MIDLOTHIAN — The Midlothian City Council heard citizens’ concerns on road safety issues on U.S. Highway 287 and Farm-to-Market 663 during its meeting Tuesday.

The council heard Marty Peterson’s concerns about the extension of a guardrail along U.S. Highway 287 between Walter Stephenson and 9th Street. The rear of residential homes on Melanie Trail face Highway 287 and have had several vehicles crash into homeowners’ fences.

“On Sept. 11 around 2-3 a.m. a vehicle northbound on 287 crashed through my brick fence and hit my home,” Peterson said. “If this had happened during the day, I would have been in that exact spot playing with my 6- and 9-year-old daughters.”

Peterson said that the stretch of guardrail along 287 has been repaired four times this year. Peterson also said that other residents have had vehicles crash into their fences.

Mayor Boyce Whatley informed Peterson that city engineers and the public works had submitted a formal request to TxDOT to analyze the strip of highway for any needed improvements. The council also informed Peterson that Ellis County Area TxDOT Engineer Bill Pierce had met with council members and taken reports from the police department about the incidents.

Rezoning request

The council held a public hearing to consider rezoning property at 3261 FM 663.

The property owner is seeking to open a convenience store and donut shop. Zoning ordinances require the owner to install downcast lights to properly illuminate the entryways to the property, but citizens expressed road safety concerns about the level of traffic on FM 663.

“You have to come up over a hill right there and the traffic doesn’t slow down to let anyone in either,” Midlothian citizen Donna Mullins said. “We’ve got six donut shops in Midlothian, I don’t know why we need another one.”

Mullins said that she wasn’t opposed to the convenience store/donut shop opening, but was concerned for vehicles turning out of the property into the heavy traffic on FM 663.

Council member Bill Houston and other members agreed that the level of traffic on FM 663 may require a turn lane to be put in front of the property or restriping to ensure safe road conditions.

The council sought to have TxDOT analyze the strip of road and respond with necessary improvements. Any road construction expenses would fall upon the property owner.

The council tabled the agenda items for their meeting on Oct. 25, to give TxDOT time to respond and to continue the public hearing.

Rodarte honor

The council honored 10-year-old Sammie Rodarte for alerting her family to a house fire.

Rodarte was helping bathe her three younger sisters when she noticed smoke coming through the floor vents. An improperly discarded cigarette had caused a small grass fire to ignite under the Rodarte residence. Rodarte wrapped her younger sisters in towels, grabbed a wireless phone, moved everyone out to the mailbox and called 911.

Rodarte said she learned these fire safety tips from fire safety instruction at J.R. Irvin Elementary.

David Schrodt presented Rodarte with a certificate and Whatley presented her with a state seal coin. J.R. Irvin Principal Jean Embry presented Rodarte with a certificate earlier this month.

Zoning updates

The council held a workshop with Director of Planning John Garfield and Planning Manager Alberto Mares to review updates to the zoning ordinance handbook. The updates include revisions to the format, wording, use of graphics and illustrations and providing a cross-reference system.

All these changes are intended to make a more user-friendly document.

Along with the update to the zoning ordinances, several amendments are included. The amendments include creation of a Rural Residential Conservation District, expanding specific use permit standards and adding steps to confirm property subdivided out of agricultural land, clarification to types of uses and standards for Zoning Board of Adjustment special exception permits and addition of ordinances for telecommunication antennae.

The council was divided on the positive and negative effects of the new ordinance amendments, and Mayor Boyce Whatley offered comments weighing the pros and cons.

“Constituents have expressed a desire to keep Midlothian’s rural character and I feel like (the Rural Residential Conservation District) does that, but it also limits homeowner rights,” Whatley said. “If the community truly wants more subdivisions then this clustering helps keep that agricultural feel.”

Whatley and other council members went on to applaud the use of graphics and visuals to make the zoning ordinance a friendlier document and the hard work Mares has put into updating the document.

Kimmel Park update

The council also heard a presentation from Parks and Recreation Manager Jim Berman on the Kimmel Park improvements and approved the replacement of the fence and lighting not to exceed $57,000.

The historic Kimmel Park fence will be removed and preserved on the second floor of Water Tower 1.

“There are no lights at Kimmel Park right now, it’s dark at night,” Berman said. “Tree roots grew under the electrical wiring for the lights and pushed them up. The fire department was called out on one occasion, because the wires had caused a grass fire.”

In other action, the Council:

• nominated the slate of candidates for 2012-2013 Board of Directors for the Ellis Central Appraisal District. The candidates include all of the incumbents, except Linda Alvarez.

• approved an amendment to the agreement with the Construction Manager At Risk for the Water Treatment Plant 2 with Garney Companies Inc. to allow the CMAR to begin groundwork, other preliminary site development and manufacturing valves that have a lengthy lead time. All of these developments were included in a bid set package not to exceed $1,832,384.

• approved increasing the Midlothian Conference Center’s fiscal year budget by $125,086. The increase in budgeted funds is expected to be recovered and exceeded by event revenue.

• approved amendments to the Comprehensive Plan for adding and revising road segments on the Thoroughfare Plan Map. The proposed amendments included a downgrade of Plainview Road and the realignment of the Farm-to-Market 1387 future extension.

The realignment of FM 1387 is returning to the original alignment that was altered due to the Lauren subdivision. The subdivision has since expired and will no longer be built. Plainview Road will be downgraded due to the future extension of Ledgestone Lane.

• approved executing a contract with Siemens Industry Inc. for supplying necessary equipment, chemicals, preventative maintenance and monitoring services for the generation of chlorine dioxide used in the treatment process at the Tayman Water Treatment Plant.

• approved adopting new GASB 54 standards

Contact Aaron at a.schwaderer@wninews.com or 469-517-1456.