The Lead June 29, 2022: Another rainy afternoon for Kerr County; Kerrville City Council discusses rentals, housing

We got a nice soaking on Tuesday, but the drought is far from over.

Good morning, Kerr County!

Another day of rainfall brings smiles to a lot of faces! Tuesday's rainfall was about a 1/4-inch (unofficially), but it was a relief by dropping the temperature by about 20 degrees. Depending on the source, Tuesday's high was 91 degrees — continuing our streak of 90-plus degree days. However, it looks like we're headed back to the pattern of partly cloudy mornings and then 90-degree days.

On today's The Lead Live!

We welcome back Rachel Fitch of Fitch Estate Sales and Gold Cup Pawn to regal us in her recent finds, sales and adventures. Texas Hill Country Advisor Andrew Gay joins us at the start of the show to give us the latest information about the markets and the world of finance. Join us at 9 a.m.

Welcome to The Lead!

In recent days, we've welcomed many new readers to the newsletter, and we wanted to take the opportunity to introduce ourselves. Founded last year, The Lead aims to provide in-depth reporting and community-focused journalism for Kerr County, and our goal is to build upon the effort with new initiatives and staffing. In the months to come, The Lead's primary funding will come from our subscribers. Many of you receive this newsletter delivered to your inbox for free, but we encourage you to consider upgrading your subscription. We offer two plans:

Today's newsletter is sponsored by

This week's Arcadia Live Featured Event

The Band of Heathens

Saturday!

  • The Band of Heathens — Arcadia Live, 7:30 p.m. Information: https://www.thearcadialive.org/ The details: With their professional lives on hold during the pandemic, The Band of Heathens found a year-long creative workaround. Every Tuesday night, the five-piece group came together via Zoom from their respective homes–from L.A. to Asheville-to host the Good Time Supper Club, a ninety-minute variety program. "It was nice to be able to use music as a connective thread and something that's healing," says guitarist-vocalist Ed Jurdi. Guitarist-vocalist and fellow founding member Gordy Quist agrees. "The show was like a release, where we all connected and forgot about the stuff going on around us. At some point, we decided to bring in guests for an interview, and that turned into 'Hey, let's pre-record a music video of a cover song with each of them.'"

Today's events

Public Meetings

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  • Kerr County Commissioner's Court, 9 a.m. This special meeting focuses on the 2022-2023 budget.

Puppets

  • Nancy and friends — Cailloux Theater, 10 a.m. Information: https://kerrvilletx.gov/92/Library The details: Nancy Burks Worcester is a much sought-after ventriloquist and public speaker, having performed in nearly every state, as well as Mexico and Newfoundland. She has delighted audiences at storytelling festivals across the Southwest and thousands of churches, schools, and libraries from coast to coast.

Markets and Sales

  • Friends of the Library Book Sale — Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library, 1–3 p.m. Information: https://kerrvillet.gov/349/FOTL-Book-Sale The details: Looking for a great read? Or better yet, come down and support the work of Friends of the Library. Maybe find a banned book? That sounds like a fun day to us.
  • Kerr County Produce Market Day — The Big Red Barn, 10 a.m., Information: 830-896-7330 The details: Kerr County Produce Market Day (The Big Red Barn). Local Hill Country wholesale warehouse distributor for the finest fruits and vegetables. Open to the public.

H-E-B delivers for Uvalde — in a big way!

H-E-B announced it was ready to step up and support Uvalde — in a big way. The grocery chain, rooted in Kerrville, announced Tuesday it would give $10 million toward rebuilding Robb Elementary School.

It's the biggest single donation in the wake of the horrific killing of 19 children, two teachers, and the wounding of 17 others — mostly students. The community plans to demolish Robb Elementary School, the site of the shooting.

"Our first store in Uvalde opened in 1959, and Uvalde people are our people," said Charles Butt, H-E-B's chairman. "As we continue to mourn tremendous loss, I join with my family and H-E-B in working to ensure the Uvalde community can move forward from this tragic event. Our children are this country's future, and our schools should be a safe place where children can thrive and envision new possibilities."

