County to try again on development changes

Commissioners’ Court to revisit updates after objections to penalties

Bill Spinks
Waxahachie Daily Light
The Ellis County Historic Courthouse.

Major overhauls to Ellis County’s development regulations are in the works, and they came under scrutiny during Tuesday’s meeting of the Commissioners’ Court.

The court discussed, then tabled at the request of Precinct 3 Commissioner Paul Perry, changes to Volume I (Subdivision & Development Standards), Volume II (Drainage Design Manual), and Volume III (Standard Construction Details) to the Ellis County Quality Growth Initiatives, which were last revised by Minute Order No. 378.19.

Perry objected to violations of the development code being classified as a Class B misdemeanor, which could involve jail time. Perry proposed to table it until the next court meeting.

Assistant county and district attorney Rebecca Lundberg told the court that there were approximately 140 pages of changes to the county’s regulations and it would be OK for the court to table the matter. Lundberg added that any Class B misdemeanor charges would only be applied to intentionally and knowing violations.

“You can take out the severity of the language, but you can’t take out the level of the offense,” Lundberg told commissioners.

In a public hearing that preceded the vote, county development director Alberto Mares said the changes had been in the works since last spring and are intended to clarify language and streamline processes.

Seasonal exceptions to ground cover requirements in the summer months are also included in the changes, Mares said.

County Judge Todd Little said the court could circle back to the topic during the March 23 regular court meeting after a re-posting of legal notices.

No citizens spoke for or against the changes during the public hearing.

The amendments address updates to process efficiency, clarification, cross-referencing, and comply with updates to state law and Attorney General opinions. They would, if approved, create and amend drainage requirements for storm sewer and roadside water conveyance system; and create a new section for developments within special purpose districts, including lot frontage, set-back, and thoroughfare-plan requirements.

The new code also would amend and update pavement standards; and other changes in related articles, sections, and paragraphs; provide a conflicts clause; provide a severability clause; and finally, provide an effective date.

Other items

• In a special meeting earlier on Tuesday, the court decided to appoint Casey Borders as Precinct 2 Constable, and to call a special election to fill the office. The election will complete the term of former Precinct 2 Constable Terry Nay, who announced his resignation last month. Commissioners implied that the large number of qualified candidates made a decision to appoint one single candidate too tough.

• The court approved a resolution supporting Texas House Bill 885, which would allow Navarro College to create a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing program. The college currently offers a two-year RN degree, but Navarro College district president Dr. Kevin Fagan told commissioners the extra two years of study would open up more opportunities for nursing graduates.

•The consent agenda consisted of approval of previous minutes, acceptance of reports, an approval of an interlocal agreement with the city of Ovilla for a term agreement through the end of 2021.

• The court renewed a lease of Xerox copiers at an average cost of $2,061 a month, a 9.985-percent savings from the previous contract, county purchasing agent E.J. Harbin said.

• An amended tax abatement agreement was approved for the FreshPet Inc. manufacturing facility in Ennis that will provide for the construction of a 400,000-square-foot plant. Ennis Economic Development head Marty Nelson said the company has vastly expanded the scope of its investment to between $500 and $600 million and now plans to hire between 400 and 500 new workers by December 2023. “It’s a gamechanger for our city,” Nelson said.

• Following a 47-minute executive session to discuss applicants for tax assessor/collector and law library coordinator, commissioners took no public action.