HILL COUNTRY VILLAGE — Voters overwhelmingly approved two propositions to fund street and drainage improvements, but turned down a bid by the city to use land on Bitters Road for commercial development.
All three issues were on the ballot during the Nov. 5 municipal elections.
Tallying 90 percent of the vote, residents approved an $8.5 million bond issue to be used for street, sidewalk and drainage improvements.
“I think that (several factors) came together for us as a city to make now the right time to address these matters,” said Mayor Gabriel Durand-Hollis.
“First, it’s been 20 years since we’ve done any really major road construction in our city. We’ve done some, I don’t want to call them small exactly, but some $1.5 million projects and some $1.3 million projects.”
According to Durand-Hollis, he and fellow City Council members have “heard loud and clear” from residents that quality roads are a top priority.
“Earlier this year, we found that we had the funds to complete some of the work we determined was needed to help improve some of the infrastructure in the city,” Durand-Hollis said. “However, to complete the remainder of the work, we would need to obtain some type of funding. That is where the bonds come in.”
A second proposition approved by the electorate redirects an existing quarter-cent sales tax from economic development to help retire the bond covering the maintenance and repair of roadways.
It passed with 90 percent, officials said.
“We had to be very careful with the wording on this proposition and in fact we consulted with the state Attorney General’s Office on it,” Durand-Hollis said. “This is not a new tax, it’s an existing one that we’re dedicating to help pay down on the bond. It’s kind of like a mortgage.”
The one measure residents did not authorize would have given the city clearance to use a portion of the 14 acres it owns along Bitters Road and South Tower Drive for “commercial, retail, residential, and/or mixed-use development.”
Sixty-two percent of the ballots cast gave the proposition a thumbs down.
“(It) was the most ‘sensitive’ one on the ballot,” said Durand-Hollis. “We had been hearing for years about what could we do and what should we do with the land on Bitters. The original purpose was for municipal building purposes when we bought the land 20 years ago.”
The mayor said some in the town wanted to open the tract for other uses, including private enterprise.
One of the early ideas for the land called for using it as the site of a new City Hall.
“No matter what is decided to be done, it is going to be done through a series of baby steps,” Durand-Hollis added. “We probably won’t see any construction on the bond project until at least the fall of 2020 at the earliest.”