The Georgetown City Council is starting the process to rebalance the population in the city’s seven council districts, which is known as redistricting or reapportionment. The redistricting process happens after every decennial census.
At its Oct. 26 workshop, City Council will review 2020 Census information by district presented by Bickerstaff Heath Delgado Acosta, a law firm hired by the City to advise the council during the redistricting process.
The Georgetown population as of April 1, 2020, was 66,880, which is a 41 percent increase in population from 47,400 persons in the 2010 census. This means that the ideal council district is now 9,554, which is the total of 66,880 persons divided by seven single-member districts. See the current City Council district maps at maps.georgetown.org.
These are the 2020 population numbers for each district and the percent deviation from the ideal district with 9,554 people.
District 7 has the largest population, which is approximately 40.8 percent, or 3,898 people, above the ideal district size. District 6 has the smallest population, which is approximately 26.86 percent, or 2,566 people, below the ideal district size.
Exact equality of population is not required for local political subdivisions. However, a total population deviation of no more than 10 percent between their most populated district and the least populated district should be the goal.
The council is expected to discuss redistricting criteria at their Oct. 26 workshop meeting. Traditional redistricting criteria examples that a governing body might wish to consider adopting include:
- Use of identifiable boundaries (e.g., roads or rivers)
- Using whole voting precincts, where possible and feasible; or, where not feasible, being sure that the plan lends itself to the creation of reasonable and efficient voting precincts
- Maintaining communities of interest (e.g., traditional neighborhoods)
- Basing the new plan on existing districts
- Adopting districts of approximately equal population
- Drawing districts that are compact and contiguous
- Keeping existing representatives in their districts
- Adjusting to comply with the Voting Rights Act and the Shaw v. Reno Supreme Court case
According to prior Supreme Court rulings, a governmental body must consider race when drawing districts if it is to comply with the requirements of the Voting Rights Act; however, if race is the predominant consideration in the process, the governmental body may be subject to a racial gerrymandering claim.
Members of the public may submit a redistricting plan that complies with guidelines to be adopted by the City Council. Proposed guidelines include the following: any submitted plan must be a complete plan showing the configuration of all districts and not just a selected one or several; and plans submitted for consideration must follow the adopted redistricting criteria.
City Council plans to hold several special sessions for redistricting in October, November, and December. A final plan needs to be adopted and submitted in advance of January 19, 2022 when candidates will begin to file for the May 2022 City Council elections.
Special redistricting City Council meetings will be open to the public and broadcast on the City’s website and on GTV cable channel 10. Details on these meetings will be shared once they have been determined. Information on the City Council redistricting process will be posted at georgetown.org.
The sidewalk accessibility improvement project on the Square will move to the east side of Austin Avenue on Tuesday, Oct. 19.
The outside, northbound lane of Austin Avenue will be closed at Seventh and Eighth streets for the project for the next three to four weeks. Improved, accessible sidewalk ramps are being constructed on the northeast corner of Seventh Street and Austin Avenue, as well as on the southeast corner of Eighth Street and Austin Avenue. The sidewalks will be closed at these corners during the construction work.
The project will improve accessibility and pedestrian safety at the intersections with new ramps and bulb-out areas that will shorten the distance for pedestrians crossing Austin Avenue. In the last two weeks, the sidewalk pedestrian ramps were improved at the northwest corner of Seventh Street and Austin Avenue and at the southwest corner of Eighth Street and Austin Avenue.
The inside, northbound lane and both southbound lanes will remain open to traffic during the project.
The City of Georgetown, in partnership with APD Urban Planning & Management and the neighborhood steering committees for San Jose and Track Ridge Grasshopper (TRG), invite Georgetown residents to participate in the final public meetings for the San Jose and TRG neighborhood plans.
“This last community meeting is really important for the neighborhood to attend,” said Chasity Hattley, TRG Neighborhood Plan Steering Committee chair. “At the meeting, we are going to share the vision statement and the goals and recommendations gathered from the neighborhood over these last six months. We are proud of the process so far, and we as the Steering Committee want to make sure we have the understanding and support of the entire neighborhood.”
These final community meetings will share the final vision and goals for the neighborhoods, as well as recommendations on topics such as housing, transportation, land use, and zoning. Example recommendations range from safety improvements, like sidewalks and traffic management, to ways to celebrate the history and culture of each neighborhood through public art. These recommendations are the result of public input gathered during two community meetings, as well as six meetings with each of the neighborhood steering committees.
