The Belton Journal
The Belton City Council approved a resolution finalizing the allocation of $5.6 million in coronavirus state and local recovery funds granted by the American Rescue Plan Act 2021 during their meeting Tuesday evening.
The city’s allocations are in the following categories: government operations investments, community aid, infrastructure, and economic and workforce development.
Finance Director Mike Rodgers shared a presentation showing the changes made to the different areas where funding will be divided.
Allocations for community aid include a total of $700,000. Of that amount, $100,000 would take care of all delinquent balances on city utility accounts, and $300,000 for the creation of a utility assistance program, with the city partnering with the United Way possibly, to provide funds to residents struggling with all types of utility bills, not just the city water/sewer. It also includes allocations to provide assistance to local food distribution programs in the amount of $300,000.
Regarding Economic and Workforce Development, a small business grant program for businesses with 500 or fewer employees will be established, similar to the way the city utilized its CARES Act grant funds. The amount is $850,000 to have “a more targeted small business program.”
Applicants would have to show that they had been impacted in some form by the COVID-19 pandemic and provide a budget on how they would use the funds, as well as provide receipts for expenditures.
“Originally, we had $300,000 for hoteliers,” Rodgers added. “In the revised plan, we decided to roll that money into a small business grant program and just let the hoteliers apply like all the other small businesses.”
Regarding Neighborhood Investments, the allocation is now $1.4, with $900,000 for the Historic Standpipe Park project, and rehabilitation of the historical Mount Zion Methodist Church, budgeting $500,000 for that project.
Rodgers said that the dollar amounts for infrastructure remained basically the same, only changing from $1 million to $1,026,185. The original plan was for water and sewer infrastructure, but city staff proposed changing this to include street projects as well.
Projects that were not revised included $1.2 million to increase pay for government employees (compensation study) and putting $500,000 towards upgrading the water metering infrastructure.
Council members agreed to shift the allocation of $500,000 for the water meter infrastructure upgrades over to be included with the line item for infrastructure.
“There are going to be a lot of things being done, and I think I could probably argue against a handful of them,” said Mayor Pro Tem David K. Leigh following the presentation. “I will say that the way that you’ve tweaked it, giving it for food, giving it for basically granting or paying off delinquent [accounts], allowing for businesses to apply and increasing that- there’s a lot of things that happened during COVID and part of that was the shift of employment, which has impacted us negatively…I think the majority, probably 75 percent, there’s nothing to argue. I think we’re doing exactly what the intent is. I think the other we could probably say, ‘Well, it’s better to put on a sidewalk or in a park or on a water meter.’ I think that stuff kind of comes into the city budget to do that, and so generally speaking, I think you guys have done a good job to tune this up to what our parent government intended.”
The city of Belton received its first payment of $2.8 million on Aug. 23, 2021 and will receive the second payment, of the same amount, on Aug. 23, 2022. The funds must be used in the following categories: responding to the public health emergency and its negative economic impacts; providing premium pay to essential workers; providing government services to the extent of government’s revenue losses; making necessary water, sewer and broadband infrastructure improvements. Projects must be completed with funds fully spent by September 30, 2026.
The council also held a public hearing for a rezoning request by a local property owner seeking to transform a mobile home park into an RV resort style park.
A few individuals connected to the property owner or the proposed project spoke in favor of the request, while two homeowners living adjacent to the property spoke against the request.
The Belton City Council ultimately voted against a rezoning request after a lengthy discussion. The request was to change the zoning for 15.836 acres located at 2406 Lake Road (F.M. 439) from Agricultural to Planned Development-Commercial-1. The property owner, Piyush Sharma, stated that he had been the owner of the property, which is currently a mobile home park and able to hold up to 50 mobile homes, for the past 16 years. During his time as owner of the property, he has been slowly working to remove the mobile homes from the property- he said the property had as many as 50 mobile homes and three RVs when he took ownership, and it now has 12 to 14 homes.
The planned development would have been for a commercial RV Park with cabins and amenities, including 40 one-to-three-bedroom cabins, 51 RV-lease spaces, an office/clubhouse, a boat rental area and outdoor amenities such as playgrounds, picnic areas, a fishing pond, miniature golf and a dog park.
At their March 15th meeting, the Planning and Zoning Commission voted 4 to 3 to disapprove the requested zoning change, which the applicant submitted a letter appealing. In order to overturn the P&Z’s recommendation, the council needed six votes in favor.
Sharma’s colleagues spoke in favor of the proposed RV park, but two residents of the neighborhood adjacent to the property spoke against it.
Cherie Ilse, who lives on Sandbar Circle, said that her concerns with the RV park included the light posts and noise associated with this park as well as the types of people who would be utilizing the RV park.
The RV park would have been for temporary stays, which city ordinance actually prevents stays longer than 90 days. Sharma mentioned that background checks would be performed on the people coming to stay at the RV park.
Ilse shared that it was not mentioned earlier that background checks would be happening.
“Because this is my backyard with my kids right here,” Ilse said. “The fence is going to be right there. We wanted to make sure there weren’t any sex offenders that are going to come in and live there long term.”
Ilse also said she was concerned about the entrance being on F.M. 439 (Lake Road) which has a speed limit of 55 miles per hour and the logistics of how the RVs would be getting in and out.
Kelsey Vitek, who also lives on Sandbar Circle, said she thought it was a fantastic plan by the developer and designer, but that it was in the wrong location.
“There are a multitude of families that have direct back access from their backyards directly to this,” Vitek said. “I frequent campsites like this. We bring our families to campsite like this, and I know the value that’s there. I just think it’s in the wrong location.”
Vitek also mentioned the single egress point, with no shoulder and no turn lane, as a cause for concern. She also shared similar concerns over what checks there would be regarding who will be able to stay at the park, especially as the cabins would be close to the residential fences.
“I know there’s a lot of elements that go into this and a lot of variables, and again, I think it’s a fantastic plan,” Vitek said. “I just think if you take this plan and put it in an area that doesn’t back up to 20 plus, 30 plus homes of taxpayers that have value as well from a land ownership standpoint. I just think it’s poorly placed.”
Mayor Pro Tem David Leigh agreed with Vitek’s comment and said that he thought it was not the right location for this development.
Councilmember Guy O’Banion said that, when looking at it from purely a zoning perspective, it was appropriate in terms of land use.
“People staying in RVs is becoming much, much more common, and there’s not a lot of quality RV parks in the area, and there’s definitely not by the lake like this, so from a place standpoint, being right by the lake, that’s a pretty big amenity that you’re adding to the lake, not to mention what you’re doing away with in order to get this,” O’Banion said.
O’Banion added that Sharma could have just added more mobile homes instead of working towards trying to improve the property and get rid of problem properties.
“I would think everybody in this room would prefer this over what’s there,” O’Banion said. “This seems to me like it would actually be a plus and an amenity and a benefit to the community and a need being met that’s not currently being met, and being met in a quality way, so from just a zoning standpoint, I mean, it is it is appropriate land use for this item. I drove in there Saturday, and I could get pretty excited about replacing what’s there with this.”
O’Banion added that he understood that people might be against this and mentioned that there are other developments that are “quality and a benefit to the city” that had people who lived next door who were not happy about the developments, including the current H-E-B.
After further discussion, O’Banion made the motion to approve the request, which was seconded, and failed to pass by a vote of 4 to 3, with Councilmembers O’Banion, Dan Kirkley and Craig Pearson voting in favor and Councilmembers Daniel Bucher and John Holmes, Mayor Pro Tem David K. Leigh and Mayor Wayne Carpenter all voting against.