Natalia City Council denies variance, eyes Bluebonnet Festival

In their regular meeting on Monday, February 27th, the Natalia City Council declined to grant a variance on a property in Mustang Estates and received a report on the upcoming Bluebonnet Festival from Librarian Amy Edge.
Rudy Rodriguez, a property owner in Mustang Estates appeared before the council to request a variance to build a storage shed on his property so he could store his construction supplies there while he works to build his home. He said that transporting his tools and construction materials from San Antonio each time he comes is very cumbersome.
City Administrator Lisa Hernandez explained to the council that city’s zoning regulations deal with “accessory buildings and uses to permit the placement of an accessory building (storage building).”
She said according to what she read in the ordinance, a storage building could only be erected under certain conditions on the property of an existing structure and that building had to “match” the existing structure or residence. The homeowners association also has regulations regarding auxiliary buildings which the city could not enforce but if those regulations and restrictions are at odds with the city ordinance, the city ordinances take precedence.
Two other homeowners in Mustang Estates were present at the meeting to express their opinions, Doug and Kathy Blevins and Maxwell Lumsdin. Both Doug Blevins and Lumsdin stated they were not in favor of the structure being built.
Blevins said that the homeowners out in Mustang Estates have been burned a number of times by people getting variances from the city to extend building permits or building things which are specifically not allowed according to the property agreements.
“We have a house on Colt Trail that has not been finished over many years and one guy built a barn and put his horse out there and left it to starve to death,” Blevins said.
He continued saying that when the area was first incorporated by the city, a previous city administrator had conducted a meeting with the residents promising city water and sewer and that the city would adopt all of the homeowner association rules if the association would disband, but that never happened.
“There are existing storage buildings in the area where Mr. Rodriguez can store his stuff without having to haul it to and from San Antonio,” Blevins said. “The city wants tax dollars out of the land. We can’t have stuff going on out there that lowers the property values. We want it to look nice and want to be proud of our community. I ask you to deny Mr. Rodriguez the variance.”
Rodriguez responded saying that he was told when he bought the property that it would not be a problem and now he finds out there is a problem.
“We’re not strangers here,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve seen some nice homes here and seen some shacks. I have intentions of building here and I’m not going to build a shack. We were told something and now things are changing by the day.
“We have family here and want to stay here,” he said. “I am a small bussiness owner, landscaping is my profession. I want to be a part of the neighborhood and the community as well. I can’t speak for others, only myself.
“I intend to build the storage building only 12′ x 16′ to match the house we will build.”
“The deed restrictions are not under the city council,” Hernandez repeated. “My recommendation is no. Council can put a variance to my denial.”
Alderman Chip Bluemel commented that the council had agreed to extend a building permit recently and that variance was becoming a problem despite the firm assurances the landowner had given the city.
Alderman Tommy Ortiz said that he appreciated that Rodriguez had chosen the area but the council had been “burned” by similar situations and he felt that the council needed to respect the residents who are already living in the area.
Alderman Ruben Juarez offered a welcome to the Rodriguez family but said that based on the council’s past experience, he thought they needed to stick with the ordinances.
Bluemel made a motion to deny the request. Ortiz seconded the motion and it was passed by a vote of 4-0 with Mike Fernandez absent from the meeting.
Librarian Amy Edge addressed the council about plans for the Bluebonnet Festival saying that things were coming together for the planned events. She said the carnival would come to town in time to start offering rides on Thursday, March 23rd and would probably stay until Sunday, March 26th depending on business and the weather.
All applications (parade, vendor booths, etc) can be found online at Deadlines for various things are fast approaching. The bands have been booked and there will be music from about 5 p.m. for the rest of the evening. Edge said they are booking dancers and other entertainment for the afternoon. She encouraged everyone to get involved with the parade and urged Alderman Bluemel to talk to school officials about participation.
Natalia Police Chief Gilbert Rodriguez presented the State Mandated (but unfunded) Racial Profile Report to the council. The report covers the time from January 1st, 2016 to December 31, 2016. It gives the total number of motor vehicle stops, 754, and the race or ethnicity numbers of those stopped: 18 African, 6 Asian, 210 Caucasian, 520 Hispanic, 0 Middle Easter, 0 Native American. The report also asks if the race or ethnicity was known prior to the stop. The report shows in one case yes, in 753 cases no. Sixteen searches were conducted on the 754 stops and of those, four were with consent and 12 were without consent.
Alderman Bluemel commented that the ratios were in keeping with the racial/ethnicity profile of the community.
The council also approved the ballot for Danny Smith to represent the city on the Texas Rural Water Development Board District 2 and approved the proposed amendments to the bylaws.
City Administrator Lisa Hernandez made her report on the block grants the city is working on. The kick-off meeting on the Master Plan Update land use fundamentals conference is April 5th, 2017. The audit for the last fiscal year is due soon and may be presented at the March City Council meeting. She also mentioned that the bulky items garbage pick-up begins (began) on March 6th.
The meeting adjourned around 8 p.m.

By Linda Sherrell
Staff Writer