The meetings in November are designed as open houses, with a presentation made at the start of each meeting.
Following these meetings, the project team will finalize the recommendations for each neighborhood plan and will present those recommendations to the City Council in December, with consideration of adoption in early 2022.
- San Jose meeting details: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 10, Annie Purl Elementary Library, 1953 Maple St.
- TRG meeting details: 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 11, in the Hewlett room at the Georgetown Public Library, 402 W. Eighth St.
“Volunteer members of the San Jose neighborhood have spent several months making sure that the concerns and issues in our neighborhood were given attention,” said Christina Calixtro, San Jose Neighborhood Plan Steering Committee chair. “As the city of Georgetown continues to grow, we have already seen gentrification in our TRG area. I’d like to strongly encourage my neighbors and their families of the San Jose Neighborhood to attend the last community meeting regarding the outcome of the work that has been put into the plan of preservation for San Jose.”
More about Neighborhood Plans
As the City of Georgetown began its effort in August 2020 to create neighborhood plans for the TRG and San Jose neighborhoods, City staff and neighborhood representatives surveyed the residents of both neighborhoods. Since that time, City Council has approved $200,000 toward funding the work, including hiring a consultant to help with the planning process. Using the August 2020 survey results as a starting point, the City is beginning a study of the neighborhoods to learn more about what residents want to preserve, change, and improve. The Neighborhood Plans capture residents’ ideas and make recommendations on how to achieve them. Recommendations range from future development, housing affordability, and infrastructure projects, such as building sidewalks or installing stop signs, to historic and cultural celebration, such as art installations. The City and APD Urban Planning & Management held public meetings for the neighborhood plans June 30, July 1, Sept. 1, and Sept. 2, 2021, along with 12 steering committee meetings in the past six months.
More information about small area plans is available at 2030.georgetown.org.
(Updated 10/14 to add early voting location.) The first day of in-person early voting for the Nov. 2 election is Monday, Oct. 18. The early voting period is Oct. 18-23 and 25-29. Election Day is Nov. 2.
For early voting locations and times or to look up a sample ballot, go to wilco.org/elections. Registered voters may cast a ballot at any early voting location in Williamson County. Early voting locations in Georgetown are:
- Williamson County Inner Loop Annex, 301 SE Inner Loop
- Cowan Creek Amenity Center, 1433 Cool Spring Way
- Georgetown ISD Technology Building, 603 Lakeway Drive
Photo identification must be presented at polling places. Accepted types of photo ID include a Texas driver license, military ID, passport, and others. A full list of accepted photo ID is at wilco.org/elections.
For information on ballot-by-mail, go to wilco.org/votebymail.
The election on Nov. 2 for City of Georgetown voters will include nine City Charter amendment items and the District 6 City Council seat for voters who live in that district. Read more information about proposed charter amendments at georgetown.org/2021-charter-amendment-election.
Other ballot items for Georgetown voters include school district bond election items, a local option on the sale of alcoholic beverages, and state constitutional amendments.
To see maps of council districts, go to maps.georgetown.org.
On Election Day Nov. 2, voters may cast ballots at any vote center location in Williamson County. Polling places, dates, and times will be listed at wilco.org/elections.
A mosquito trap sample collected Oct. 5 in north Georgetown has tested positive for West Nile virus. This testing is part of the City of Georgetown’s participation in the Williamson County and Cities Health District’s (WCCHD) Integrated Vector Management program. The positive test was indicated in lab results received Oct. 6 from the Texas Department of State Health Services lab in Austin.
The sample was collected from a trap near Diamond Dove Trail and Airport Road.
West Nile virus is the most common mosquito-borne disease in the United States. In 2021, there have been eight mosquito samples pools that returned positive for West Nile virus in Williamson County. This is the first positive trap in 2021 at this location. The last positive trap collected at this location was October 2016.
The City and the Health District are encouraging everyone to be especially vigilant about protecting themselves from mosquito bites when outdoors and preventing mosquito breeding on their personal property. Recent rain and continued warm temperatures are prime breeding conditions for mosquitoes.
While there have been no reported incidences of human infection of West Nile virus in Williamson County this year, symptoms of infection may include fever, headache, and body aches, a skin rash on the trunk of the body, and swollen lymph nodes. Those age 50 and older and/or with compromised immune systems are at a higher risk for severe symptoms, which may include stiffness, disorientation, coma, tremors, vision loss, paralysis, and in rare cases, death.
