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Victoria officials propose new rules for US 77 annexation

By Melissa Crowe
Feb. 21, 2014 at 4:01 p.m.
Updated Feb. 21, 2014 at 8:22 p.m.


TERMS OF CONNECTING

A property owner would not be required to connect to city utilities until (whichever occurs first):

• An existing water well or septic system fails and must be replaced

• A substantial expansion to the development occurs that triggers a requirement for a site plan

• Fifteen years from the date that utilities are made available

• After connecting to city services, residents can use their existing water wells for irrigation purposes

Source: City of Victoria

Property owners affected by Victoria's proposed annexation plan could see relief if the City Council approves a more lenient set of guidelines.

The change in rules would give property owners 15 years, rather than three, to connect to the city's water and sewer lines.

Assistant City Manager John Kaminski said the recommendation to extend the time frame stems from the recent growth along U.S. Highway 77 North.

"Property owners in this area have made significant investments on new water wells and septic systems," he said. "That three-year compulsory requirement to connect doesn't give a lot of time to take advantage of that recent investment."

Connecting to the city's water and sewer system costs property owners $1,580 for water and $1,320 for sewer, according to a report on the annexation.

The City Council will vote March 4 and 18 on the annexation and new guidelines.

The change in rules has made supporters out of some of the proposal's most vocal opponents.

Les Zeplin, who owns several properties that face annexation, has argued against being annexed, saying he does not want to be taxed for city services he does not need.

During a public hearing Tuesday, he said he has heard "a lot of good things I could live with," regarding the potential extended time frame.

The city would provide fire service and trash and brush collection at $19.50 monthly.

Going under the city's fire protection will bring insurance benefits to those property owners, according to a city report on the issue.

Some residents speaking at the public hearing Tuesday stayed firm in their concerns.

The proposed guidelines include stipulations that if someone's water or septic system fails, he or she has to connect to the city's. Also, undergoing a "substantial expansion" would trigger a need to connect to the city system.

Joel Ornelas, owner of La Fogata Bar and Grill, said he plans to eventually add 3,000 square feet to his already 5,000-square-foot business.

He said he spent $50,000 on the building's septic system and designed it to have capacity for the expansion.

He previously said he sees "no benefit" from being annexed.

City officials said he might qualify for a variance to keep his septic system when he decides to expand.

Mayor Paul Polasek said the change in guidelines would not have come up if no one spoke at the public hearings.

"Their presence made the issue come to light," he said. "It's very important they participated."

He called the 15-year time frame reasonable.

"I think they (the public) understand why we have to do this," he said. "They may not be completely pleased with it, but they understand. I felt like they were appreciative that we were trying to accommodate them."

The annexation process started in 2007, when the planning department studied the city's capacity to accommodate growth. The study included an inventory of vacant land in and around the city that identified the acreage along U.S. Highway 77.

The city has already annexed about 700 acres, as identified by the study, including 215 acres at Ball Airport, about 390 acres west of Mallette Drive and about 200 acres fronting the northeast side of Loop 463.

"It's a necessary part of growth of the city," Polasek said.

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