By Devin Corbitt
The Belton Journal
Tuesday night’s city council meeting was bursting at the seams as more than 50 residents appeared for the public hearing on proposed amendments to the Sidewalk Standards Policy of the Subdivision Ordinance.
However, before the public hearing for sidewalks was opened, the council considered a resolution to support the collection of a Hotel Occupancy Tax throughout the county. The tax would apply solely to hotel and motel guests and would benefit the Bell County Expo Center. The tax must be approved by the Texas Legislature before going into effect. The resolution was passed unanimously.
Public hearings for a proposal to increase tax revenues by 3.0615 percent and the city’s budget for the next fiscal year were also conducted. Former Belton Mayor Bill Holmes spoke before the council to advocate for a community garden to be added to the budget.
The council then announced that the tax revenue and budget will be voted on at a special meeting of the council on Sept. 18 at 5:30 p.m. at the Harris Community Center.
Before opening the public hearing on the sidewalk amendments, City Planner Erin Newcomer and Public Works Director Mike Huber further defined the amendments, constricting the requirements to new subdivisions and streets that are lined with more than 50 percent of sidewalks.
The main point of contention for homeowners affected by the ordinance was Section 503.04, which states, “Sidewalks shall be required in conjunction with a building permit for all new residential and commercial buildings, and when whenever any permit is required for construction, addition or structural alteration on any building or other structure, for the frontage length along a public street(s). All required sidewalks shall be a minimum of 5’ wide.”
Residents voiced concern particularly about being required to add sidewalks for “any permit,” which would include permits for such things as replacing a water heater or a roof. For many residents, the additional money required to add a sidewalk would prove a significant financial burden and undesired hassle.
The council will take all public comments into consideration in reviewing the amendments, but no timetable has been set for further discussion on the subject.
The council will reconvene Sept. 23 at 5:30 p.m. in the Harris Community Center, 401 N Alexander St, Belton.