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Granite Shoals council asks for resolution against future park sales

Hillside Park in Granite Shoals

Granite Shoals' Hillside Park is on a list of parks that could possible be sold by the city, according to Parks Advisory Committee member Robin Deberard. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro

To ease the minds of Granite Shoals residents concerned about their parkland, the City Council on Feb. 8 directed City Attorney Joshua Katz to draft a resolution to discourage selling city parks. During the regular meeting, Councilor Phil Ort pointed out comments from residents during a Coffee with the Council in January. 

“It’s tearing our community apart,” Ort said. “The city is in great financial shape. We don’t have to sell the parks. Let’s give everybody peace of mind, and we don’t have to deal with this.”

The idea of selling some parks first appeared on the Parks Advisory Committee agenda in November. Member Robin Deberard said the committee was told the council wanted a list of which parks could be sold. 

“The sale of parks come up a lot,” she said. “If it’s not (the council) and it’s not the parks committee (wanting to sell parks), then ask yourselves who is it?” she said as she turned to City Manager Jeff Looney. “Is it you, Jeff? Do you want to sell the parks?”

“This has gone on way before me,” Looney responded. “We’ve had people come and ask to buy parks. I have a responsibility to this City Council and our citizens.”

That responsibility led Assistant City Manager and Parks Director Peggy Smith to assess amenities and needs at each park. 

“I don’t recall anyone ever saying parks were for sale,” Looney continued. “It’s a shame things get said that are taken the wrong way.”

During the Feb. 8 meeting, Katz cautioned against drafting an ordinance. Unlike a resolution, which states a current council’s position on a topic, an ordinance is about prevention and limitation, the attorney said. 

“If you adopt an ordinance that prohibits the sale of the parks in the future, that ordinance violates these laws and is probably unenforceable,” he said. “There could be situations in the future that would require (a future council to examine all options). A resolution isn’t binding the way an ordinance is. You wouldn’t bind a city council from the legal options they have.”

Katz noted that Chapter 253 of the Local Government Code of Texas shows how parks owned by cities can be sold. In a memorandum dated Nov. 15, 2021, he outlined that an election must be conducted in the city so residents can vote on whether or not to sell parkland. If voters approve the sale, he wrote, “city leaders must also adopt an ordinance directing the mayor to execute the conveyance.”

“It’s a difficult process, a difficult and demanding process,” Katz told councilors. “I know it’s a contentious issue, and a lot of people care very deeply. ‘The City of Parks’ is the city motto.”

In talking about legal concerns, Katz said a long line of already settled cases establishes that a current city council can’t limit a future city council from taking action. 

“In the future, things may come up that we can’t predict right now,” he said. “Every year, we have an election. It’s just bad policy to let one city council today prohibit a future city council from doing something if it’s a government power they have.” 

The council agreed to have him draft a resolution, not an ordinance, for consideration at a future meeting.