City of Georgetown parks staff will continue mosquito control efforts with the treatment of standing water with larvicide, and WCCHD will continue enhanced monitoring and testing, along with increased public outreach and education. The City is prepared to take additional action if necessary.
Mosquitoes are present in Central Texas year-round, but the population is largest and most active from May through November. During this period, WCCHD monitors the mosquito population and tests for mosquito-borne viruses.
The most important way to prevent West Nile virus is to reduce the number of mosquitoes where people work and play. Health officials strongly encourage everyone to remain vigilant about protecting themselves from mosquito bites and preventing mosquito breeding on their personal property. Mosquitoes breed in standing water, needing as little as one teaspoon. By draining all sources of standing water in and around your property, you reduce the number of places mosquitoes can lay their eggs and breed.
What you can do
Eliminating places where mosquitoes can breed and reducing the chances of mosquito bites are the most effective lines of defense against exposure to West Nile virus. As part of its Fight the Bite campaign the Health District recommends the 3 Ds of mosquito safety:
- Drain standing water in flowerpots, pet dishes, or clogged gutters so mosquitoes don’t have a place to breed and treat water that can’t be drained,
- Defend by using an EPA-approved insect repellent, and
- Dress in long sleeves and pants when outdoors.
The City of Georgetown is celebrating the Month of the Arts this October with several events for our resident art lovers, including the inaugural Georgetown Autumn Art Stroll.
Autumn Art Stroll
Patrons are invited to come view and purchase art at various locations in the Downtown Georgetown Cultural District from 4-8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 21.
Locations include Grace Plaza, the splash pad at the Georgetown Art Center, local arts businesses, and arts and culture organizations. Visitors are also invited to participate in a public art project led by muralist J Muzacz at the Georgetown Art Center.
Participants in the event will also be able to view and provide feedback on the design for a capital improvement project in the cultural district between Founders Park and Grace Plaza. The City received a Texas Commission on the Arts grant for the project that will be considered by City Council at a future meeting.
Find more information about the Autumn Art Stroll and the capital improvement project at arts.georgetown.org/georgetown-autumn-art-stroll.
Arts and Culture Brown Bag Luncheon
The quarterly Arts and Culture Brown Bag Luncheon returns at noon Oct. 14. Pack your lunch and join us at the Doug Smith Performance Center for a presentation by Ron Watson, Georgetown Palace Theatre executive director. His presentation “Anatomy of a Production” breaks down the details of what it takes to bring the large productions at the Palace to life; from play selection to casting, inspiration and design, and more. Updates from arts and culture stakeholders in the Downtown Georgetown Cultural District will follow Watson’s talk.
More information about arts and culture in Georgetown is available at arts.georgetown.org.
The Georgetown City Council adopted the Fiscal Year 2022 budget Sept. 28. The adopted FY2022 budget totals $483 million and decreases the City’s property tax rate by 1.7 cents.
This is the second year in a row the City has proposed reducing the property tax rate, maintaining the City’s rate as among the lowest of all cities in the Austin area with a population greater than 20,000. Council also voted to increase the homestead exemption to the greater of $5,000 or 3 percent, contributing to $370,000 in additional taxpayer relief. However, because property values in Georgetown increased 15.4 percent, the average homeowner in Georgetown is expected to pay $56 more in property taxes in the upcoming year.
“Residents are going to see significant work toward their priorities in this next fiscal year,” Mayor Josh Schroeder said. “The investment in transportation and water infrastructure, the customer service enhancements, and our continued commitment to public safety afforded in this budget are going to help us tackle the complex challenges facing our constantly growing city.”
The adopted budget did not change from the proposed budget, which is provided online at finance.georgetown.org. The adopted budget book will be available later this year.
City staff used the results of recent public feedback opportunities, including the 2020 resident survey and council goals, to develop the preliminary version of next year’s budget, which spans Oct. 1, 2021, through Sept. 30, 2022.
Major themes of the proposed budget are investing in transportation and utility infrastructure, public safety, and customer services, as well as providing the staffing, equipment, and software needed for record-setting growth and development. Adequately funding those priorities—particularly transportation and water capital improvement projects ($90 million), public safety investments, and staffing and resources needed to maintain service levels during Georgetown’s sustained period of high growth—contributed to the preliminary budget being $87 million (or 18 percent) more than the current fiscal year’s budget of $396 million.
