2017-03-17 / Front Page

City to allow parking spaces in Walnut Street right of way

BY DAVID LOWE
DISPATCH RECORD


Although the city will not convey ownership of this piece of right of way east of U.S. Highway 281 South, the Lampasas City Council decided to allow Leah Caruthers to use the right of way by the existing curb for parking spaces for her new plant business. 
DAVID LOWE | DISPATCH RECORD Although the city will not convey ownership of this piece of right of way east of U.S. Highway 281 South, the Lampasas City Council decided to allow Leah Caruthers to use the right of way by the existing curb for parking spaces for her new plant business. DAVID LOWE | DISPATCH RECORD City officials will prepare an agreement to allow vehicle parking on what technically is Walnut Street right of way between U.S. Highway 281 South and Tenth Street right of way.

The site is just north of the former AMVETS parking lot.

The Lampasas City Council on Monday decided to pursue the agreement as a compromise instead of granting business owner Leah Caruthers' request for the city to abandon and close an approximately 60-foot-wide section of Walnut Street right of way.

Mrs. Caruthers, who is preparing to open her Lucy Suz Plants garden nursery business, said she wants to create parking spaces in front of an existing curb within the Walnut Street right of way.

Between the curb and the new business is an open, grassy area. Mrs. Caruthers said closure and abandonment of the right of way would have allowed her to ensure that area would be usable space for her family for years to come.

While council members said they are willing to allow parking by the existing curb, they did not think the city should convey ownership of the strip of right of way. Council members said they are not sure how that area along U.S. 281 may develop in the future and therefore do not know what utilities the city may need to install at some later point.

City officials also noted concerns about retaining access to existing utilities. Although Public Works Director Shane Brown did not attend Monday's meeting, in a memorandum last week he recommended the council not abandon the piece of Walnut Street right of way.

"We have utilities in the Tenth Street right of way that could be accessed by that piece of property if need be," Brown wrote.

Councilman Mike White said if the city conveyed the right of way to Mrs. Caruthers and she had a structure built on it, the city might not be able to do necessary underground utility work.

Consequently, the agreement for parking will stipulate that no structures may be built in the 60-foot-wide section of right of way. In addition, the agreement will require the city to restore grass or other things damaged during utility work -- if such work needs to be performed in the right of way.

Although the council discussed the possibility of a lease at a nominal price, officials agreed not to charge Mrs. Caruthers for the ability to create parking spaces within the right of way.

City Manager Finley deGraffenried said an agreement will be prepared for possible approval at the council's March 27 meeting. He said in the meantime, parking is allowed in the Walnut Street right of way.

Mrs. Caruthers said her plans for her business will not stop people from being able to go from the Dairy Queen drive-through down the Tenth Street right of way to U.S. 281.

In other business Monday, the council voted 6-0, with Mayor Christian Toups absent from the meeting, to convey to Burnet County about one acre at the old city landfill on Old Georgetown Road. The one-acre site will be used for a 350-foot-tall emergency communications tower to be used by a wide variety of law enforcement and public-safety agencies.

Jim Barho, emergency management coordinator for Burnet County, said the tower will be part of a publicsafety communications network that extends from Laredo to Waco. The coverage area may expand in the future, he added.

Barho said in order to secure grant funding for the project, Burnet County needs fee simple title to the approximately one-acre site at the old landfill. A right of way easement will provide Burnet County with access to the tower.

On another matter, the council voted 5-1 to approve City Hall restroom repair work not to exceed $13,000.

Councilman Chris Harrison cast the lone dissenting vote. Harrison said he knows the repairs are necessary, but he voted against authorizing repair work because it is an unbudgeted item.

Finance Director Yvonne Moreno said the city has about $7,000-$8,000 in "nondepartmental building and grounds" money to use toward the project.

In an item listed on the agenda as "unfinished business," the council voted 6-0 to abolish the city's existing sign ordinance.

In a meeting March 6, numerous business owners asked the City Council to repeal the current ordinance and work with business representatives to draft a new, less restrictive set of regulations. At that meeting, the council agreed to form a committee -- which consists of Toups, Mayor Pro Tem Misti Talbert and six business representatives -- to draft a proposed new sign ordinance.

DeGraffenried said the committee will meet at some point after Monday, when people have returned from spring break.

Also in his report to the council, the city manager said a variety of work has been completed in the last several weeks at the Turner Field Complex between Campbell Street and FM 580 East.

At the youth baseball and softball venue, fencing has been installed and replaced, and a new sidewalk from the parking lot to the concession stand has been poured.

"We should be getting set up for some paving in the new parking lot here in the next week to two weeks," deGraffenried added.

The city manager also noted in his report that the city staff continues to investigate potential lighting and field costs.

On March 7, the Dispatch Record reported in depth on a recent meeting of the City Council with Parks and Recreation Advisory Board members and Lampasas County Youth League Association representatives. Fence work, new scoreboards and an additional softball field are among items youth league representatives requested at the Turner complex.

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