City Council picks police expansion plan and tables restaurant patio again
The Burleson City Council chose a police department-expansion plan and tabled Old Texas Brewing Company’s patio-improvement application at Monday's meeting
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BURLESON – The Burleson City Council moved forward with a police department-expansion plan and tabled Old Texas Brewing Company’s application to improve its temporary patio space at its meeting Monday at City Hall.
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The council chose a police department-expansion plan that involves spending approximately $41.5 million. Burleson voters approved a $36 million general-obligation bond to fund the police department-expansion in 2021.
Burleson will postpone a $5 million reconstruction project on Greenridge Drive and Wicker Hill set to begin in 2025 to fund the expansion.
Mayor Pro Tem Dan McClendon is okay with postponing the Greenridge project because the need there isn’t critical, he said.
The expansion plan includes adding a holding cell to the building. The plan doesn’t include a space that allows for 20 years of growth or a sally port, which the police department identified as priorities.
“There’s nobody up here in Council that doesn’t want to give the police everything they need, but some of the numbers is enough to choke a mule,” Mayor Chris Fletcher said.
The plan that would meet the most needs of the police department would cost $53 million.
It’s unfortunate that the council has to choose options that cost more than the voters approved and don’t meet all the police department’s needs because the council “rushed” the bond package in 2021 without giving the police department the opportunity to identify its needs, Councilmember Victoria Johnson said.
Johnson pointed to four 2021 general-obligation bond committee members she’s spoken to saying none of the available options were presented to them when the bond was voted on.
“Ideally we would love to give them everything they want, but that’s not the only thing we are faced with funding right now,” Victoria Johnson said.
Councilmember Larry Scott said he’s looking at what Burleson citizens need to be safe and what the police department needs to do its job to keep citizens safe for the next 20 years because “the citizens deserve a 20-year plan.” Scott pointed to individual crime statistics increasing as Burleson’s population has increased.
“What we don’t want to do is reduce the capacity of this building, reduce the capacity of the money and have to go back two or three times in the next 15 years for a new G.O. bond,” Scott said. “That, to me, is not fair to the citizens either.”
Councilmember Adam Russell would be willing to spend more than the $36 million voter-approved general-obligation bond to build a 20-year building opposed to an eight-year building, which he thinks is a waste of money, Russell said.
“I carry the responsibility of spending tax dollars very seriously, and I don’t want to seem like I’m not being responsible when everyday people have to make cuts,” Victoria Johnson said.
The council also voted to table Old Texas Brewing Company’s proposed Right-of-Way agreement for its patio on parking spaces in front of the restaurant.
The proposed agreement includes improvements to the patio area that Burleson Economic Development encouraged Old Texas Brewing Company to build in 2013 to enhance Old Town and the restaurant, Old Texas Brewing Company founder Rick Hazen said.
“We’re just looking to kind of modernize a little bit because we’ve got now to keep up with the Joneses a little bit across the plaza from us,” Hazen said. He added that the restaurants’s competitors received tax abatements from Burleson.
“I mean with all of the new businesses coming into town, we’re just asking for a chance to compete and stay relevant and stay up to date so that we fit in with the aesthetics that Old Town is trying to achieve,” Jamie Collier, Old Texas Brewing Company general manager, said.
Other than improving aesthetics to compete with other Old Town restaurants, the purpose of the improvements would be to increase the patio’s safety, Collier said. No one has driven into the patio area since the restaurant opened in 2013, Collier said.
Scott suggested tabling the item and bringing it back with necessary changes to reach an “endgame” after council discussed concerns.
The agreement is a “hard no” for McClendon because it’s being proposed as a deed in the county, which “essentially seeds ownership and control of the land,” he said.
“I don’t believe that we have a reason to effectively deed over property that belongs to the citizens of Burleson to a private owner,” McClendon said.
McClendon thinks Burleson and Old Texas Brewing Company succeeded in creating a nice gathering place for citizens with the current temporary agreement, but he can’t get behind making the agreement permanent, he said.
A provision in the agreement would allow Burleson to terminate the agreement at any time, Deputy City Attorney Matt Ribitzki said. The reason for recording the agreement on the real property records (the deed McClendon referred to) is to ensure any future property owners would still be bound by the agreement, Ribitzki said.
McClendon expressed concern that the structure the restaurant proposed would permanently damage the property.
“It’s not that we’re against [Old Texas Brewing Company] or against the aesthetics or the improvement,” Scott said. “It’s the damaging [of] the road.”
The fence could be removed quickly and made to look like it had never been there, according to an Xtreme Fencing representative who would be installing it.
Fletcher said he doesn’t understand why the proposed agreement is “such a big issue” and that Old Texas Brewing Company is a good business. Fletcher said he’d vote to approve the agreement, but he doesn’t think the rest of the council agrees it’s a good idea.
“We stand behind our businesses, and we’re fighting over a stupid fence,” Fletcher said.
The patio seating produces approximately 20% of the restaurant’s revenue, Collier said.
The council will meet again November 13 at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.