Highlights of the adopted budget include:
- Providing taxpayer relief, despite significant increases to service demand and debt, including Winter Storm Uri and the 2021 mobility bond projects.
- 53 positions, the majority of which are in the fire, water, and electric departments
- One-time start-up costs for a multi-year plan to fund a Police K9 unit
- One of the largest investments in utility infrastructure in the City’s history. This investment includes $49.8 million in water projects ranging from a new pump station to the first phase of construction for the new South Lake Water Treatment Plant.
- Long-range water supply planning, staffing, and resiliency programs to ensure water demands are met in the City’s water service area to meet current and future growth
- Significant investment in transportation, including additional staffing, an Overall Transportation Plan Amendment, a Williams Drive Access Management Plan, a Pavement Condition Index, and additional resources to ensure 2021 mobility bond projects are started within the next five years
- A strong projected electric fund balance of $36.7 million and investments in staffing, technology, and infrastructure to maintain system reliability
- Investment in customer service staffing and programming, including establishing a program to improve intake and response to all customer complaints; improving water and electric outage notifications; and redesigning and organizing the City’s website
For more information, visit finance.georgetown.org.
The City of Georgetown invites the community to attend one of a series of workshops in October that will help prioritize parks and recreation facilities, programs, and services as the Parks and Recreation Department plans for the future. Due to limited space, RSVPs to the workshops are requested.
The City has engaged the services of GreenPlay, a nationally renowned parks and recreation management consulting firm, to assist in developing a Cost Recovery Philosophy and Policy based on the community’s values for recreation programs and services.
The workshops involve small-group discussions to collect the community’s input on how each of the facilities, recreation programs, and services benefit the community. Participants in the workshops will examine the various programs and services provided by the City’s Parks and Recreation Department and will provide input on the community benefit verses individual benefit of each program. City staff will use this input to help develop resource allocation and cost recovery options to present to City Council in early 2022.
“A cost recovery policy for parks and recreation programs and services is important to ensure we are good stewards of public funds and are allocating resources appropriately,” Parks and Recreation Director Kimberly Garrett said. “This policy will give the community an understanding of our pricing structure and how our services are categorized based on benefits to the community.”
The workshops will be held at the Parks and Recreation Administration Building, the Public Safety Operations and Training Center, and the Georgetown Public Library. Light refreshments will be available. Please RSVP at gtxparkplan.com. Space is limited to 25 participants per session.
Meeting dates and times are as follows:
- 6:30 to 8 p.m. Monday, Oct. 11, in the Community Room at the Parks and Recreation Administration Building, 1101 N. College St.
- 8:30 to 10 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 12, in Training Room C at Public Safety Operations and Training Center, 3500 D.B. Wood Road
- 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 12, in the Hewlett Room at Georgetown Public Library, 402 W. Eighth St.
Parks and Recreation Master Plan development
The Georgetown Parks and Recreation Department has been working for the last several months to develop a 10-year master plan. When completed, the master plan will create a blueprint for where Georgetown Parks and Recreation can improve, how it can grow responsibly, and what programs and recreational activities the Georgetown community needs. In August, the team presented results from the mailed and open surveys, data collection from facility and park inventories, and other project analysis. More information about the master plan process is available at gtxparkplan.com.
Oct. 4, 2021, update:
Video and slides from Oct. 1 news conference added below.
Oct. 1, 2021, update:
Update on dog boarding facility fire investigation
Georgetown Fire Chief John Sullivan updated families and the news media on Friday, Oct. 1, on the investigation of the fire at a dog kennel facility in Georgetown, as well as proposed changes to City fire codes. The fire on Sept. 18 led to the tragic deaths of 75 dogs boarded at the Ponderosa Pet Resort, 2518 N. Austin Ave. Although firefighters responded to the 911 call in less than five minutes, none of the dogs in the facility survived. Twenty-five firefighters responded to the blaze.
Fire investigators with the Georgetown Fire Department have determined the fire started about 10:40 p.m. in the main kennel/boarding area of the facility. Probable ignition sources are still being evaluated. Sullivan said that investigators are focusing on devices in the kennel area that potentially malfunctioned.
Building material inside the kennel area may have contributed to an increased spread of smoke from the fire. The facility does not have monitored smoke or heat detection devices or a fire suppression system, such as sprinklers. Federal, state, and Georgetown fire codes do not require sprinkler systems for the use and size of the facility.
