By Bill Spinks

A one-time variance for a development along Ovilla Road drew extra scrutiny before being accepted during an otherwise fast-paced meeting of the Ellis County Commissioners’ Court on Tuesday.

The court voted 3-1 to approve, with conditions, the variance for a 4.5-acre property located at the northwest corner of Ovilla Road (FM 664) and Slippery Creek Road in the city of Ovilla’s extraterritorial jurisdiction. Precinct 3 Commissioner Paul Perry cast the "no" vote.

The goal of applicant Carl Neal is to build multi-family housing at that location. The request for a variance was to allow more than the set limit of dwelling units on that parcel.

County planning and development director Alberto Mares said Neal first came before commissioners last Oct. 22, when the request for a variance was first tabled. Mares said there were several issues with the initial proposal, such as the lack of a septic design, runoff coefficients that were out of compliance, and issues with the Texas Department of Transportation with road cuts needed to install drainage. The largest problem was that the development contained more structures on site than the county code allowed.

Since then, Mares said, Neal has corrected those requirements. The developer reduced the number of buildings to four and the total number of living units to 16, which solved the septic and drainage issues.

Mares recommended approval with several conditions: approvals from TxDOT, the county engineer’s office and fire marshal’s office, if applicable; approval of the septic design plan; and approval of a plat that complies with the regulations. The plat will be presented to the court at a future meeting.

Answering a neighbor’s concern, Mares replied that the county engineer’s office has reviewed the revised storm drainage plan, and the civil plans comply with the county’s engineering requirements. Because the drainage plan will tie into TxDOT’s plans for drainage along the improved Ovilla Road, it will also have to comply with TxDOT’s regulations.

Additionally, Neal said the retention pond will have twice the capacity needed, and if it overflows, the design of the flow will be northward, away from the neighbor’s property.

"There’s been a lot of work," Precinct 4 Commissioner Kyle Butler said. "Eleven months of work went into this to get it corrected for the neighbors. We don’t want any fallback from that."

Commissioners also approved five other items pertaining to development: an amending plat of a 10.78-acre property on the east side of McKeever Road near Palmer; a plat of a 1.021-acre property on the north side of Clayton Drive in Midlothian’s extraterritorial jurisdiction; a final plat of Cross Fence at Oak Vista, a 248.6-acre tract located north of FM 66 in the ETJs of both Waxahachie and Maypearl; a request to accept a performance bond for the proposed Country Meadows Estates, Phase III, which is located in Waxahachie’s ETJ; and a request to release a maintenance bond and accept infrastructure for Pioneer Point, Phase I and II on the north side of FM 66 in Waxahachie’s ETJ.

Other items

• A merger of the Ellis County Accounts Payable Department with the Ellis County Auditor’s Office was approved, effective Oct. 1. County auditor Janet Martin proposed last month to combine the two offices in order to streamline payment processes.

• A memorandum of understanding between the county and the Texas Department of State Health Services was approved. Agreements are being requested by DSHS with all 254 counties in the state in order to more accurately report deaths caused by COVID-19 in each county.

• Commissioners appointed Michael V. Greenlee to the Ellis County Rural Rail Transportation District Board of Governors. Greenlee will fill the unexpired term of the late Robert W. Trojacek, which expires Feb. 11, 2021.

• The court appointed presiding, alternate judges and central counting station personnel for an upcoming two-year term that starts Sept. 1 as submitted by both the Democratic and Republican parties. The court also formally ordered the Nov. 3 general election, with early voting beginning Oct. 13.

• Armored car services for the county will resume after the court rescinded the force majeure event notification to Brinks/Dunbar that had been submitted at the end of March.

• Commissioners agreed to advertise and solicit bids for miscellaneous concrete replacement for road and drainage improvements and reject all bids from a previous bid solicitation. The action was taken in order to update specifications, county purchasing agent E.J. Harbin told the court.

• The court also OK’d advertising and soliciting bids for natural stone riprap and for the construction of new headwalls and wingwalls on the bridge on Old Waxahachie Road, as well as proposals for animal shelter operation and maintenance services.

• The renewal of food services at the Ellis County Detention Center with Correctional Food Services GP, Inc., for a one-year period with a 3% increase was approved.

• A contract with Architexas for design and other related services for Justice of the Peace District 2 was agreed to. The fee for the design will be set at 7% of the total cost of the building.

• Commissioners approved the declaration of 32 county vehicles, 21 Apple iPhones and 11 Samsung Galaxy smartphones as surplus. The cellphones are counted as one lot. One vehicle on the list was stricken by request of the sheriff’s office.

• The consent agenda was approved with the exception of two pulled items. A budgetary line item for a computer hardware purchase and a budget amendment for the civil supervision fund were approved separately after explanation.