April 15

The Kerrville Area Chamber of Commerce has confirmed to Kerrville United that the candidate forum they’re hosting on April 15 will be filmed and made available for public viewing. We are so pleased that the Chamber has taken this extra step to help inform the community about their choices for the upcoming citywide election.

The Chamber forum will be held at Schreiner University on Monday, April 15, at 6:00 PM. More information is available on the Chamber’s Facebook event page:
https://www.facebook.com/events/schreiner-university/kacoc-candidates-forum/836085140058420/

We encourage all voters to attend the forum, but if you cannot make it, we will publish the video when it becomes available. Early voting begins on April 22 and Election Day is May 4.

Campaign finance reports provide a look behind the curtain

Candidates running for city council must report their contributions and expenses just like most other election campaigns in the United States. For city races, the first report was due on Thursday, April 4, and all four candidates filed on time with the city secretary. These reports covered the period from January through the end of March. We have obtained copies of each report and have compiled some of the data into readable charts, shown below.

One of the key takeaways is this… Campaigns are expensive, and they’re getting more expensive every year. Through the last week in March, the candidates have spent a combined $18,000, and there is still a month to go.

One other note before the data… The Kerrville Daily Times reported on the filings, but made an error on at least one critical number: the amount raised by candidate Kim Clarkson. The KDT reported that Kim raised $12,219.01, but in fact, that’s the amount raised by Gary Cochrane. Clarkson actually raised $15,741.51.

Highlighting an error on the Kerrville Daily Times story published on April 6, 2019. The highlighted number should read: “$15,741.51”

Money Raised

The candidates raised a combined $36,545 through the last week in March, according to the reports. Around 161 donations were accepted, for an average contribution of $227.

Clarkson raised the most money during this period, ringing up $15,741.51 in total political contributions (including in-kind donations).

Comparison of contributions raised by City Council candidates through March 25, 2019.

A list of individual donors was published in the Kerrville Daily Times article, and those individual donors can also be viewed in the full reports, linked at the bottom of this page.

Money Spent

Candidates spent a combined $18k on expenses so far. The bulk of the spending has been on signage and promotional merchandise (about 62%). The remainder is split between printing, newspaper ads, mailings, and other miscellaneous expenses (related to event spending and campaign supplies).

A comparison of expenses as reported by each campaign through the end of March.

Compared to 2017

Some of these figures are unremarkable when looked at in a vacuum, but when compared to the spending levels the last time these two places were up for grabs, the numbers are more surprising. In 2017 there was only one contested race, between incumbent Stephen Fine and challenger Vincent Voelkel (Voelkel won).

By this filing period in 2017, Voelkel had raised $2,975 while Fine raised $7,623, for a total of $10,598. Compare that with $36,545 raised during the same period this year! Even when compared on an average basis between the number of competitive candidates in the race, the numbers are staggering. See the chart below for the comparison. This chart shows the averages per candidate in 2017 and 2019. As you can see, the average amount raised has increased by 72% and the average expenses have increased 80% from the same race in 2017.

Please note that the averages are compared instead of the totals because there was only one competitive race in 2017, while there are two in 2019.

Takeaways & Commentary

  • Campaigns are more expensive now than ever before.
  • Candidates are raising large sums of money to support their campaigns.
  • Clarkson and Cochrane are leaders in the fundraising contest, and also have the greatest number of individual contributors.
  • Candidates spend most of their money in the first few months on signage and printing costs.
  • We expect the costs to shift more toward newspaper advertising for the next finance period leading up to election day.

Sources & Citations

Don’t forget! Early voting begins on April 22 and Election Day is May 4. All voters that reside within the city limits get to vote for both places. See you at the ballot box!

Authored by Aaron Yates, founder of Kerrville United

Candidates address voters at Comanche Trace forum

On Thursday afternoon, the four candidates vying for City Council addressed an audience at the Comanche Trace clubhouse in Kerrville. Gary Cochrane, George Baroody, Kim Clarkson, and Mario Garcia participated in the forum organized by the Comanche Trace HOA and moderated by Jennifer Hyde. The forum was not open to the public — only Comanche Trace members and residents were invited to attend.

