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Horseshoe Bay council nixes road-improvement plan

Video: Watch it on the 3-18-10 newcast on ThePicayuneTV.com

HORSESHOE BAY — A petition signed by more than 800 residents helped convince the City Council to shelve an ambitious plan to improve local streets while charging neighbors for the upgrades.

Considerable opposition from hundreds of residents led Mayor Bob Lambert at Tuesday’s council meeting to recommend suspending the measure as a way of putting the "contentious" issue to rest.

The plan would have charged homeowners for improvements to their streets, such as new gutters and pavement, based on the expected increase in property values resulting from the upgrade.

"It seems clear to me there is no consensus on upgrading and financing related to residential streets," Lambert said. "I hope the City Council can make a decision today to attempt to restore calm to this community."

Hundreds of petitioners — including former Councilman Buddy Schrader — wanted the city to use property-tax funds to make the upgrades, instead of charging residents directly for the work.

However, several residents at Tuesday’s meeting called that option unfair.

"Our streets are private," Peninsula Property Owners’ Association President Randy Pipkin said. "Our members pay for maintenance through their POA dues. It would be unfair and potentially double taxation to use ad-valorem taxes for street upgrades."

For nearly a year, leaders have sought a way to improve the streets, which were taken over by the city from the Horseshoe Bay Property Owners’ Association last April.

From the start, City Hall had considered charging residents for the upgrades, though it wasn’t until early 2010 that opposition to the plan picked up steam.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the council voted to discontinue its study of improving residential streets, though upgrades to Bay West Boulevard and Horseshoe Bay Boulevard — both considered major traffic arteries — would continue using property tax funds, Lambert said.

Councilman Steve Spence said he welcomed the end to the debate.

"I feel we need to find a way to cool off this issue in the city," he said. "I applaud the (petition) committee’s interest in city government, and I hope the interest will continue on to the November (council) election."

Regular street maintenance will continue on all city roads, Lambert said.

"We have an excellent maintenance program that can be accomplished with present funds," he said.

The next council meeting is 3 p.m. April 20 in council chambers, 1 Community Drive.

chris@thepicayune.com