Engage D2: 6/15/15 (Fracking/Drilling/Hickory Parking/Pedestrians/Dumpsters on Sidewalks/Boards & Commissions/Monthly D2 Meetings)

Fracking Ban Update:  During the upcoming regular City Council meeting (Tuesday 6/16/15 at 6:30 PM in City Hall) there will be consideration of either amending our “Prohibition of Hydraulic Fracturing” ordinance (Initiative Ordinance No. 2014-01) to officially declare that the City will not enforce the ordinance; or consider adopting a new, subsequent ordinance declaring that the City will not enforce the “Prohibition on Hydraulic Fracturing” ordinance.

I am much happier with the strategic direction that the City appears to be taking now in this matter.   I am proud that we opened up a public discussion and appear to be factoring the public’s input into our actions.  As of right now I will be pushing for the second option, where we adopt a new ordinance declaring that the City will not enforce Initiative Ordinance No. 2014-01.  This way we leave unaltered the original language and spirit of the ordinance banning hydraulic fracturing within the City of Denton.

Gas Well Ordinance – Continuing the Discussion: During this same City Council meeting we will continue discussion regarding amendments to our existing gas well ordinance.  There is a lot to figure out here in light of the passing of HB40.   This is an important continuing discussion.  Our ordinances on gas well drilling are our last and only line of local regulation of the oil and gas operations within our city limits.

Hickory Street Back-in Parking Not So Easy for Everybody:  Back-in parking on Hickory Street has been a controversial topic for many.  Change can be challenging and this new parking configuration is asking us to do things in a different way.  But for some this hard change is more than mental – it is physical.  We could have done a much better job of accommodating the needs of handicap citizens in the updates to Hickory Street and Williams Square.  It is very hard for drivers to identify handicap parking spaces in the back-in configuration because signs are not visible from the direction of traffic flow.  It is also nearly impossible for handicap citizens who require rear-load access (for wheelchairs and scooters) or access for vans to park on Hickory.  It also appears that, according to the Texas Department of Licensing, we need to provide additional handicap parking spaces.

I am unhappy that our original plans for this high-profile project lacked the foresight required to properly accommodate the needs of our handicapped citizens.   I will be asking some very specific questions and seeking clarification about this apparent oversight: What firm or department was responsible for the plan/design? How did this happen?  How was this not caught earlier? How much is this going to cost to fix?  Who is financially responsible for fixing this issue? and most importantly… How do we avoid making mistakes like this in the future?

I am happy that citizens spoke up and brought these issues to the attention of staff and that staff have quickly responded to these legitimate concerns.  The handicap parking signs along Hickory will be repositioned, additional handicap parking spaces are going to be added, handicap ramps and rear-load/van accessible spaces will be properly installed.  Reconstruction should begin soon and fall under the contract for annual concrete services associated with the Hickory Street Project.

Potential Pedestrian Improvements on the Square:  There is growing concern among citizens and business owners about the safety of the downtown crosswalks (especially those on the Square).  Councilman Roden and I both attended a June 1, 2015 meeting of the Denton Downtowners (a public Facebook group) where these concerns were again vocalized.  I brought this concern up to the rest of Council during our last work session and Councilman Roden informed all that he would be working to get this on the Mobility Committee’s upcoming agenda.  In preparation for that meeting and anticipated future council discussion Councilman Roden put together this assessment of the current state of the Square’s crosswalks: http://rodenfordenton.com/2015/06/crossing-denton-the-strange-ways-of-downtown-crosswalk-signals/

Pedestrian safety is one of my core issues.  It is my opinion that our city was not designed with much consideration for pedestrians and that we have to fix that soon.  Certainly the logic of Square’s crosswalks isn’t keeping pace with the downtown revitalization we are experiencing.  I will be supporting and pushing for immediate improvements and look forward to the Mobility Committee’s recommendations.

Dumpster’s on the Sidewalks:  Here is another pedestrian issue (and another proof point that we can and will do a better job of making Denton more pedestrian friendly).  Prior to February of 2014 there were 50 dumpsters identified as blocking pedestrian right of ways.  Since that time 20 of those issues were resolved.  In February of 2015 City Council provided direction to staff to resolve the remaining 30 issues.  Starting on June 15 staff will begin to meet with each of the solid waste customers associated with these final 30 dumpsters and arrange to bring the location of these dumpsters into compliance per Council’s direction.  Soon there should be zero dumpsters calling the sidewalks of Denton home.

Call for Citizens to Apply for Boards and Commissions:  Hey you!  Want to get more involved?  I think you should.  Please consider applying for one of the many positions available to serve on the City’s boards and commissions.  More about the boards and the process of applying can be found here:http://www.cityofdenton.com/government/city-manager-s-office/city-secretary-s-office/boards-commissions-information-center

These boards and commissions are an important and vital part of our local government.  One of the most important things that I will do as your representative will be to review applications, make nominations, and ultimately decide through council vote which citizens are placed into these positions.

District 2 Conversations:  You may remember a survey a few weeks ago that I asked you to take.  I was looking for your input regarding where and when we should have monthly open D2 meetings.  Many of you participated and I thank you for your input.  The results of that survey are in, and the results are inconclusive.  We are pretty much split down the middle regarding the ideal venue and the day of week for these meetings.

These monthly meetings will be held on Sunday afternoons at the North Branch Library at 2PM.   The first meeting will be in early August, with a specific date to be announced soon.  I will be preparing for this first meeting and look forward to the collaboration ahead as we move our great district and our great city forward together.

As always if you have any questions, comments, ideas, or concerns about District 2 or the City of Denton please let me know.

Your humble representative,

Keely G. Briggs
Denton City Council Member – District 2

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