The Kerrville Daily Times has a full writeup in their Friday, April 5, edition. Here’s the link for subscribers:
http://dailytimes.com/news/article_15f50382-5804-11e9-8579-eb476e06d28b.html

Clubhouse at Comanche Trace | Photo by Aaron Yates

The next forum will be open to the general public, and will be held at the Schreiner University Event Center and hosted by the Kerrville Area Chamber of Commerce. That forum is scheduled for Monday, April 15, at 6:00 PM.

The voter registration deadline has passed. Early voting begins on April 22, and Election Day is May 4.

Place 4 Gene Allen Resigns from Council

Mr. Gene Allen

In a surprise move yesterday, former councilperson for Place 4, Mr. Gene Allen, submitted his letter of resignation effective at midnight last night. He cited personal and family matters, as well as the changing political environment in Kerrville as reasons for his departure.

Quotes from Gene Allen’s resignation letter.

Quotes from Gene Allen’s resignation letter.

Mr. Allen has served Kerrville for about seven years as city council person, having been elected in 2010, and subsequently re-elected in 2012, 2014, and 2016.

Learn more about the current council and what’s to come in the video below.

 

Launching Kerrville United Video Productions!

We’re very pleased to announce a new service that is brought to you by your friends at Kerrville United: video production!

We will begin airing videos on various topics this month, with shows such as “Inside Kerrville Politics” with Russell Nemky and Aaron Yates. Other programs will air as we produce them and will cover topics such as Kerrville City Council, Kerr County Commissioners Court, other local government entities, and local news matters that concern the citizens of our community.

We look forward to your feedback and comments. Also, feel free to suggest topics that we should discuss. And if your business is interested in sponsoring this service, we’d love to hear from you.

Here is the first episode of “Inside Kerrville Politics” with Russell Nemky and Aaron Yates that aired on Saturday, December 17, 2016.

Open Letter Regarding “Drones” in Kerrville Parks

Editor’s Note: This is an open letter addressed to the Kerrville City Council from Aaron Yates. The attached image was taken over Louise Hayes Park in 2015.

A

A “drone” photo taken over Louise Hayes Park in 2015.

Honorable Councilmembers,

My name is Aaron Yates, and I am a Kerrville native living at 709 Moore Street in our fair city. I write to you today to ask that you reconsider the proposed ordinance regarding the use of “drones” in city parks.

For the past nine years, I have experimented with and used unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly referred to as “drones.” (I will refer to the proper term “UAVs” in my discussion today.) Back in 2007, I started building custom UAVs and testing them out in Louise Hayes Park. I would build, experiment, revise, and the cycle would repeat as I learned more and more about building and operating the aircraft. Having a public open space available to test was very valuable, and at no time did I ever fly near any people or animals, nor did I ever fly in an unsafe manner. I did not encounter anyone who was upset with or bothered by my flights at the park. On the contrary, I have been approached by numerous curious individuals wanting to know what the device was and how it worked. Dozens of curious children have approached me over the years and hopefully my flights in the park sparked some curiosity on their part, and maybe even piqued their interest to pursue science, technology, or engineering.

These days UAVs are much more widely available to the general public. Rather than having to build your vehicle from scratch, you can just browse and shop on Amazon, or go down to the local hobby store and pick up an inexpensive model. This wider access to UAVs has been a mixed bag of good and bad consequences. More folks interested in the hobby is a good thing; but more irresponsible use has cast UAVs in a negative light, such as crashes on the White House lawn or at Wimbledon. However, UAVs continue to provide a valuable service to the community. Uses such as wildfire survey and assistance, aerial photography and videography, and even accident investigation and rescue assistance are some of the valuable ways that UAVs contribute to society. UAVs have sensors such as thermal imaging that help police and first responders locate victims of accidents. They have sophisticated camera systems that allow engineers and surveyors to use photogrammetry to generate topographic maps and orthorectified aerial images. Marketers use aerial photo and video to help sell products or promote events. While the entire spectrum of available technology is not currently utilized in Kerrville, I predict that many industries will see the value in legal UAV use and the applications will continue to expand over the years.

