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Kilgore city council approves zoning over residents' objections

By Glenn Evans
Feb. 14, 2012 at 11 p.m.

KILGORE - A zone change paving the way for a potential 81-home development won narrow approval Tuesday as the Kilgore City Council overrode a negative recommendation from its Planning and Zoning Commission.

Some 20 residents of the Amanda Lane neighborhood also lost their case after earning a 3-3 tie from the zoning panel earlier. That tie vote required the council to move 4-1 for the development of $135,000 to $150,000 homes, and for another 10 lots holding two to three town houses apiece in the southeast neighborhood.

"You've got little children down there - that's the elementary," Emily Lane resident Kris Woodlief told the council during a public hearing. Woodlief and other residents were concerned about traffic that stacks up for about an hour along the streets serving Chandler Elementary, many complaining they cannot get in or out of their driveways from 2:15 to 3:15 p.m.

School officials have said traffic will ease once the other two campuses are complete. The residents were not appeased by that claim, saying those new campuses are just down Chandler from their homes.

The residents also were concerned about drainage in the 25-acre plot, part of which is in a flood plain. Several were skeptical the town homes will be on par with other residences there.

"We moved here to Kilgore with faith that the city was going to appreciate us being here," Woodlief said. "Don't put town homes on that."

The 4-1 decision fell with Mayor Ronnie Spradlin casting a rare vote and Councilman Neil Barr dissenting. Before the vote, Councilman Bobby Hale told the residents he will be checking whether or not officials promising topography, environmental and other studies followed through.

He spoke directly to Kilgore Community Development Corp. member Gary Boyd, who had championed the project. The development corporation owns the property and has been searching for a developer to build houses there for several years, said Boyd, who also is the Gregg County commissioner for that precinct.

"I'm in favor of putting the houses in Kilgore as long as you do right, as long as you address the streets issue and as long as you address the flooding issue" Hale said. "I will be that guardian to make sure those things are taken care of."

In other action Tuesday, outside auditor Lynda Newsome delivered her second clean opinion, or highest assessment, of the city's financial books in as many years.

Her report included her own work and a conclusion from a second auditor who found no areas in which to recommend changes in the mechanics the city uses in keeping its books.

"You've got two auditors' opinions," she said. "They are both 'clean.' I think everybody that works for the city should be proud of these results. It's not easy to keep that 'clean' opinion."

Also Tuesday, new City Clerk Debbie Dane was introduced and given her oath of office. The city clerk, or city secretary, oversees city hall activities including preparing and posting council meeting agendas, accepting candidate office filings and myriad behind-the-scenes duties that keep municipal government running smoothly.

Finally, City Manager Scott Sellers presented options for city government to reach out to residents, particularly through televising council meetings on cable. No action was taken after the presentation, though council members were clear they would rather shell out the $17,000 to buy cameras and other equipment than take an option Austin and other cities use that passes that expense along to cable subscribers as a fee.

"Sound like we'll just do this through our budgeting process," Sellers concluded.



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