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Lantana residents oppose plan for district office building

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A handful of residents from Lantana’s Azalea neighborhood attended the Fresh Water Supply District meeting last Thursday to express their concerns about a proposed office building for the district.

District officials are considering building a 6,000 square-foot, one-story office building on the west side of Lantana Trail between Canyon Crossing and Hickory, backing up to the Bellaire and Azalea additions.

The district currently leases 4,000 square feet in Bartonville Town Center at a rate of $8,370 per month.

District #7 board member and Azalea resident, Jim Lieber, cited concerns with increased traffic, lower property values and the removal of trees in the greenbelt area.

“When we first came here, we were told by everyone that none of the greenbelt would be built on,” said Lieber.

Lieber’s neighbors shared his concerns, as six Azalea residents addressed the board in opposition to the project.

“We were told that there would be nothing behind us and we paid a lot premium to have no buildings anywhere behind us and nothing but trees,” said resident Jeff Hatfield. “By building that commercial building there, you reduce the value of my property.

“I’m all for the fresh water supply district having a building of their own, as long as it is a place that is appropriate for a commercial building to be located and an appropriate place is not a residential area.”

Lantana General Manager Kevin Mercer showed residents the conceptual blueprints and renderings and stressed that the building would not be able to be seen from the homes behind it.

“The building will be depressed in the hill,” said Mercer.  “You may, on a winter day, see the very peak of the roof but the building will not otherwise be seen from Azalea or the future extension of the Bellaire addition.”

Mercer said that the structure will have the same look and feel as the other non-residential buildings such as the golf clubhouse and visitor center. He added that it will have a drive-through window for residents to pay their water bill in person, which he said 450 people did last month.

“We’ve designed the building in a manner that we don’t think will be disruptive to nearby residents.” said Mercer. “We are not disturbing the trees around the perimeter of the proposed building.”

When asked about alternate building sites, Mercer said that another possible location could be off of FM 407 next to the new elevated water storage tank on the far south side of the community, but said staff preferred a more central location.

Mercer estimated the cost of the new building would be in the $1.2 to $1.4 million range.

“We’re not trying to sneak a building in.  We’re looking at a minimum of three years out before we could even possibly start construction,” added Mercer.

There are two years left on the current lease at Bartonville Town Center, according to district controller Richard Harned.  Harned said that the district is running out of room and will likely need to lease additional space for document storage sometime next year.

The boards approved a motion to direct Mercer to explore three options for the building, which included other locations and the feasibility of staying in their current space.  Board members also voted to place $500 thousand into a new building fund from surplus revenue left over from last fiscal year.

Board members also discussed the possible termination of their agreement with Blackridge Consulting, an Austin-based governmental-affairs practice that consults the developer on bond issues and other matters relating to development.

Currently, the districts pay Blackridge $45,000 per year for their services, according to District #6 board member Bob Baird.

“We decided to postpone the final decision on this until our June meeting, and that will give us the opportunity of going though the legislative session and decide if we will continue to use them or not,” said Baird.

The one dissenting vote came from District #6 board member Donna Robichaux.

“We are paying a lot of money to have a lobby in Austin,” said Robichaux. “We have to figure out if that matches the good of Lantana, so I would suggest that we really take this seriously and get the facts.”

In other business, Chris Romolo was appointed to the District #7 board to replace Steve Martini, who resigned in October due to a job relocation out of state. Romolo is a Special Agent with the Food and Drug Administration Office of Criminal Investigations.

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