The Butt family, who founded and still owns the company, is committed to building a campus with state-of-the-art safety and security measures and infrastructure to support the availability of new technology. The community is still determining the location, design of the new campus and timeline for the project.

The school district will work closely with the Uvalde community, donors, and other stakeholders to solicit ideas and gather feedback for the project.

A town hall is the way forward for Kerrville's short-term rentals

It took an hour for the Kerrville City Council and its planning and zoning commission to devise a plan about short-term rentals, which was to hold a town hall meeting.

The vexing issue of what to do about short-term rentals looked like it was headed toward a potential solution on Tuesday afternoon during a joint workshop between the City Council and P&Z. Then, at the very end of the meeting, a speaker threw a wrench in it.

The speaker said that the city wasn't considering all circumstances of short-term rental ownership, including potential legal issues, should the city restrict their implementation.

And restricting their expansion was something definitely on the table Tuesday. Led by Planning Director Drew Paxton, city staff presented options that included restricting the rentals across the city, with exceptions in parts of downtown. They also weighed denying their approval based on buffers — ranging from 200 feet to 1,000 feet.

In the coming weeks, Kerrville expects to have 91 short-term rentals in its city limits. A short-term rental is a property rented for less than 30 days. With a city-granted conditional-use permit, the property owners pay into hotel occupancy tax funds like a hotel. However, that changes if the short-term rental becomes something longer-term.

The argument made on Tuesday was the Texas Supreme Court has ruled in favor of short-term rental owners in the past, and the Texas legislature has attempted to expand their availability in the face of restrictions in some cities — most notably Austin.

For months short-term rentals have presented a challenge to the P&Z, which is the first line in the approval process. In many cases, where neighbors have come to protest their approval, the P&Z has wavered in saying yes to CUPs.

City Councilman Joe Herring Jr. noted that the city's charge was to protect neighborhoods. That pledge, something mapped out in the city's guiding Kerrville 2050 Plan, drove much of the conversation leading up to Tuesday's meeting — the second workshop between the two groups about short-term rentals.

However, in the end, the two groups unanimously agreed to hold a town hall meeting before deciding how to proceed further.

A way to finance affordable housing?

While the City Council and planning and zoning commission wrestled at 4 p.m. with short-term rentals, a 5 p.m. meeting showed where Kerrville could head to curb its affordable housing woes.

During a workshop, the City Council heard a pitch from a San Antonio attorney about developing a public facility corporation (or PFC) that could help build affordable multifamily housing in Kerrville. Attorney Summer Greathouse, who represents San Antonio-based law firm Bracewell LLC, said the creation of a PFC, the city could lure a multifamily developer into building apartments here.

However, there are several hoops to get through first. Here's a few:

The developer acquires the land and then gives it to the city, which creates a PFC. That entity then takes ownership of the land and the buildings upon it and then leases it back to the developer, which theoretically pays a fee back to the PFC.

So, why does this make sense? It's all about the tax breaks. The property is 100% property-tax-free if the developer and PFC meet specific requirements established by Texas law. In Kerrville's case, 80% of those living in those apartments would need to be under the average median income level. For a family of four, that's about $58,000.

While the PFC gets a cut of the money, other public entities — like the schools — are left out. Just a reminder that property taxes cover considerable maintenance and operation expenses for school districts.

The idea is, a theoretical, win-win for the developer and the "sponsor," which is a public agency (like schools, cities and others). The PFC can cover other needs, including water projects or other facilities that may generate revenue for a developer. It can also issue debt.

In the case of housing, the debt is paid by those renting the apartments. While Greathouse said this is a tool for positive growth, but it has not always been smooth.

In San Antonio, a 2020 San Antonio Express-News investigation found myriad problems with its PFC, including transparency issues. That led to a revamp of the program by Mayor Ron Nirenberg in 2021. Also, in 2020, the University of Texas Law School issued a report that questioned the financial returns versus the cost of property tax losses.

How this works is still something the City Council will study in the weeks ahead. City Manager E.A. Hoppe said developers expressed interest in using the plan to finance new multifamily homes.

Just a reminder about Robert Earl Keen's Fourth on the River lineup.

Del Castillo

Kylie Frey

Flatland Cavalry

Robert Earl Keen

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