I only mention all of these applications to underscore the point that UAVs serve a much higher purpose than just pure recreation, but recreation is the reason these aircraft keep improving. Increased interest by hobbyists funds the research and development of these new and exciting applications of the technology. To put a halt on recreational usage of UAVs would slow the research and development. Now, of course, a ban on UAVs in little old Kerrville will not put a dent in the international UAV research market, but if small communities around the nation continue down this path of increasing restriction, it would eventually have a detrimental effect on the industry as a whole.

I am opposed to the ordinance as proposed. Not only will increased and unnecessary regulation damage the industry as a whole, but it will also stifle local interest in the hobby. Young people are very excited about and interested in this technology, as evidenced by the children that constantly approach me, but also evidenced by the recent grant and investment in UAVs by the Tivy High School ROTC, who will begin aerial mission planning in the near future. Restricting usage in the park will restrict youth access to the technology, and could prevent some young people from pursuing their interest in technology or engineering.

In addition, the ordinance is unnecessary. In all of my years of using our city parks, I have never encountered anyone flying a UAV in a dangerous manner. I have heard no public outcry to ban these aircraft. In fact, quite the opposite. A poll conducted on the Kerrville Daily Times website finds that (at the time of this writing) 80% of respondents do not think UAVs should be banned. Many comments on the Times’ Facebook page echo sentiments similar to this statement: “Maybe not banned, but definitely regulated.”

But UAVs are already heavily regulated by state and federal laws. Our state law is the most prohibitive, restricting the use over any private property without permission, and banning the use over any facilities of critical infrastructure like water plants or power plants. It also bans “surveillance” of any individual no matter where they are physically located — public or private land. However, it specifically allows use of UAVs over public property. Other state laws protect us from dangerous usage, but they are not specific to drones. Just as you can’t discharge a bullet recklessly or throw bottles into crowds, our health and safety laws already prevent reckless endangerment by any means, including by UAVs.

The Federal Aviation Administration has further regulations regarding the operation of UAVs. All vehicles must be registered with the FAA and all users must affix a registration number to the aircraft so that, if found, it can be traced to the owner. The FAA requires that pilots maintain line-of-sight with the UAV, and users may not use goggles called “first person view” (FPV) to pilot the device, increasing the safety. They must be flown below 400 feet, far away from airports, and cannot be flown over crowds of people. The FAA also requires safe operation as defined in their administrative code.

All of these laws are sufficient to protect the health, safety, and welfare of our local park users without adding extraneous and onerous laws to the books.

One city experimented with the outright ban of all UAVs — Austin, Texas. However, they soon changed their minds, and in April 2015 issued a memorandum that allowed UAV users to continue to legally operate drones in Austin (including parks) as long as they operated them safely. Austin specifically bans their use over big events like Austin City Limits, and the FAA already bans UAV flight near the airport at any time, or over the college stadiums during games. Airspace around the capitol building is also restricted. However, Austin thought better of the outright ban and currently allows citizens to use UAVs recreationally throughout the city, as long as they are used within the current state and federal laws.

Another problem I have with the banning of UAVs in public parks is that it will force some users to operate their vehicles elsewhere, and perhaps in places that are less safe than the public parks. If forced out of city parks, users may decide to fly them in their backyards with obstructions everywhere like trees, power lines, and other people that could cause trouble or injury.

I think our city should take a lesson from Austin and reconsider the prohibition or restriction on recreational usage of UAVs in our parks. If anything, I think the ordinance should mirror state and federal law, and allow UAV operators to use their devices in a safe and legal manner, whether it be recreational usage, commercial/marketing usage, or scientific/engineering usage. The city should prevent UAVs from flying over or around people, and could specifically restrict the flight over crowds such as Kerrville’s Fourth on the River. But these regulations should not be a blanket restriction on all public recreational usage. A directive to Kerrville Police Department stating that they should issue citations for unsafe usage would be helpful for enforcement of the existing laws.

Thank you for your time and consideration on this matter, and your public service to the City Council as a whole. I am grateful that we have thoughtful, intelligent, driven individuals serving our city.

Kind regards,
Aaron Yates