Leander Council adds charter changes to May 5 ballot

Council revisits proposed pattern book for homebuilders


Voters will consider eight proposed amendments to Leander's city rulebook on their ballots in the city's May 5 election.

Christine Sederquist, chair of the city Charter Review Commission, said the proposed city charter amendments were ironed out last fall as part of a five-year review of city rules. Sederquist said commission members addressed minor housekeeping changes needed in the charter as well as some larger topics.

“The commission was unanimous in wanting to change the process for revising the comprehensive plan,” she said.

Sederquist said the city hired a consultant to update the plan in 2015 and Destination Leander was the result. The lengthy document included many recommendations for how the city could expand its services and recreational opportunities, she said, but did not include any costs for the expansions.

The commission is asking voters to approve an annual review of the comprehensive plan including cost estimates.

Another charter amendment puts limits on how many appointed city council members can serve at the same time. Sederquist said to keep costs down, the commission did not want to require an election if only one vacancy occurs within 12 months of the term of office expiring. But the amendment would require an election if two vacancies occur.

“We didn’t want a council full of appointed officials,” Sederquist said.

The remaining proposed charter amendments include changing the city’s process for amending its budget to match state law, allowing a city auditor to serve for five years instead of three years, and reducing the number of signatures needed for a initiative and referendum petition from 15 percent to 10 percent of registered voters.

Serving on the Charter Review Commission with Sederquist were: Annette Sponseller, Vice Chair; Joe Aboulhosn; ​Victor Bolles; Richard Palmer; Kathryn Pantalion-Parker; Susan Redford and Joel Wixson. Council members Shanan Shepherd and Michelle Stephenson and Planning and Zoning Commissioner Marshall Hines were liaisons to the commission.

Early voting is April 23-May 1.

Other business

In other business, the council revisited a proposed pattern book for homebuilders and asked a representative from the Home Builders Association of Greater Austin to help pay for it.

The council could not agree to pay $86,000 to an architect to produce the pattern book of pre-approved home plans and designs in December. The books are touted for saving time in getting home building plans approved by the city.

“Leander started out as a city of starter homes,” City Manager Kent Cagle said. “We tried to get better quality homes and our masonry ordinance was hailed around the country.

“But you can still build an ugly home with masonry,” he said. “The next step is a how to build with other materials.”

David Glen of the homebuilder group said his members support reducing obstacles in planning home communities but he said a pattern book would need city support before it is widely used.

“The homebuilders association supports additional flexbility in materials that can be used to build homes,” Glenn said. “But builders are also comfortable with what they are working with now. If there was a pattern book, they would need to learn a new system and that costs money and time."

“Reduced fees or other costs from the city would help,” he said.

Council members asked Glen to go back to his members for a firmer commitment on helping to pay to produce the pattern book.