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Council picks Rec Center as future voting place

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The Elgin City Council decided to recommend the Elgin Recreation Center as the city’s new voting location at their November 16 meeting as Bastrop County applies to take part in an elections program.

Recently, Bastrop County has taken steps to apply for a program through the Texas Secretary of State’s office for county-wide polling, which would allow voters to vote at any polling location on Election Day, not just their precinct’s designated location. As part of the process, the county requested a recommendation for a polling location in Elgin.

The three options available for voting in Elgin are the Elgin Public Library—the current polling place—the Fleming Center or the Elgin Recreation Center.

Each option has its pros and cons, according to feedback from the Bastrop County Elections Department presented to the council on November 16. The library is already well-known as the current polling location and has adequate space for voting, but there is limited parking space and the room is now being used for city meetings such as city council. The Fleming Center has adequate space for voting and is not used for other purposes as frequently, but there is limited street parking and additional signage would be required both indoors and outdoors to direct voters to additional parking and to the voting room. The Rec Center has plenty of space for voting and parking, but is often used for classes, meetings and rentals.

The Rec Center would be a good choice, but staff recommends against its use due to its other uses for meetings during the business day and recreation programs in the evenings, city manager Thomas Mattis said. The building would be occupied with voting for three weeks at a time, two to three times per year.

“Pretty obviously (the Rec Center) would be the best choice as far as a building to be used, as evidenced by our COVID-19 vaccination efforts there last year working really well, and it's a great facility,” Mattis said “But we're concerned about the lengthy occupation of that building that this would require.”

In April, the Elgin City Council had to hold one of their meetings virtually due to the Elgin Public Library being set up for voting, and last month they scheduled their November meeting to take place after Election Day.

Council member Skyler Maldonado said, considering the growth coming to Elgin, the Rec Center would be the largest facility with the most parking.

Mayor Pro-Tem Sue Brashar pointed out the city’s responsibility to open the Rec Center as an emergency shelter during a disaster.

“What happens if you are also trying to vote there too, when you have people who need to come in there, because we've then turned it into a place for citizens to go to because we've had a fire, or we've had a storm, or something?” she said.

Council member Matthew Callahan added that the Fleming Center has additional parking in the back, and it’s not used for many other purposes.

Elgin Mayor Ron Ramirez said keeping voting in the Elgin Public Library is not a good option, as the Bastrop County Elections Department receives complaints about the lack of parking and the difficulties with using ADA facilities. The Fleming Center is also not a good option, he said, since the parking in the back could make access just as difficult as at the library. The Rec Center would be perfect, he added, because people who come to vote can see the amenities available at that building, and there is plenty of parking. Additionally, any classes and activities at the Rec Center scheduled during the voting period can be adjusted as necessary well in advance.

“Elgin is growing,” Ramirez said. “We can't use the same little facilities that we've been using. We need bigger facilities. In my opinion, this is a perfect opportunity for the council to look at using the Rec Center.”

Council member Jessica Bega suggested moving the classes at the Rec Center to the Fleming Center during the voting period.

After the discussion, the council voted to choose the Elgin Recreation Center 7-1, with Brashar voting against.


Development agreement approved for Stone Creek Ranch

The council also learned details about the upcoming Stone Creek Ranch subdivision and approved a zoning change for the property.

The zoning change would allow for a planned development district at the 69-acre property between FM 1100 and Elgin High School west of County Line Road. The subdivision planned for the property, named Stone Creek Ranch, would include a total of 404 units built in three phases, with the first phase starting early 2022. In addition to single-family homes and duplexes, the subdivision will include single-story triplexes, with garages and an average of 1,300 square feet for each residence. 

Planned development district zoning includes a development agreement, where the city and the developer collaborate on a plan for the development, giving the developer more control on designing the project while also giving the city more benefits. 

Under the development agreement with Stone Creek Ranch, the development will include a mix of residential uses, 12.7 acres of private open space and 2.73 acres of public parkland with public parking spaces, and the creation of an internal road system that will be owned and maintained by the developer instead of dedicated to the city.

The developer has also agreed to build a road that would provide another access point to FM 1100 for Elgin ISD.

“It is a key new access point, for not only the school district, but it also will help feed some traffic off of this development and relieve pressure off County Line Road,” Mattis said.

The developers performed a traffic impact study and found that residents leaving the development would not have a major impact on County Line Road, with most drivers using FM 1100 to head west towards Austin. Regardless, the developers of Stone Creek Ranch will contribute $488,000 towards the upgrades on County Line Road.

The residences in this neighborhood are planned as “build-to-rent” instead of for sale, giving an opportunity for those who cannot purchase a house to affordably live in a spacious home with a garage and a big backyard, the developer told the council.

“I think it's a great concept, and we need it,” Brashar said. “Obviously, we're going to have more school teachers with more schools, and young people that just can't quite afford houses because they're getting more expensive too.”

The zoning change was passed unanimously by the council.