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Several residents of Bee Cave’s extraterritorial jurisdiction are expressing mistrust of the proposed home rule charter, which goes before city voters in the May elections.

About a dozen ETJ residents attended Bee Cave’s final town hall meeting April 25, a forum intended to educate residents within and outside the city’s limits about the powers of the proposed home rule charter.

As Bee Cave City Attorney Patty Akers explained to the audience, if the city were to gain home rule status it would be able to enact laws as long as state law does not specifically prohibit them.

Home rule also is intended to empower citizens, she said.

“There are a number of things that citizens can do, certain powers that they don’t have now (under general law),” Akers said. “Those powers are initiative, referendum and recall. If there’s an ordinance voted in by council that people don’t like, they can petition to put it to a vote and they can vote down that ordinance.”

Residents of the ETJ wanted to know how home rule would benefit them, and voiced concern that the charter’s nuisance ordinances would impede their land usage freedoms.

“I have a fireworks stand on my property, and my mom is on a fixed income,” ETJ resident Michelle Grumbles said. “How are you going to replace that income?”

City Administrator Frank Salvato clarified that, although the City Council would be able to create a nuisance ordinance banning fireworks if the city became home rule, it would only apply to the first 1,000 feet of the extraterritorial jurisdiction outside of the city’s limits.

Another extraterritorial jurisdiction resident wanted to know if the area could have representation on the City Council and Planning and Zoning Commission. Although ETJ residents may serve on the commission, Akers clarified any applicants for City Council must first live within the city’s limits for a year.

One particular concern for ETJ residents was annexation. Annexation takes 60 to 90 days, and how much land the city can annex per year is limited, Akers said. But business owners in the ETJ wanted to ensure their businesses could continue unaffected if annexed.

“There are two types of grandfathering, and one is by virtue of annexation,” she explained. “If a project was created before a regulation goes into effect, you can run a business the same as you did before the change.”

Residents of the ETJ in attendance, several of whom said they have been in the area for generations, opposed the idea of home rule enabling the city to exercise more control over the ETJ, and paying taxes to the city once annexed.

“What are we to expect?” asked Greg Mallory, ETJ resident and business owner. “It seems like they just want to take a little more power, a little more control.”

Charter commission chairman Mike Murphy, a former Bee Cave councilman and present Economic Development Board chairman, attempted to put home rule into perspective.

“I agree with the limited government philosophy, but there comes a time when we have to respond to citizen needs,” Murphy said. “As long as you don’t build a hazardous waste dump or concrete plant, I’ll defend you.”

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