A public hearing held as part of the Van Alstyne City Council on Tuesday night quickly turned contentious as local residents spoke out against proposed “garden homes” being considered and what they claimed was inadequate communication by the city regarding public notice.

There were actually three public hearings set, though one in particular sparked the most intense debate between residents and city council, City Manager Frank Baker and Mayor Larry Cooper. The public hearing was being held regarding a request by the owner/agent of property at 206 E. Houston Lane and 722 S. Main to change the current zoning from SF-1 to SF-Z. The owner of the property, RJ Scheve, told Council and those assembled that he wanted to build “garden homes,” or small homes (1,200 square feet), on a small pre-existing plot of land zoned for single family-1. The SF-Z designation drew much discussion as residents stated that they couldn’t find any mention of the designation on the city web site, though it was later shown to be on the site but in a separate appendix table apart from the other ordinance information.

Scheve, however, did not get to finish his presentation as resident Suzon Crowell opened up a discussion on whether or not the city filed proper public notice with residents and through the city’s newspaper of record, the Van Alstyne Leader. Crowell stated emphatically that some residents in the area had received no notice while others had received notice of a public hearing on the matter just the day prior. She also stated that the public hearing had not been posted in the Leader.

Resident Tiffany Clum stated her objection to the project on the grounds that the small homes will all be rental properties and would change the makeup of the neighborhood from mixed to predominantly rental properties. Scheve added that there are already small homes in the 900 square foot range and that there are other rental homes in the area, as well.

Ultimately, discussion was cut short. After a conference between Cooper, Baker, city clerk Jennifer Gould and the city attorney, it was decided that more research needed to be done to make sure proper notice was given of the public hearing and a public hearing on the matter will be re-scheduled.

The other two public hearings on the night drew less discussion. The first of the public hearings concerned the city’s intent to modify the water rate. In effect, the city is increasing the water rate by 3 percent. Baker explained that this increase is necessary across the board (water and sewer) to get the city’s wastewater plant in better shape and continue to work on infrastructure improvements. Cooper said that the infrastructure in the city had gone “for decades” without any improvement and the need to fix the problem is clear. Baker showed those assembled a presentation on the costs of the tax rate in Van Alstyne as compared to the rates in Anna, Howe and Melissa. Van Alstyne’s rate was lower than the other cities in most cases.

As this was a public hearing, Crowell spoke to Council and city staff about the current problems with the infrastructure, stating that they were the fault of previous councils. Crowell said she wanted to see from the current administration more on the planning and preparation in dealing with the problems but had no issue with the rate increase. That sentiment was shared by those who spoke at the public hearing on the water rates, while Clum questioned whether impact fees levied on new developers in the city should be raised, to which Councilman Billy Plake said “yes.”

The final public hearing concerned zoning text amendments, basically cleaning up appendix items online and elsewhere and moving them to make it easier for the public to find.

There were actual action items on the night’s agenda. A vote on the “garden homes” was removed from the agenda, but Council did unanimously approve the zoning text amendments, as well as a change order to the water supply expansion project. As described by Baker, this allows for chlorine injections at the city’s well sites to allow for water to be taken from the Collin Grayson Municipal Alliance water line in 30 to 60 days. This was described by city engineer Len McManus as being much quicker than the six months it would take otherwise.

Meeting Notes: The Tuesday night city council meeting was held at Independent Bank so that presentations could be shown on a large whiteboard… Councilman Brad Clough was out of the town but Skyped into the meeting.