Double executive sessions make for lengthy Devine council session

The Devine City Council held two closed executive sessions during its regular meeting Dec. 13 – one to discuss a possible settlement regarding city efforts to condemn three Devine Municipal Airport hangars and another to review applications for city administrator.
No action was taken following either closed session.
In November the council voted to condemn hangars 8, 8A and 10 by means of eminent domain. The formal motion refers to acquisition for “the Public Use of Designing, Developing, Constructing, Enlarging, Extending and Improving the Devine Municipal Airport.”
More than 27,715 square feet of hangar space is involved in the action.
The council also voted in November to advertise in professional publications for a new city administrator. City Administrator John Vidaurri resigned effective October 22, 2021, leaving city secretary Dora Rodriguez to step into his vacated role on an interim basis.
The city is seeking candidates with five years’ experience as a city manager or administrator who also hold a bachelor’s degree and degrees in public administration, management or business.
In other action, the council asked city attorney Thomas P. Cate to draft an amendment to the city’s alcoholic beverage ordinance based on the discussion among the council members.  The draft motion was made by District 4 council member Josh Ritchey and seconded by District 5 council member Debbie Randall.
Mayor Cory Thompson said the current ordinance restricts alcoholic beverages within a 300-foot radius of schools and church. However, downtown Devine is all but officially dry due to an overlap of these radiuses often surrounding churches that are no longer in use.
“I’m often getting requests from business owners who want to sell alcohol but are located within these zones,” Thompson said.
City staff has been unable to find any official reason why the council chose to enforce a standardized 300 foot radius for these locations back in 1976, he said. Whereas modern minutes record the council’s action in detail, older minutes tend to be brief and uninformative, Thompson said.
Today, the ordinance is often not enforced 100 percent, particularly during events such as the Fall Festival or October Fest. Thompson noted that the Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter is within 100 feet of school property.
“For the most part I would like to see the ordinance go away but there are certain points I’d like to keep,” he said.
In particular, the mayor wants to keep the official closing time at 1 a.m. He also wants to continue requiring application for city permits to serve alcohol.
An addition that Thompson proposed to the ordinance is no glass bottles on public property. Alcohol would be allowed but containers must not be obviously displayed.
“Places like Marble Falls or parks in Travis County alcohol cannot be visible,” Thompson said. “If the beer can is in a coozie no one has a problem. On the other hand, no one wants to see an open ice chest.”
Noting that the ordinance had previously been amended in 1981 and 1990, Thompson said it has always been an “ever evolving document.”
“We can always readdress this,” he said.
In other discussion about ordinances, the council tabled action on fence restrictions under consideration by the planning and zoning commissioners. In particular, Randall expressed concern about fences that obscure traffic by being too tall, too close to the corner or opaque.
Some board fencing makes it impossible to see the cars waiting at stop signs at certain intersections, Randall said. Ritchey said he would like to see any new ordinance focus on safety factory rather than the style of fencing.
“Lots of stuff in their now is not palatable to a lot of folks, including me,” he said.
The council also discussed new code requirements regarding the collection of solid waste. Randall said she was in favor of requiring homeowners to promptly collect their waste containers after trash has been collected. 
She said an impromptu survey via Facebook that she conducted found that most people would support rules to get the containers out of the street and off the curb. However, some folks simply replied “just let people be,” she said.
Thompson said leaving the containers in the street often restricts the flow of traffic on narrow residential streets. Also, maneuvering around the containers can make exiting driveways more hazardous.
The council took no action but asked Cate to draft changes for a future vote.
Misty Thompson of Thompson Houston Real Estate addressed the council about obtaining an extension on master plan approval at the 13.71-acre Cactus Flats subdivision. The council granted a three-year extension.
“We were not aware there was a time limit,” Thompson said. “Approval was only good for three years.”
To date only four houses have been built in the subdivision.
Also regarding subdivision development, the council approved a $103,693 road construction project for Shaver Street between West Davis Avenue and Kempf Street. The council voted 4-0 to approve based on a motion by Ritchey.
The council voted to make a correction in an earlier proclamation in honor of National Wreaths Across America Day on Dec. 17. Among the 3,702 participating locations across the country Devine was represented by the Devine Current Events Club, not the Devine Garden Club.
Business woman Brittany Sullivan-Ott offered the city council a deal during its regular meeting, offering to pay to repaint two sadly faded “Welcome to Devine” signs.
“It’s very faded in my opinion,” she said. “I’m tired of driving by it.”
Repainting the signs will cost $1,500 apiece, she said. Her only stipulation was to add the logo of her two businesses – C&R Grill and Alamo Truck Accessories – to the refurbished signs.
Other than that, Sullivan-Ott asked only for help installing the replacement signs. Both signs are located on Devine ISD property.
The motion by District 4 council member Josh Ritchey, approved 4-0 by the council, puts a four year limit on the new signs. Once expired Sullivan-Ott can replace them again or turn the honor over to some new willing entrepreneur.