Monday, February 19, 2018

City, Longview ISD set to complete land swap 45 years later

By Jimmy Daniell Isaac
Sept. 13, 2017 at 12:06 a.m.

Marcus Turner speaks Tuesday about Whitaker Drive being a low-traffic street, which makes it safer for him to walk his daughter to Ware Elementary School from his home at Rayanne Place Apartments. Under a land swap between the city of Longview and Longview ISD, the city will abandon portions of Tracy Drive and Whitaker Drive on which  Ware Elementary School are built.

A land swap between two local governments, initiated in 1972, will save Longview ISD about $8,000 and will give the city full ownership of Guthrie Creek Park.

The school district has agreed to relinquish ownership of land along Meadowbrook Drive to the city. In exchange, the city will abandon portions of Tracy Drive and Whitaker Drive on which Ware Elementary School are built.

If approved Thursday by the City Council, the city also agrees to waive about $8,000 in right of way costs and abandonment fees. The agreement would not affect traffic patterns on the existing streets because the land swaps already were completed in practice — just not in paperwork — said city Development Services Director Michael Shirley and Longview ISD Assistant Superintendent Jody Clements.

There are no homes on Tracy Drive or the remaining portion of Whitaker Drive, though Rayanne Place Apartments and a small church abut Whitaker.

Marcus Turner lives at Rayanne Place and said he walks his 6-year-old daughter down Whitaker Drive — which doesn't have sidewalks — to Ware each morning.

"Nobody really uses this street until when (church members) use it on Tuesday night or on Sunday mornings," Turner said. Even though Whitaker Drive won't be closed to motor vehicle traffic, Turner said, "It's all about safety of the kids."

The deal is effectively 45 years in the making.

In 1972, the city and school district agreed to let the city build portions of Guthrie Park on school district-owned land on both sides of Meadowbrook Drive, according to property records. Longview ISD retained ownership of land but gave the city full access to the land along both sides of the creek.

In 2008, the district rebuilt Ware Elementary on top of the city's right of way on Whitaker and Tracy drives, Shirley said.

"LISD asked about swapping ownership of the Meadowbrook land rather than paying the appraised value of the right of way," Shirley said. "This created a multilayered process for approval that was then contingent on Bramlette Platting and Federal Emergency Management Administration flood plain revisions."

City administrators agreed to abandon those properties and waive fees if the school district would deed the Guthrie Creek Park property to the city.

"The city has a formal agreement to use the land for parkland as long as we wish," Shirley said. "This just allows us to retain formal fee simple ownership."

Public hearings will be held on abandoning both streets during the City Council's regular meeting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at City Hall.

Council members also will conduct a public hearing on a rezone request by Liberty Baptist Church for a permit that adds a drive-thru restaurant at 1500 W. Loop 281. City administrators have said developers want to build a Braum's Ice Cream and Dairy Store at the site.

The Planning and Zoning Commission earlier recommended approval of the permit with a stipulation that an 8-foot-tall solid wood fence be installed on the south side of the property as a buffer to the adjacent Wildwood residential neighborhood.

Council members also will hold a public hearing on plans to annex 40.648 acres of the city's extraterritorial jurisdiction in Gregg County.

The acreage — on the north side of East Loop 281 between Tryon Road and Hollybrook Drive — surrounds a planned physical rehabilitation hospital.

The council also will consider adopting a 2017-18 property tax rate of 50.99 cents per $100 in valuation plus award a $790,183 contract to a Houston contractor for sewer system improvements on portions of High and Franklin streets.

Council members also could pick a Longview contractor to award an $85,826 contract for roof renovations at the Sydney Bell Willis Transit Building off Mobberly Avenue.



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