Victoria resident says city should fix streets, not chase growth

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

Sept. 3, 2013 at 4:03 a.m.
Updated Sept. 4, 2013 at 4:04 a.m.

Minutes before Victoria City Council voted to extend the city limits to include 5.61 acres for Ball Airport Road development, Mark Loffgren pled his case against growth.

"The perception is all the City Council cares about is growth and business, not the homeowners," Loffgren, a Castle Hills West resident, said.

Loffgren wants the city to put the focus on residential needs before development.

While the city is behind on residential streets, Mayor Paul Polasek said balancing economic development with residential needs is a delicate act.

The extension of city limits is one step in a process of the city's northern growth, which also includes a $2.9 million Ball Airport Road extension and $2.66 million for a new fire station on the extended road.

"I'm going to end up paying for an extension, and I've got streets with crops growing right in front of me," Loffgren said. "It's not right. ... Use the money to fix residential streets."

For the upcoming budget year, the City Council has dedicated $6.1 million to repairing residential streets, including $1.4 million for the downtown overlay, $2.4 for the Boulevard Addition, $1.25 million for Coleman subdivision and $1 million for Harvey, Oliver and Raab streets.

The funding for the fire station was saved over time, while the funding for Ball Airport Road extension is debt.

While Councilwoman Josephine Soliz asked if the projects could be delayed, Finance Director Gilbert Reyna said that could be a gamble.

Polasek estimated it would take 10 to 15 years before the city could save enough to repair Castle Hills West if it were to pay cash.

"You couldn't save the money in time," he said. "We have to get to those streets sooner than that."

Loffgren wants the city to implement "impact fees" on developers to offset the cost of the infrastructure.

However, Polasek said he is not in favor of adding any further fees to development costs.

He said the fee would likely not bring in enough revenue to do anything meaningful for streets.

Councilman Tom Halepaska said impact fees could discourage growth.

Old development criteria for street standards could be to blame, Halepaska said.

"The standards we have on these things have increased and changed over time," he said. "In Castle Hills West, the standards weren't near what they are now."

According to the 2012 street inventory, several streets in that subdivision are rated in the mid-70s to 80s. Meanwhile, the Boulevard Addition has streets in the low 60s. The rating goes to 100. The 2013 figures have not been released.

Polasek agreed the City Council could be perceived as being "pro-business."

"I don't know that I would agree with him (Loffgren)," Polasek said. "We do what we can when we can. We're pro-growth and pro-business; the reason we are is to grow our revenue so we can fix streets and provide services that we need."

He said the investment in Caterpillar will provide revenue in about eight years that can be used for neighborhoods.

As the city regains debt capacity after completing Laurent Street and Sam Houston Drive, there will also be more money available to fix residential streets, he said.



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