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The Lead Jan. 26, 2022: Kerrville continues to say yes to controversial annexation

The annexation could lead to the development of about 45 homes in northwest Kerrville.

Good morning, Kerr County.

The wave of public meetings is over for the week, and we're in countdown mode for the Renaissance Festival, which starts Friday at River Star Park here in Kerrville. The weather will be partly cloudy today, clearing but cool. The National Weather Service described this front as "weak." Thursday will give way to some windy weather.

Welcome to The Lead's morning newsletter

Since Jan. 23, we've seen a substantial uptick in new subscribers to The Lead's weekday newsletter. We're glad you've decided to join us. If you're new, we may not be for everyone, but we believe in deeply reporting our stories and providing essential analysis about the community's most critical issues. At the same time, we ask you to consider upgrading your subscription to allow us to grow our fundamental mission to provide quality journalism to Kerr County and the Texas Hill Country.

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So, we hope that you join us in our efforts to offer quality independent journalism in Kerr County.

On today's The Lead Live

Joe Herring Jr. will be our guest on today's show, and we'll do a deep dive into a story of a family traveling across the United States with a stop in Kerrville. The photos are from 1893, and the earliest Herring has seen of Kerrville. We will cover two stories — the Kerrville part and the trip to Southern California. If you want more of the backstory to our conversation, here are the links:

The cookies must be good

We've heard that the cookies, along with the assorted treats, at Cardoshinsky Confections — The Cookie Store are pretty good. However, probably the last thing they expected was some to crash their storefront, but that's what happened on Tuesday when a driver plowed into the store on Cully Drive. There were no injuries — except for the car and the building.

Divided City Council approves second reading of annexation

In a 3-2 decision, the Kerrville City Council voted to approve the annexation and zoning of a residential project that could lead to about 45 homes in the northwest part of the city.

The annexation of about 17 acres along Coronado Drive has roiled the City Council and the city's planning and zoning commission for months. The proposed changes have angered the neighbors who complained about the potential for flooding from the site.

The drainage issues were a central focus of Tuesday night's discussion. For neighbors, especially those along Mountain Laurel View, many of who'd see the project from their backyards, the undeveloped property has been a challenge for those who have not been able to mitigate against runoff with retaining walls.

Last year, the planning and zoning commission voted 5-2 to allow the annexation but recommended to zone the property residential estate — which meant 1 acre lots. That decision ran afoul of the property owner's wishes, an R1 designation that allowed for smaller lot sizes.

City Manager E.A. Hoppe said the property owner still has to meet state standards regarding drainage, which could still nix the project. While the developer is one step closer to realizing their goal, they will have to agree on multiple fronts over the drainage plans with city officials.

"The drainage standards have become more stringent," Hoppe said of state laws regulating drainage.

Hoppe also noted that drainage issues are a civil liability issue — not a city one. So, if the drainage negatively impacts the neighborhood, they can take action in the courts, but this was no win for neighbors.

City Councilwoman Brenda Hughes cited her objections to the project because of the drainage question and fit the neighborhood. City Councilwoman Roman Garcia was also bothered by the drainage issues and the opposition to the project. Garcia proposed annexing the land but putting it back in residential estate zoning. Hughes joined that proposal with a second, but the motion failed with Councilwomen Kim Clarkson and Judy Eychner joined Mayor Bill Blackburn to defeat it.

In turn, Clarkson, Eychner and Blackburn voted for the R1 designation.

City Council is considering raises for city staff, boosting pay for positions where the market demands it

During Tuesday's 5 p.m. workshop, the City Council discussed a potential 5% cost of living adjustment for city workers and a more significant pay bump in positions considered to be market competitive.

With surging month-over-month sales tax revenue, city staff said it could handle the increases, expected to cost nearly $1 million. During the presentation, city staff said they lag behind other cities in offering competitive salaries.

Fire Chief Eric Maloney said his department had faced turnover with paramedics and restructured shifts comparable to departments in other cities. Instead of 24 hours on, 48 hours off shifts, Kerrville switched to a more competitive 48 hours on, with 96 hours off schedule to help retain firefighters.

The city plans to restrict more than $220,000 for competitive salary offerings, especially in the fire department. The COLAs would be covered by more than $700,000 in sales tax revenues, which appear headed toward a surplus.

Tuesday's discussion was just that. City Manager E.A. Hoppe said the staff would bring back a formal plan for Council approval at a later meeting.

COVID-19 impact on Kerrville city staff

Fire Chief Eric Maloney offered an example of the infectiousness of the omicron variant of COVID-19, and he used the impact on city staffing. Since March of 2020, 184 city employees have tested positive, but 66 of those have come since Jan. 1. Yes, one-third of city staff had COVID-19 in the last 25 days. Maloney said 12 firefighters had battled the virus this month.

Local banking poll

With the announcement that Bank of America is leaving Kerrville in May, we wondered what the sentiment of our subscribers was in terms of bank use. Here are the results:

  • I'm online only. I never visit a branch — 50%
  • I sometimes use the branch and online tools — 50%
  • I never use online tools — 0%

The questions were asked in our subscribers-only Facebook group. Commenter Charles Patrick Smith said why use a bank when you can use a credit union — good point. However, the question was more about the growth of online tools.

A fashionable deal in downtown Kerrville

Kerrville fashionistas Natalee Peppitt and Tomasa O'Hern reached an agreement Tuesday for Peppitt to acquire O'Hern's downtown boutique — Tome. Peppitt already has built a successful fashion business with Gold Cup Live — an online business borne out of the coronavirus pandemic. O'Hern runs several businesses, and the two are good friends.

Natalee Peppitt, left, and Tomasa O'Hern celebrate Peppitt's purchase of O'Hern's downtown boutique.

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