An earlier version of this story that aired incorrectly identified David Griffin in both the story and the accompanying graphic.


Several people spoke at the public hearings held Tuesday, Nov. 14 as part of the Van Alstyne City Council’s regular monthly meeting.


The first public hearing regarded the request from El Patio Escondido owner William Pacheco, who opened his business in 2012, to have the two side-by-side properties he owns — zoned as Commercial-1 and Residential-1 — rezoned to become Planned Development. EDC board member David Hips was the first to speak, asking the Council to do what it can to help the business grow. Carolyn Beaty spoke next.


“We live at 456 Rigsby. We have no objection to him expanding his business, but…” Beaty said before saying her home is having a problem with rats. She said that she had learned “he (Pacheco) does not pay his dumpster bill and they have not been picking it up.” Later in the meeting, Pacheco told the Council his trash bins are picked up twice weekly and that he does pay his bills.


Regarding the ordinance requirement that the parking lot be paved with concrete, Paul Nobles said that El Patio does already have concrete, which is chipped concrete and that the ordinance doesn’t specify poured concrete over metal re-bars.


Council member Robert Jaska asked why the neighbors haven’t complained before, since there have been restaurants at that location for more than the 10 years he has lived in Van Alstyne. Resident Tiffany Clum mentioned another business that recently opened, but without a concrete parking lot; but later the city engineer said that the business owner got his parking lot in place in 2015, one month before the new ordinance went into effect. The Council determined that the El Patio Escondido property is not grandfathered in as exempt from a concrete parking lot.


Mayor Larry Cooper said that the Planning & Zoning Commission believes any extension of the current parking lot should be concrete. Jaska said, “He (El Patio Escondido) was here before the ordinance was amended or updated. And these ordinances are not small business friendly. I want to keep the businesses that are here, here, and do what we can to help them. Those are the businesses that give the town character. We don’t need to be driving people and leaving empty lots. I’m playing favorites to small business.” Council member Suzon Crowell responded, “We are supposed to follow our ordinances.”


Later in the meeting, the Council approved the zoning change to Planned Development, with a time schedule for the restaurant owner to build a solid fence between his properties and those to the south of him.


No one spoke at the public hearing regarding the zoning and requested variances around the Sanford Elementary School, currently under construction around the north end of town. The rezoning was later unanimously approved along with the requested variance.


David Griffin spoke at the public hearing regarding a property zoned Office District at 530 S. Waco Street. He and the other tenants there asked to be allowed to use a roll-away sign to promote their special events and sales. The discussion came around to note that Council member Crowell lives in the neighborhood, and she admitted she had called the police on them when they had already been using the sign.


Lux Aesthetic owner Barbie Griffin, whose business is in that building, said her customers come from McKinney to the south and as far as Denison to the north. “They eat, the come visit, they buy gasoline. If Van Alstyne is saying it is friendly to small business…” she said.


David Griffin, answering questions, said they would not put the sign near Waco Street, but nearer the driveway to the building.


Council member Lee Thomas said he didn’t see how the Council could deny the request, since that property is zoned as office space. Someone pointed out that it is two doors from a car lot and three from a florist shop. Crowell again said, “This is 100 percent residential.”


The motion took two votes later in the meeting. The first motion and second was to deny the use of the sign, but that was killed with a 2-3 vote, with Crowell and Council member Teddie Ann Salmon saying nay. Next, the motion was to allow the use of the sign, and that passed, again 3-2, with Council member Brad Clough, Jaska and Thomas saying yes.


Again, no one spoke up during the public hearing regarding the possible demolition of an older house at 178 S. Waco. And that, too, was later approved to be demolished, with the owner having 30 days to get it done or the city would do it and charge the owner for the cost.


Items in the consent agenda, which can be approved with one motion and vote, were unanimously approved. These included a non-consent towing ordinance; Interlocal Agreements for the sale of take-or-pay water to both the cities of Anna and Melissa; and the approval of the 2017 tax roll values.


Regular agenda


• Approved the appointment of Nobles to the Planning & Zoning Commission.


• Approved the casing of all votes for the Grayson County Central Appraisal District Board of Directors to Charlie Williams.


• Approved the authorization of the Parks & Recreation Board to seek funding from the Community Development Corporation for the replacement of pole lighting, benches, and a new flag pole at Dorothy Fielder Park. Salmon abstained from this, as she is the chairman of the Parks & Recreation Board.


• After considerable discussion of why this item was necessary, the Council approved the reimbursement of $12,510 to the CDC, made necessary because of that amount of over-payment on CDC’s commitment to help with expenses on Phase I of the Shared Use Path. CDC Director Rodney Williams said that during the time those payments were made, there had been several short-term CDC employees, thus the confusion. The vote on this was 3-1. The three for were Clough, Salmon, Lee; Crowell against; and Jaska abstaining.


• Approved interlocal agreements with both CDC and the Economic Development Corporation regarding employee benefits. Both corporations will get copies of all personnel files. When the vote was taken, Jaska again abstained as he is on the EDC Board of Directors. The vote was two for and two against, leaving the mayor to cast the deciding vote. “I vote in favor of executing this agreement,” Mayor Cooper said.


• Approved revisions to the EDC bylaws dated Nov. 8. EDC board member Kaaren Teuber said they will be sending minutes of each monthly meeting to the city clerk to have included in the Council members’ packets.


• Tabled a vote on a 3 percent pay increase for city personnel. Each department head is to provide the Council members with information Crowell requested, before the next meeting. Clough opposed tabling this vote, all others approved it.


• Set a date of Jan. 8 to have a joint work session with Planning & Zoning Commission and Gateway Planning. This will begin at 6:30 p.m.


• Tabled a discussion regarding a financial overview of the 2017 budget items that varied from the planned amount by $2,500 or 10 percent minimum. Crowell said, “We need this information to understand how good we are at budgeting.” Each department head is asked to bring their individual line items meeting those criteria to them by Dec. 1.


• Discussion with a vote later taken to again require the city to get a forensic audit. Crowell said that they had voted on this at a previous meeting. Cooper said that he made the decision afterward not to request it, because of the expense. Crowell said, “I feel like you circumvented what we asked for, and we specifically voted on it.” City Clerk Jennifer Gould asked for a time frame and was asked to have the forensic audit be made through the time the former city manager was employed. This will be done through a Request for Proposal.


Departmental and Council Reports


• City hall closed on Thursday and Friday, Nov. 23-24, for Thanksgiving, reported Gould.


• Upcoming events include: Nov. 21-MacDonald’s ribbon cutting; Dec. 2-Christmas Tree lighting at the gazebo park; Dec. 5-Texoma Patriots meeting at Buck Snort BBQ restaurant; Dec. 9-Christmas parade.


The Council, at 10 p.m., went into Executive Session, and came back out after midnight. Of the items they discussed, and once they were back in open meeting, they approved some changes to the Standards of conduct for board and commission members and a resolution making changes in personnel policy were both unanimously approved.