The Fire Department expects to have more details to share about the cause of the fire as the investigation continues.
“While the investigation is not complete, we have all the information we need to propose changes to our current fire codes,” Sullivan said.
The City of Georgetown is asking for input from the public on possible fire and building code changes that could be implemented to prevent future tragedies.
The Fire Department is drafting potential changes to the City’s fire codes that include a formal definition and criteria for animal care facilities. Options include monitored smoke and/or heat detection devices; building material requirements; access to exterior areas of safety; fire suppression systems, such as sprinklers; and/or 24-hour onsite staffing. The City plans to bring proposed changes to the Building Standards Commission on Oct. 14 before presenting possible changes to the City Council in November or December.
The Fire Department is currently conducting inspections of 26 animal care facilities in Georgetown and its surrounding extraterritorial jurisdiction area, which include animal boarding facilities and veterinary offices that board animals. The department also has added animal-care facilities to its list of structures that receive annual inspections in the future.
The presentation by Fire Chief John Sullivan at the news conference is available here.
Here is video of the Oct. 1, 2021 news conference including questions and answers.
Sept. 29, 2021, update:
City Council Tuesday, Sept. 28, directed City staff to move forward with creating a memorial or enhancement to the City’s Bark Park to honor the 75 dogs who lost their lives in the fire at Ponderosa Pet Resort and their family members. Staff will work with the families to determine how best to memorialize their pets and develop a process for raising funds for the project. More updates will be posted here and shared on social media as we have them.
Sept. 23, 2021 update:
The Georgetown City Council is working to create a permanent memorial for the lost family members. Council is set to approve the funding at its meeting Tuesday.
“The loss the families experienced of their loved ones on Saturday is a tragedy and one that breaks my heart,” Georgetown Mayor Josh Schroeder said. “While it does not heal the pain the families feel, the City would like to establish a memorial at our Bark Park to honor the 75 dogs — family members, really — that lost their life. Our Council will be directing staff this upcoming Tuesday to begin the process in establishing this memorial and working with the families.”
Sept. 22, 2021, update:
We do not have additional information on the investigation; however, we wanted to address some questions and concerns we have been receiving in regard to our kennel permitting ordinance and occupancy requirements at pet-boarding facilities.
City Manager David Morgan goes through this information in the video below. We want to make a few things clearer:
- The kennel permit ordinance regulates such requirements as food, water, sanitary conditions, and health. It does not require sprinklers, smoke alarms, or 24/7 staffing.
- Failure to obtain a kennel permit does not mean such businesses cannot operate. Ponderosa Pet Resort does have a Certificate of Occupancy which does allow them to operate in the facility.
- We have not been actively educating about or enforcing the kennel permitting ordinance — something we know we need to improve and are working diligently toward. We have an active, dedicated animal control team who respond to any concerns about animal health and safety.
- Because we haven’t been enforcing the kennel permitting ordinance, we do not expect to issue a citation to any of the three businesses we know of, including Ponderosa, for not having a kennel permit. But we want to reiterate: Obtaining a kennel permit does not require fire suppression.
- We are working through recommended updates to our fire codes, and expect to bring those before City Council this fall. Relevant to pet-boarding facilities, we expect to recommend adding a section about animal occupancy into our City fire code, which may require smoke alarms and/or sprinkler systems in kennels and pet-boarding facilities regardless of square footage. We want your feedback on these updates, and have set up a comment box below to collect them.
- First responders reported that the majority of kennels had one occupant. There were a few larger kennels that had two dogs, as well as several kennels that were unoccupied. Based on calls for service rendered at the facility since it opened, we have no reason to believe the facility did not meet our animal health standards. Codes relevant to occupancy limits are subjective to allow for flexibility based on the size of the space and the size of the animals.
More information and detail are available in the Question and Answer section below.
Sept. 20, 2021:
The investigation into the cause of the fire is still ongoing and is expected to take at least into next week as we continue to review the scene, including watching video recordings and conducting interviews. Preliminary investigations have given us no information that indicates the cause of the fire was criminal in nature, and it is too soon to comment further. However, we have reached a point in our investigation to be able to release the pets back to their families. The owner of the facility is working to reunite the dogs with their families at an alternate location. Families should expect to receive an email notification from the owner today.
