Chris Gary - Candidate for Kennedale Place 4

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1. Past Decisions – please respond by February 29, 2024

Although the city council cannot dwell on past councils' decisions and it must move forward, we would like to know if current council members have learned from past decisions, including those made by previous councils. From history, were each of the following zoning case items a good decision or a poor decision, and why?

a) “UV” zoning on Kennedale Sublett Road just east of Kennedale Parkway?

b) “MF” zoning on Joplin Road just south of Kennedale Sublett Road?

#1 - “UV” zoning on Kennedale Sublett Road just east of Kennedale Parkway.

From my understanding “UV” is an urban development designed and created with multi-family housing, light business with an emphasis on pedestrian, cycling and public transportation. Its reason for existence is to promote people working, shopping, and living in the same area and help with community interaction. NONE of this exists with this development off Sublett and Business 287/Kennedale Parkway. The only thing coming out of this area in the last five years is high density housing.

Even though the original idea for this area sounds good, was the current area conducive for the components of “UV” zoning or was it just a way to get the apartments built with no true intentions of development? In 2023, Hammock Creek was valued at $6.6 million which returned a taxable income to the city of about $47,000. This income does not begin to cover the costs for infrastructure to help build along with basic city services (fire, police, etc.).

My questions/concerns would have been:

Does this development align with the existing make-up of the surrounding area?

Was the return on investment for the city and residents considered?

Were the concerns of residents directly affected by these apartments considered at all?

With Kennedale’s limited space for growth was this a smart use of available property?

I 100% believe we need to work hard for more restaurants, retail, and other businesses because we absolutely need these to lessen the tax burden off our citizens, but UV in this exact area was not a productive way to make this happen.

Therefore, I DO NOT believe the UV zoning on Kennedale Sublett Road just east of the Parkway was a good decision.

#2 - “MF” zoning on Joplin Road just south of Kennedale Sublett Road.

From my understanding, this location (Alta Landing Apartments) to date is still not in compliance with multi-family zoning, so I would say it was not a good decision. This location has had numerous code issues such as non-compliance with building height requirements, the distance from the existing neighborhood (Steeplechase), inadequate and extra bright lighting affecting neighbors, noise nuisances at all hours of the night, along with many more. I also saw where a vehicle went crashing through the fence and into the backyard of one of our citizens. The citizen has received little to no help from the city in dealing with the aftermath. I feel that the Certificate of Occupancy should NOT have been issued for this location. It was not in compliance with MF zoning when it was built and still is not.

My questions/concerns would have been:

Who was looking out for the effects Alta would have on our current citizens’ quality of life?

Were the concerns of residents directly affected by these apartments considered at all?

Was the return on investment for the city and residents considered?

Why was a city official/department not held accountable for these shortcomings at construction and why have adjustments not been made since?

I’m not against smart fiscal residential growth but feel like someone needs to be on our current residents’ side when it comes to safe and quality living.

In conclusion these two developments were NOT a good decision to approve due to developer misrepresentation, fiscal cost to the city, stress on city infrastructures, city oversight and MOST OF ALL the negative effects on the residents of this great city.

 

2. Property Taxes – please respond by March 7, 2024

Kennedale is the third highest taxing city of the 41 cities in Tarrant County. What are some viable potential solutions to alleviate the tax burden on the citizens? Or is this just something that the citizens of Kennedale must learn to accept? Why?

The first thing we can do is to make NEW business development growth a priority which should help offset future tax burdens to homeowners and allow our rate to be more in line with other municipalities. Making Kennedale financially attractive for small and medium-sized businesses by being more cognizant of the needs of the business, being proactive regarding that business’s needs from the city, expediting city decisions and keeping an open mind to the future needs in order for that business to succeed and consequently benefit the city and its residents. With three businesses closing or moving in the last few weeks, we as a city and council need to do a MUCH better job of supporting our CURRENT businesses and helping with their success.

Secondly, we should be more fiscally responsible when budgeting and allocating taxpayer funds through the city budget. I believe too much money is moved around from one expenditure to another with the intention of benefiting areas that do not help the residents of Kennedale. Also, I believe there has been a lack of budgeting for inflation of increasing costs that negatively affect the bottom line of the city’s income. We definitely need to make sure that our police, fire and EMT groups are given the tools to provide top level support to our residents and businesses, but budget items need to be prioritized. As a council and steward of our citizens we need to make sure expenditures are used on the proper needs for the city.

Finally, I DO NOT believe this is something we should accept and treat like it’s just part of paying our civil taxes and doing business. Even with the increasing cost of city services provided to our residents we can do better than we are doing. It takes three council members to control the rapid growth of your tax bill and I believe the current council has those three votes to continue increasing them yearly, not looking for ways to minimize or keep the same at best. We all have a part to play but the council and city staff need to be responsible in using taxpayer income for the betterment of Kennedale and its residents.

 

3. Moratorium – please respond by March 14, 2024

In January 2023 the council approved a temporary moratorium of applications for MF or TH zoning. Do you agree with the temporary moratorium? Why or why not?

