Those arriving late to Tuesday night’s edition of the Van Alstyne City Council had to have been scratching their heads, wondering just why there were no parking spaces available. Inside, the room was not much less crowded than the parking lot with several citizens lined up to speak in the Citizen’s Comments section of the night’s meeting.
What had some in attendance involved was an issue between the City and Tiffany Clum, owner and proprietor of Upholstery Girl, a shop operating out of Summit Mercantile in downtown Van Alstyne. Questions had arisen regarding the business’s occupancy permit and the need for a special use permit. According to the City, the upholstery shop was notified that it would have to cease operations until such time as an agreement could be reached in terms of the business’ correct defined usage within the city. The two sides had been unable to reach an agreement regarding the shop’s usage in terms of zoning.
Clum spoke passionately on behalf of her business.
“Some of those steps that should have been taken before the closing of my business and threatened heavy fines would be confer with the mayor, the city council and the city lawyer in this matter and together they should have weighed their options,” said Clum. “Discuss the ramifications of closing a business three weeks before the town’s fall festival.”
Speaking to Council, and directly to Baker, who was the target of much of her ire, Clum claimed that the same business had a valid certificate of occupancy in the same zoning district. She maligned Baker’s “managerial skills” and ability to defuse the situation before it resulted in the closing of her business. Clum asked that her application for certificate of occupancy be approved based on her research and the fact that there was a previous certificate of occupancy for her business at a different location.
Amelia Giles, owner of Summit Mercantile, the building in which Upholstery Girl is located, spoke on behalf of Clum immediately afterwards.
“It’s a thriving business which has not only been very positive for downtown but has been good for our business… Summit Mercantile has a CO [certificate of occupancy], we’re a retail business; we were told that we could embrace Upholstery Girl under our CO. We all tried to do the best that we could as quickly as we could. This young lady’s business has been closed down and she’s losing customers,” said Giles.
She went on to urge Council to make a decision on the matter by the end of the week “if not sooner” to let Clum re-open her business.
Neither the mayor, city manager nor anyone from Council was allowed to comment or address any of the speakers as they are prohibited by law from doing so during this portion of the meeting. However, Baker addressed the matter the following day.
“The City is eager to work with all businesses in an effort to identify the most appropriate use classifications with safety and sustainability in mind; appointed officials are obligated to inforce the laws established by the governing body,” he said in a statement to the Leader.
There were several items on the agenda requiring a vote by Council on this night. A request from Tom Bean and Mayor Sherry Howard asked Council to approve an early termination request of the EMS service agreement between the two municipalities. Tom Bean, which does not have its own ambulance service, has relied on Van Alstyne for the service. However, Whitewright stepped in and made Howard “an offer I couldn’t refuse,” as she told the council. Whitewright effectively is giving the city free service for a year and then will offer four years at a set amount, a figure equivalent to what it was charging the city six years ago.
“To be clear, we have had nothing but excellent service [from Van Alstyne]; I want that on the record,” said Howard, who added that it was simply a budget decision.
The request was approved unanimously, 5-0.
Council also approved a request by the Van Alstyne Economic Development Corporation to enter into an interlocal agreement to hire a new director with that position being a city employee position. The request was approved 4-1 with Robert Jaska voting against.
Council also approved the fiscal year 2016-17 operating budget and ratified the property tax increase as reflected in the budget, both unanimously. On this latter point, the rate itself is not going up but the amount of taxes collected will increase due to the addition of new and more expensive homes in the city.
A presentation from former mayor Teddie Ann Salmon also garnered approval. Salmon was on hand representing the Parks & Recreation Board to gain approval from Council in order to pursue funding and construction of a veteran’s memorial at Van Alstyne City Park North. The project would possibly include an as-yet unidentified memorial in addition to a memorial post in the area with names of local veterans to be inscribed on it. Council approved the item 4-0 with Brad Clough abstaining as he serves on the board.
The consent agenda was approved 5-0. This included passage of an ordinance amending the city’s Code of Ordinances Section 2-183 regarding utility rates and charges; a resolution authorizing Baker to sign an agreement with Texoma Council of Governments for GIS (911) database maintenance and mapping; and authorization for Cooper to sign a resolution requesting FM 121 East closure from TxDot for Fall der All.
Meeting Notes: Library Director Judy Kimzey informed those in attendance that the Friends of the Library book sale will be beginning on Sept. 24 at the Community Center and run through Fall der All… Public Works Director Steve White said that they have discovered several major problems with water coming into pipes after doing extensive smoke testing of the lines… Police Chief Tim Barnes announced that October 4 will be National Night Out and celebrated in the Community Center parking lot… In a special called meeting on Sept. 7, Council held a public hearing regarding the proposed 2016 tax rate for the city. The vote will be taken in a special called meeting on Sept. 19 at 5 p.m.