“As part of this investigation, we have been working closely with the owner, and our combined focus is to reunite families with loved ones,” Fire Chief John Sullivan said. “We understand people want answers. We want answers, too. We have to make sure we’re evaluating all the facts, so we can understand what happened, so we can better prevent this in the future.”
The business has confirmed 59 families lost loved ones Saturday. The City is not confirming identifies of the dogs or their families.
Federal, state, and Georgetown fire codes do not require sprinkler systems for the use and size of the facility. City code, available here, requires sprinklers for occupancies listed/operating as a business of at least 10,000 square feet. The facility involved in the fire has a square footage of 8,125. The City’s requirement supersedes and is more restrictive than national code requirements. City has been reviewing its fire codes, and we expect to present recommended updates to City Council in fall 2021. As a result of this incident, we also will evaluate options that could impose additional safeguards in animal care facilities. The Georgetown Fire Department last inspected the facility in 2015, at which time we found no violations to the fire code. The use of the facility is considered a low fire risk, and the use and structure have not changed since the inspection.
The City of Georgetown Animal Services Department regulates the care and keeping of animals in kennels through a 2013 ordinance linked here. The ordinance regulates such requirements as food, water, sanitary conditions, and health. It does not require sprinklers, smoke alarms, or 24/7 staffing. All kennels within the Georgetown city limits are required to have a kennel permit. The business from Saturday’s fire does not have a kennel permit; however, the requirements of the permit do not address such safety measures as fire suppression and warning systems. We know this business is not the only one to operate without a kennel permit, and the City is working to increase awareness, education, and enforcement about this requirement.
Additional updates will be provided as soon as possible, here, to local media, and on the City’s social media channels.
Video update from Chief John Sullivan on Sept. 20, 2021:
Sept. 19, 2021:
A fire at a pet-boarding facility in Georgetown Saturday night led to the deaths of 75 dogs.
Georgetown Fire Department responded to 911 calls about 11 p.m. at Ponderosa Pet Resort, 2518 N. Austin Ave. Crews arrived on scene in four and a half minutes. By that time, the facility was engulfed in smoke from the fire. None of the 75 dogs staying at the resort survived. No humans were injured or died in the fire. Twenty-five firefighters responded to the blaze.
“We know each dog that died in this fire was a cherished member of someone’s family, so our heart goes out to all those who were affected by this tragic fire,” Georgetown Fire Chief John Sullivan said. “We believe the dogs at the facility likely died due to smoke inhalation, not the flames from the fire. We are working as quickly as we can to conclude the investigation, so pets can be returned to their grieving family members as soon as possible.”
Fire investigators are still working to determine the cause and origin of the fire, as well as whether any fire suppression or smoke alarms were present. Federal, state, and Georgetown fire codes do not require sprinkler systems for the use and size of the facility.
The owner of the facility has been cooperative with the investigation. The facility will contact family members of the dogs to make arrangements to retrieve their deceased pets.
Video from Sunday, Sept. 19 news conference with Georgetown Fire Chief John Sullivan:
Questions and Answers
1) Who will be the agency determining the cause of the fire? Georgetown FD or Fire Marshall? Who should we check with daily to know the status of the investigation?
Georgetown Fire Department will determine the cause of the fire. We are working closely with the Fire Marshal as well as other professionals.
2) How was the Ponderosa fire first detected Saturday night? Who alerted the fire department?
We received several 911 calls from passersby about smoke and fire coming from the building.
1.) What are the requirements of a kennel permit?
The permit requirements are laid out in the code, available here.
This ordinance regulates such requirements as food, water, sanitary conditions, and health. It does not require sprinklers, smoke alarms, or 24/7 staffing.
2.) How many kennels exist in the City and what is the City doing to enforce its kennel permitting ordinance?
With Ponderosa Pet Resort not operating at this time, the City has three known businesses that fall under this ordinance. Our records show one kennel had a permit before September 2021. On Sept. 30, 2021, City staff delivered letters of violation to the two known kennel operators to make them aware of the kennel permit requirements. Should known kennel operators not come into compliance after the 90 day deadline to comply, staff will refer the matter to municipal court. The maximum fine set out in City code for not having a kennel permit is $500 per offense, per day as set out in Section 1.08.010.
If members of the public are aware of facilities that board more than five dogs or cats, please submit that information to email@example.com.
3.) How often is a business supposed to secure a kennel permit?
The ordinance requires kennels reapply for a permit annually.