I was very ecstatic when the moratorium was voted on, signed, and put into effect back in late January 2023. My understanding is this was put in place to help the city’s infrastructure crises, including sewer, water storage and road repairs and give the council and city officials time to get a long-term plan initiated before we put on more pressure on the infrastructure through new developments. The City Council, with advice from a consulting firm, concluded that the elevated water capacity was insufficient and in poor repair, and that a major portion of the sewer system was also in poor condition and grossly over capacity. In addition, many streets were over utilized and in need of repairs and upgrades. A $17 million CO Bond passed about the time the moratorium expired. I am not aware of many meaningful repairs or new infrastructure that has been made or built to correct these issues. Furthermore, I know of no concrete plans published by the city for when these issues will be corrected.

Well, the moratorium worked for the majority of 2023, but now the current city council has decided that infrastructure can take on more strain with the recent passing of PZ#24-01(Crestview) & PZ#24-03(Oak Crest). Even though these PZs were under the planned development rules, the council, along with my opponent seem to not be worried about infrastructure stress and how residents will be negatively affected by these. Apparently, the citizens’ voices are NOT important since the petition signed by a majority of directly affected residents was disregarded.

Sadly, with the help of my opponent, Mr. Griffith, and a few other council members, the recent passing of PZ#24-01(Crestview) & PZ#24-03(Oak Crest) in February has made that moratorium useless. The idea that high density housing is beneficial to the city’s tax base is preposterous considering Hammock Creek only returned a tax profit of $47 thousand for 2023, which does not begin to cover the infrastructure and civil service costs.

 

4. Extension of Little Road – please respond by March 21, 2024

In August 2023 the city council decided it would issue debt (certificates of obligation) for the extension of Little Road without any voter approval after the discussion all along prior to that meeting was to issue general obligation bonds approved by voters if the project was to be completed. Do you agree with the council's action? Why or why not?

I believe this is a good project and will help with access to New Hope Road and eliminate the ongoing issue with the Union Pacific train blockage. However, with the many years it will take for this project to positively affect the residents, I believe the citizens should have had an opportunity to VOTE on this. The debt service on this was $18 million (P&I) which will cost the taxpayers approximately $900,000 dollars a year for twenty years. With a debt that large, I think tax paying residents should have had a say in this decision.

BUT the current council, with my opponents help and vote, changed this project to a CO Bond, which provides local governments with a means to finance projects quickly, such as for reconstruction after a disaster or as a response to a court decision requiring capital spending. I am not aware of a natural disaster or court order regarding this Little Road extension project.

It takes three council members to control the rapid growth of your tax bill, and currently our city council has the numbers to continue that habit with nobody to question the council’s actions and work for the residents of Kennedale.

This is a blatant abuse of power at the expense of the taxpayers of Kennedale.

 

5. Communications – please respond by March 28, 2024

If you receive an e-mail from a constituent on a Kennedale issue logically laid out and well documented, will you respond to the constituent? Why or why not? What actions will you take?

As an elected official and a steward for the citizens of Kennedale I plan on taking every question or concern seriously and treating it as a priority. I would respond in a very timely manner, either by email or phone call, to confirm the exact concerns of the citizen and set a timeline for a response. If I was able, I would handle the issue myself immediately. If I was not, I would go to the city manager and discuss the details of the issue with them. Together, we would come up with a feasible plan to take quick action, if necessary and acting in the safety and best interest of all citizens. Then if appropriate, I would also discuss with the other council members to make them aware of the pending issue.

Finally, I would relay back to the citizen what outcome was reached, what process is involved to remedy the issue and set a reasonable time for a resolution, along with setting a calendar reminder for myself to follow up on the resolution status in an acceptable time frame.

Constituent/citizen input and concerns will be a priority for me if I am elected!

 

6. Issue – please respond by April 4, 2024

What is the most important issue the city council is currently facing? Why? What are your suggestions for addressing this issue?

There are many issues facing the city council such as increasing taxes, infrastructure repairs, outdated streets, lack of business growth, transparency and lack of fiscal responsibility. However, I feel the most important issue facing the council is the lack of honesty and openness with its tax-paying residents who hold the power to elect people who have the best interests of ALL Kennedale residents at heart.

With two of the four current council seats appointed (not elected by the people) by the two other council members at the direction of the mayor and city manager, they have created an authoritarian government for our city that will have long-lasting effects for all of us.

My opponent, current council and city officials continue to tell the people what is best for them in meeting after meeting and do not truly ask the residents what we feel is best for our city. We should be tired of hearing “tough decisions have to be made and not everyone will be happy, we just have to deal with it and trust them”. Recent actions, such as confrontational comments in the Steering Committee meeting, townhome development final approval done in executive rather than open session, the changing from a GO to CO for the Little Road expansion project and threatening to remove the last two council members who left the council if they did not fall in line with the council’s and city manager’s narrative of their personal agenda are prime examples of how the current city leadership demeans and refuses to value or consider the residents.

These issues will not be addressed properly until we make a major change in the direction the council is taking us. Therefore, I ask anyone that believes this to be a problem to vote for Brad, Thelma and myself to help keep Kennedale a safe city where all of its residents can thrive and to ensure that Kennedale can succeed as a community.