It’s back to the drawing board, literally, for one couple hoping for variances to build their new home at the southeast corner of S. Dallas Ave. and W. Umphress St. in Van Alstyne. Ted and Carrie Stephens asked for a 15-foot backyard setback instead of the required 25 feet. Ted Stephens explained using graphics of the house showing why he needed the variance.


Council member Teddie Ann Salmon read a letter, during the public hearing portion of this Zoning Board of Adjustments meeting, from a neighbor who said the proposed building plans for the property would compromise the integrity of the entire neighborhood. Council member Suzon Crowell motioned to deny, saying when asked to repeat her motion and comments after she had not used the microphone provided to each council member, “We can’t continue with adjustments… You (the Council) is going to be obligated every time. It’s the next person who comes and every person after that.” That motion died for lack of a second.


“That’s the reason we have the variance laws,” Mayor Larry Cooper said. “We have some that were denied by this Council also. It’s not just a rubber stamp.”


Council member Brad Clough motioned to approve the variance request with a 20-foot setback on either side. With no second, that motion also died. Council member Lee Thomas motioned to approve the request with a 25-15 foot variance, which he reminded had been done with a master plan on a recent sub-development. That vote went two for and two against, with Salmon, who lives in the neighborhood, abstaining.


As Cooper was preparing to break the tie vote, City Attorney Julie Fort explained that ZBA requests can only be approved with a minimum of four votes. So, no more action was taken.


The ZBA meeting ended and the regular council meeting began about 7 p.m. The consent agenda included approval of the final plan for Chapel Creek Farms sub-development at Old Highway 6 and Judd Road, with a unanimous vote.


Also approved unanimously were the appointments of Donald Hash to the Planning & Zoning Commission and Tiffany Clum as well, as alternate. Later on the agenda was the appointment of Gerald Smith to the Parks & Recreation Board.


Next on the agenda was the proposal to borrow, or take out Certificates of Obligation on, a half million dollars to be used on two projects. The first is required work by Texas Department of Transportation that makes way for TxDOT to make its own improvements along FM 121 (E. Jefferson Street) from Moody Lane to Lincoln Park Road. TxDOT is requiring this work to be completed so they can begin in late March.


Later in the meeting, there was no discussion and a unanimous vote taken to allow the city to advertise for bids for this TxDOT-required water line relocation.


The second project on which the money will be spent is the construction of a new Public Works building at the city’s sewer plant on Spain Road.


The loan comes at a 2.69 percent interest rate over 15 years with Energy Bank. The vote was unanimous on this item.


The council decided unanimously to refund an overpayment from the Van Alstyne Economic Development Corporation to the city for work on Phase I of the shared use path. Previously, they had refunded an equal amount to V.A. Community Development Corporation as well, with both overpayments having been made after the city billed the entities for those extra amounts.


When the agenda item regarding the budget and a 3 percent maximum merit pay increase for city personnel, which City Clerk Jennifer Gould said will appear on the January paychecks of those who the department heads recommended, it culminated with the setting of a budget workshop date on Saturday, Jan. 6, at the community center. The Council did approve the pay raises for this year only.


Similarly, the next agenda item involved a discussion about a financial overview of the 2017 budget items that went over the amount budgeted. Crowell said she wants to see some cost-cutting options, especially in the administrative budget. She was beginning to make a motion when Cooper reminded that this item was only for discussion. This, too, will go on the Jan. 6 workshop.


The council decided on a particular auditing firm to now ask for a financial bid to conduct a forensic audit on the city books. Gould explained that they sent out 12 requests for proposals in a two-part system. The first part, this RFP, was for qualifications, as required by law. Then, they were to choose from the most qualified for the dollar figure. Two of those companies returned the RFP with their qualifications.


The council is working with Dunaway & Associates, LP to prepare another Parks Master Plan for $48,850. Clough asked during discussion if EDC and CDC will be helping finance. CDC Director Rodney Williams said that they provided $9,000 last year but have not been approached this year. He believes that the board will be agreeable to helping again. This passed with a 4-0 vote with Crowell abstaining.


CDC is financing the supplies to build a dog park at Forrest Moore Park, the Council and the public learned. Salmon said that people are cutting locks and letting children and dogs play on the baseball fields and damaging them. The park will include a stand with plastic bags for cleaning up after the dogs, a water fountain and a covered bench for the dog owners.


“I hate to be a Negative Nelly,” Crowell said, “but are we covered for this by insurance?” Fort said there could be a special need for recreation activity, but it should be covered under the general policy. This gift to the city was accepted unanimously.


During the department heads time to report, White said the Public Works’ Website has a place to inform them of street, signs and water problems. He also said that downtown area parking will be restriped in January and that Paladium senior living center had a major water break, which cost the city $8,000 to repair, along with the loss of up to a million gallons of water. The contractor is being billed for that.


Gould told everyone that City Hall will be closed for Christmas on both Dec. 25 and 26 and for New Year’s on Jan. 1.


This regular meeting ended at 8:15 p.m., and the Executive Session began about 8:30 p.m.


That agenda allowed them to talk, and then decide whether or not to take action on three items: filling the interim city manager position, executing a release agreement with a former officer and the purchase of property.


Thomas said that, after they returned to open meeting status, they agreed to sign the termination papers for former police officer Trevino; to sign for the purchase of property on Preston Road known only as ‘the old lumber yard,’ for an amount or use not yet provided; and to go ahead with making interview schedules to meet with three potential interim city manager applicants between now and Jan. 1.