4.) Will Ponderosa Pet Resort face any fines or other penalties for not having a kennel permit?
We do not expect to fine Ponderosa Pet Resort for not having a kennel permit prior to the Sept. 18, 2021, fire, because the City wasn’t actively enforcing its kennel permitting ordinance.
On Sept. 30, kennel permit requirements and violation letters were hand-delivered to the two known kennels operating without a permit. These kennels have 90 days to come into compliance.
5.) Of places that have a kennel permit in Georgetown, how often are those inspected? Has any permit ever been revoked or a permit-holder fined?
As we had not enforced the kennel permit requirement prior to September 2021, we only inspected and issued a permit for the one kennel, which initiated the process itself. The two known kennels have 90 days from Sept. 30, 2021, to come into compliance.
6.) What about fire inspections?
The Georgetown Fire Department last inspected the facility in 2015, at which time we found no violations to the fire code. The use of the facility was considered a low fire risk, and the use and structure have not changed since the inspection.
During fire inspections, we look for compliance to the occupancy for what they’re in. In the case of pet-boarding facilities, which are classified as general business, we’re looking to make sure the doors are functioning properly, that it has proper hazard storage and lighting, etc.
The fire department performs inspections all the time. Outside of state-licensed facilities, like hospitals and schools, which are required to be inspected annually, each jurisdiction determines how often it inspections properties. For general business occupancies, like animal-housing facilities, the Georgetown Fire Department tries to perform fire inspections every three years. However, the fire department is in the process of changing its classification of animal-housing facilities to conduct inspections on these structures annually.
City code and fire departments inspected the facility at 2518 N. Austin Ave. for its Certificate of Occupancy for its current use as a pet-boarding facility in 2013. The structure was built in 1962. At the time, it was located outside the Georgetown City limits. It has had several uses through the decades, including a roofing company, a body and paint shop, and a plumbing supply outlet. Based on the uses and our fire codes throughout this time, City fire codes have not required smoke alarms and sprinklers in the structure.
7) Was Ponderosa Pet Resort over capacity by having 75 dogs on the premises at one time?
The kennel permitting ordinance has several requirements as they relate to animal health, including that the facility must be adequate for the number and type of animals and the animals must be able to move about freely. Therefore, occupancy limits are subjective to allow for flexibility based on the size of the space and the size of the animals. For example, 30 kennels might be able to comfortably fit 50 smaller dogs, but would likely be inappropriate for 50 large dogs. Additionally, only dogs from the same household who are altered or of the same sex would be permitted to share a kennel.
First responders reported that the majority of kennels had one occupant, though there were a few larger kennels that had no more than two dogs. There were several kennels that were unoccupied. Based on calls for service rendered at the facility since it opened, we have no reason to believe the facility did not meet these or other, required standards.
Changes to City ordinances
1) What changes to the City’s fire code or building code are being considered?
The City adopted the International Fire Code in 2014. We have spent the last year going through a comprehensive review of the entire code for recommended updates. This work includes reviewing what regulations other cities our size have adopted, as well as reviewing alternative requirements from the National Fire Protection Association.
Relevant to pet-boarding facilities, we expect to recommend adding a section about animal occupancy into our City fire code, which may require smoke alarms and/or sprinkler systems in kennels and pet-boarding facilities regardless of square footage. Some sample language is found within the National Fire Protection Standard (NFPA 150).
We also seek to recommend providing clarification within the Fire Code so it acknowledges pets as “occupants” in a building so that safeguards are in place to protect all occupants (pets and humans).
2) When will those be proposed?
We anticipate presenting recommended amendments to the City’s fire code ordinances to City Council in fall 2021.
3) Will they apply only to new animal boarding facilities or will they apply to existing businesses?
We haven’t yet determined whether any of the proposed regulations would apply to businesses retroactively. That is something we expect we expect to discuss with City Council.
4) Is there a possibility a facility like Ponderosa would be required to have “fire suppression and warning systems” under new fire code?
If City Council adopts the recommendations detailed above, and wants them to apply retroactively, then existing facilities, including Ponderosa, would be required to comply.
5) When would changes go into effect?
This depends on when the regulations are presented and adopted by City Council, but we hope to have new codes in place early 2022.
Changes to international fire code
1) Georgetown Fire Protection Engineer Carl Wren mentioned in his video Monday, Sept. 20, that he would be proposing changes for the 2024 International Fire Code on behalf of the City of Georgetown. What changes are the Georgetown Fire Department considering proposing?
