Travis Mitchell is a local Kyle resident and business owner who serves as the District 1 At-Large City Councilmember. He writes editorials related to Kyle and publishes summaries of the high-profile votes. You can read his articles here on Kyle Life or by subscribing to his blog at TravisMitchell.net.
August 17th Kyle City Council Meeting
Item 10. Pecan Woods Subdivision
My Vote: In Favor
In every decision, I have a line that represents the difference between a yes vote and a no vote. It normally takes work to find that line. When I do, if I believe the measure is not something I can support, I owe it to the proposer, to staff, to my colleagues on the dais, and to the citizens of Kyle to make those reasons known, and to search for a healthy compromise whenever possible.
In the case of Walton Group’s Pecan Woods Development Agreement, I first met with the developers in November of last year, long before I was even on council. Since being elected, I have studied and been involved in nearly every iteration of the Developer Agreement brought forth to council. I met with staff on a number of occasions and sought opinions from experts. I researched. I walked the proposed property with the developer to gain a sense of their vision. I even drove to Leander to view developments touted as comparable to Pecan Woods.
The reason for all of this work is because the pros and cons to this project are many, and the ramifications of this vote are substantial. On the one hand, Pecan Woods would bring thousands of new residents to Kyle. Those residents would shop at our businesses and strengthen our tax base. They would provide a further boost to our population and help us reach the critical mass necessary to attract more sit-down style restaurants and desirable retailers. Furthermore, the proposed Public Improvement District (PID) would immediately inject $2,000,000 to the city for the purpose of helping us construct our $17,000,000 wastewater treatment plant. That’s money we don’t have to borrow which is something I care a great deal about. The PID would also pay to upgrade the utilities along FM150 which would set us up to develop efficiently along the corridor.
And all the while this subdivision would be outside the city limits and therefore would not require the city services that often make developments cash flow negative from a property tax perspective. The PID would also be in lieu of city taxes, meaning homebuyers would not be paying much more to live in Pecan Woods than traditional developments inside the city.
But all those pros had to be weighed carefully against what I considered to be a substantial con. For 20-30 years, under the proposed agreement, the City of Kyle would collect zero property taxes. And while we would technically not provide them with police, the infrastructure – specifically the roads – would age approximately one life cycle before automatic annexation. Because the city would not maintain the roads, the burden would fall to the county. And the county is not in the business of performing routine preventative maintenance on streets and subdivisions built to city specs within their jurisdiction. Therefore, by the time we annexed, the development would likely require significant capital improvements and would therefore be a liability, not an asset, to the city. We would kick the proverbial can 30 years down the road.
To address this challenge, I met with the developers and Hays County officials multiple times to discuss my concerns. We went through various iterations of maintenance guidelines but, at the end of the day, I did not feel confident in the long-term prospects of those streets.
I was preparing to vote against the development when, just before the meeting, the city manager called me to say Hays Co and Kyle had worked out a deal. The roads would be guaranteed by Hays County to meet aPavement Condition Index score of 70% upon annexation. That is a tremendous benefit to Kyle because it means we can move forward with certainty knowing every street will be in fully-functioning, healthy condition upon annexation.
It was a huge win and, as a result, I was happy to vote for the project. This development will be sustainable, it fully addresses the problems it creates, and that’s what I needed to support it.
Proposed Storm Water Fee Increase from $3 to $5 per month
My vote: In favor
Nobody likes fees. Myself included. As a homeowner and business owner, my utility bills will increase because of this measure. That’s the bad side.
But the good side is what matters here. Kyle has experienced multiple 500 year floods in the last few years. Those floods have caused significant damage to dozens of homes in Kyle. The damage is partly because of increased development, and partly because our resources are limited in terms of storm water drainage maintenance. Currently the majority of drainage areas in Kyle are to be maintained by HOAs and property owners. A simple drive around the city will show just how poorly some of these ditches are being maintained. Overgrown grass, debris, sediments, and even trees are common occurrences. For water to rapidly flow out of town it needs a clear path. This utility fund promises to address just that.
Bottom line: we will finally be able to maintain the neglected system which has wreaked havoc on our town.
Now, why the increase from $3 to $5? From $800,000 to $1,300,000? Because of what we get. The current $3 fee will help us stop the bleeding and to maintain what we have. But there are several areas all over Kyle where the ditches are in need of considerable repair. With the additional revenue, we will purchase a Gradall to help shape drainage ditch areas and staff an operator. That means we can actually turn back the clock on our existing storm water infrastructure. With the additional revenues, Kyle will finally become proactive in flood prevention. Last year we experienced dozens of millions of dollars of damage. Homeowners and taxpayers are paying to fix it. A strong storm water program will help us curb that cost, if not eliminate it entirely. And for that reason, I proposed this measure at the increased rate.