I haven’t been to City Hall but a few times in the last 23 months, and most of the time I was inside the building it was to vote. I don’t watch Council meetings or P&Z meetings, I had turned into the regular unaware Keller Resident.
Last week two things happened that changed that. I received an email from a friend that lives in Hidden Lakes:
I know this is out of the blue, and inappropriate given I never reach out to you. But I’m emailing you to see if you could give me some guidance?
My neighbors behind me constantly drain water into my yard. It has horrible natural drainage. I can’t get anyone at the city to return my call. I’ve already spent over $4500 putting in my own drainage and it still looks like this.
Who can I contact?
I called him up to find out this situation has been going on for a year, and he has made repeated attempts to get somebody to call him back from the city with no success.
Then on Monday of last week I received a call from a neighbor stating that she received a zoning change notification for a property to the rear of Sarah Brooks Estates. She sent over a copy via email and I made a call to City Hall on Tuesday and left a message for a staff member whom I know pretty well. Not receiving a return call, I called up to Community Development and left another message after hours in the general mail box that evening. Wednesday I called during the morning to the specific person handling the Zoning Change….crickets.
Wednesday after work I sent the city manager an email, asking for some help nudging the folks in community development to return my call. Later that evening I did receive a call from the new head of that department, a very non apologetic phone call with nary a worry that her staff hadn’t returned my call. Stating, well they are busy.
That didn’t go over well. I have also made a few phone calls about the street lights being out on the corner of my street, never receiving a return phone call over the last few months. So this is becoming a pattern. I reached out again to the City Manager to set up a meeting to discuss the situation.
I met with Mark Hafner, whom I have known for 15 years or so, and he was apologetic, stating his policy is that City Staff return phone calls within 4 hours. He would address the issue. We will see.
So why the long blog post over such trivial matters? Because if a guy that knows how to work the system is not getting return phone calls from City Hall, it is just the tip of the iceberg. I know from the stats from when the blog was active, that over 20% of the hits to this page are from within City Hall. As a former staff member told me last night, maybe it’s because there isn’t a watch dog anymore in Keller.
Well, I might have went away for a while, but I will reengage. The first thing that needs to be changed is the way the city now allows staff to “recommend” approvals of items before P&Z and Council.
This was the standard procedure when Lyle Dresser was the City Manager. This put staff in a position of deciding, rather than the appointed and elected representatives of the city. These staff members do not even live in Keller, what makes it right for them to say that they recommend a project? It also sets a bad precedent, as then the staff is up there defending their decision to the P&Z or Council. Staff should be up there presenting facts, with no opinion.
I attended the P&Z meeting last night and spoke in opposition to the zoning change that was presented. The project as a whole is a good concept, but they are trying to shoe horn a large project into a small lot. When a commissioner asked the Planner II that works for the city if she felt the lot size was appropriate, the answer should have been “Mr. Commission, that is what your job is to determine” rather than the answer that was given.
The city employee stated that yes, she felt the lot size was appropriate. Why would she say that? Because she is up there having to defend her recommendation that the project be approved. When I approached her after the meeting and asked why she would make such a statement, when in fact if the lot size was appropriate, the applicant wouldn’t be asking for any variances encroaching on the landscape buffer, she had a deer in the headlights look. By the way, this staffer lives in Denton, not Keller.
So you ask, why did the city change it’s policy on recommendations? It’s simple; the new director for the department is also the head of Economic Development. So she only looks good if these projects get approved.
Let me be clear, this is wrong, it sets a bad precedent, and I will continue to push to have this changed. It is not in the best interest of the tax paying citizens to have government bureaucrats cheerleading zoning changes, which should be left entirely to the developer to defend their position and the appointed and elected officials to make their decision based upon their own independent thought process.
And if it takes that for me to reengage, so be it.