LEANDER CITY COUNCIL

New council members sworn in, Mayor outlines future goals

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Three newly-elected council members were sworn in and Mayor Troy Hill outlined an ambitious list of goals he wants to accomplish in the coming year during the Leander City Council’s May 16 meeting.

Kathryn Pantalion-Parker (Place 1), Jason Shaw (Place 3) and Chris Czernek (Place 5) were sworn in early during the meeting, and the new council went to work quickly addressing deregulation agenda items during the new council’s first session. Czernek, who like the other new council members, has not previously served in elective office, was named the city’s Mayor Pro Tem.

During the closing council members’ comment period, Hill laid out a series of agenda items he wants to tackle in the near future. 

“I challenge each of you and myself to create strong vision for our city in the first 100 days of this council,” Hill said.

The seven items he outlined included:

* Schedule and attend a comprehensive meeting with Cap Metro to discuss future possibilities, solutions and opportunities;

* Passage of new rules to strengthen open records retention and management;

* Review opportunities for efficiency by bringing positions in-house or contracting other positions;

* Review and modernize the process for board and commission appointments;

* Bring the process of a fiscally responsible, balanced budget for fiscal year 2020;

* Review and strengthen commercial and multi-family standard;

* Review and adjust Old Town incentive program

Hill said there is a lot of work ahead and he is excited to begin work with the new council. 

Each of the new office holders said they were excited to start serving Leander and looked forward to proving themselves to the citizens.

Deregulation Tackled

The Council unanimously approved an ordinance amending the Composite Zoning Ordinance to remove the minimum driveway width standards. In 2017, the Planning and Zoning Commission adopted several changes to the Composite Zoning Ordinance aimed at promoting streetscape standards in residential developments. 

According to the agenda item, residents have reported issues with designing homes with three- or four-car garages that conform to these news standards because of the driveway width regulations, which limits the point where the driveway touches the road to no more than 18 feet.

The amendment removes the entire minimum driveway width standard from the ordinance.

The Council also unanimously approved an item directing staff to initiate a case before the Planning and Zoning Commission to make the case for allowing septic tanks on 1-acre lots.

“The idea here is to revert back to what we had previously, which allow septic for acreage lots. It tends to locate itself on the outer extremes of our city. In my opinion, the types of developments we saw in the past were lower density but they’re further out. They didn’t really stop anything from coming in front of it. I think those types of developments, from a city perspective, are very good and they tend to be less strain on our school system and our infrastructure. I’ld just like to make it optional,” Hill said.

Council member Michelle Stephenson responding by stating she couldn’t understand what the Council was voting on. She said the city already allows septic on 1-acre lots.

Hill said the current regulation requires 1-acre lot owners to be on City of Leander wastewater services. He said he is asking to revert to back to the prior version of the regulations.

Stephenson said it would have been nice to have the wording of the ordinance before the Council members for they voted on it.

Council member Marci Cannon clarified that the agenda item is only focused on tasking City staff with drafting a change to the ordinance, which would go through the Planning and Zoning Commission for review and potentially come before the Council for an actual vote.

Mayor Pro Tem, Commission appointments

Newly elected Council member Chris Czernek was unanimously named the new Mayor Pro Tem during his first council meeting. The position was previously held by Stephenson.

Hill nominated Czernek to the position but said the Council has a lot of qualified candidates. He said he originally wanted to nominate Cannon, but she had informed him that she wouldn’t have enough time to fulfill the responsibilities of the role.

Hill also thanked Stephenson for her help while in the position and presented her with a plaque recognizing her years of service.

A Mayor Pro Tem is nominated after each general election. That individual performs the duties of the office of the mayor and carries all of its legal powers in the mayor’s absence, or at any time when the mayor is unable to fulfill his or her duties. In the event of the mayor is no longer able to serve or is removed from office, the Mayor Pro Tem serves as the mayor until a new one is elected for the remainder of the term.

In a series of votes, the council also appointed Pantalion-Parker as the council’s liaison to the Historic Preservation Commission, Shaw as the Council Director and Jason Anderson as Civilian Director to the Brushy Creek Regional Utility Authority, or BRCUA.

The council later ratified Billy Wusterhausen as the new Leander Fire Chief. He is filling the spot left by the retirement of former Fire Chief Bill Gardner. Wusterhausen said he’s excited to begin work as the city’s new chief, praising Leander’s reputation for “pro-customer service” and the compassion the Leander firefighters display on the job.

“I look forward to being able to use the skills I’ve learned the years to lead this forward as this community continues to grow,” Wusterhausen said.

Wusterhausen has 25 years of experience in fire and emergency management services. He is a licensed paramedic and commissioned police officer. He most recently served as as assistant fire chief in Round Rock.

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