Wren will be supporting the inclusion of a section about animal housing facilities into the international codes.
2) When and where are the hearings taking place on the proposed changes to the building code?
The International Code Council conference and hearings take place Sept. 19-26, 2021. Read more here. The ICC is reviewing updates to the code that would go into effect in 2024.
3) Can members of the public share their own comments on possible code changes? If so, how can they do that?
We want residents to share their thoughts about changes to the City’s fire codes as we work through this process. Please use the comment box below, which will send the comments to a dedicated inbox at the Georgetown Fire Department. We will review this feedback as we finalize the proposed amendments.
Provide your feedback on Georgetown fire codes
The Georgetown Fire Department currently is reviewing our existing fire codes, which are based on the International Fire Code, and plan to make recommended amendments to City Council in fall 2021. We expect to recommend adding a section to the City’s adoption of the IFC about animal occupancy that may require smoke alarms and/or sprinkler systems in kennels and pet-boarding facilities regardless of square footage. No such designation currently exists in the IFC, and we are modeling our recommendation based off of only a handful of other cities and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA 150) that now have these requirements.
Please use the comment box below to provide your feedback about Georgetown fire codes, which will send the comments to a dedicated inbox at the Georgetown Fire Department. We will review this feedback as we finalize the proposed amendments. Any proposed changes would go before City Council, at which time there will be additional opportunities for public input. Any changes that are proposed to the City Council will be publicized in advance.
Paratransit services will continue uninterrupted
The fixed-route bus system currently serving Georgetown residents will have its final rides Sept. 30, 2021. City Council during its July 27 meeting directed staff to negotiate a paratransit agreement with Capital Metro, without any provision for fixed-route service. City Council on Sept. 14 approved an interlocal agreement to continue paratransit services only.
“The City of Georgetown remains committed to providing exceptional services where they are needed,” Georgetown Mayor Josh Schroeder said. “The council has been very forward-thinking and proactive with regard to providing some form of public transit to meet our residents’ needs. City Council has given direction to discontinue the current fixed route system as of Oct. 1, 2021, but to continue providing our paratransit services. The current fixed-route system has not produced the expected ridership. As Georgetown continues to grow, so will the need for public transportation. I would expect this issue to be reassessed in the future.”
The City’s paratransit service, which is run by Capital Area Rural Transportation System, or CARTS, as a subcontractor for Capital Metro, currently serves 235 riders. The paratransit service is only available to people with disabilities. Eligibility and screening for paratransit services is provided, through a paper application, by the CARTS.
In the new agreement, the City will have up to two vehicles providing the current, curb-to-curb service from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Eligible riders will continue to pay $2 per trip and be required to make a reservation 24 hours in advance through the website or by calling 512-478-RIDE (7433).
The cost for continuing the paratransit service is estimated at $271,140. The City would pay $162,684, and the remaining cost would be covered through a match from the Federal Transit Administration. Because the City anticipates the number of qualified riders could increase with the loss of the fixed-route service, the City has committed to set aside an additional $81,342, with the FTA contributing $54,228, which will be used if needed in FY2022.
CARTS’ Interurban Coach bus service between Georgetown and Austin will continue. The bus picks up passengers from two stops in Georgetown, at Eighth and Forest streets and 3620 S. Austin Ave., twice a day Monday through Friday and has several stops on the way to and in Austin, including University Oaks, Tech Ridge Park & Ride, and Austin Greyhound.
History of GoGeo, public transit in Georgetown
The City and Capital Metro launched Georgetown’s fixed-route bus system Aug. 21, 2017. The partnership also included paratransit services in the City. The Georgetown Health Foundation also has provided funding for GoGeo.
GoGeo’s fixed-route service operates four routes with 46 stops that run from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. GoGeo also offered a Saturday service until March 2020, when it was canceled due to the pandemic. Annual average ridership for the fixed-route has ranged from 20,299 in Fiscal Year 2018 to 14,431 in Fiscal Year 2020. The City has spent $1.4 million for both fixed-route and paratransit GoGeo services since its inception. The City also paid $168,031 to install bus stops and other infrastructure. Annual costs for the service averaged $574,552 in local funding. The City’s current contract with Capital Metro expires at the end of September.
Council meeting and agreement materials
Sept. 14 Council Meeting: Coversheet
For more information about the GoGeo program, visit gogeo.georgetown.org.