The May election could be pivotal in shaping future growth in this fast-growing Hill Country suburb of Austin.
Bee Cave City Council incumbents Jack McCool and Bill Goodwin will face four challengers, two political newcomers, a planning and zoning commission member and a former U.S. Congressional candidate. Council Member Bob Dorsett is not seeking re-election in a third seat. The top three candidates will win seats on the council.
Residents also will decide in May if Bee Cave should become a home-rule city, which would give the City Council more control over development, the power to annex land and give Mayor Caroline Murphy a vote in council decisions.
Early voting starts April 29; Election Day is May 11.
Goodwin, a council member for eight years, said he has challenged developers’ plans in the past and their desire to get exceptions from city rules, and has been on the losing side of several council votes approving development plans. The challengers generally favor growth, with some caveats.
Goodwin, 51, a rainwater systems contractor, said the current council has been divided on development issues and granting variances from Bee Cave ordinances on land use. He said he has voted against variances on sign towers at the Shops at the Galleria and a proposal for stormwater runoff controls for Cielo Apartments.
Bee Cave has transformed from a hamlet of 214 people in 1990 to nearly 4,000 people in 2010, according to census counts. City officials now estimate the population to be 5,371. In recent years, the Hill Country Galleria added new retail and office space to the city, and new subdivisions such as Falconhead and Falconhead West were built.
McCool, 69, said he has concerns about council members who have discussions with developers about projects prior to a public discussion at City Council meetings.
“Everybody is thinking a little harder about issues before they vote now,” said McCool, a real estate broker. “Bill (Goodwin) is an anti-variance guy. I believe situations change over time, and you have to change. The issues with those big developments is any change is a variance.”
Opposition among residents to a recent plan to build a car dealership just outside Bee Cave near a subdivision led to the push for home-rule status. Most council candidates worked on drafting the home-rule charter and say they’re in favor of the move.
Michelle Bliss, 43, chairwoman of the planning and zoning commission, said she wants city leaders to stick to the guidelines of city’s comprehensive plan for future development. She said she supports growth in the city but feels the current pace of development might be too fast.
Kara King, 37, a medical sales representative and first-time candidate, said the council must guide future growth to balance the city’s needs and its Hill Country heritage. “We need a proactive council to work with citizens and developers. Unfortunately, we can’t stop growth,” King said.
Paul Kline, 45, a first-time candidate, said he has concerns about development outside the city. The City Council made a mistake by not moving forward to become a home-rule city a year ago, said Kline, an operation director in the hospitality industry who has lived in the city for four years.
Chad Wilbanks, 43, former executive director of the Texas Republican Party who ran unsuccessfully last year for Congressional District 25, said he feels there’s anxiety in the Bee Cave community about the city’s growth but he supports development. “I’m a pro-business, pro-growth type of guy,” Wilbanks said.