The old Cleburne hospital building at 1610 N. Main St. has for years sat vacant but may soon see new life and expansion.
A group named 1600 Enterprises Ltd. hope to renovate the six-story building into a multi-family housing development for residents 55 and older and construct up to 70 units in the former hospital building. The project, which will be carried out in phases, calls for renovation of the existing building, construction of a second tower of equal height and construction of a lobby and amenity building between the two.
Plans also call for construction of a separate 9,000-square-foot commercial strip center, a 9,500-square-foot storage unit facility and a 3,200-square-foot restaurant building.
Developers discussed the plan during Tuesday’s meeting of the Cleburne City Council but gave no dates for expected construction commencement.
Council members approved 1600 Enterprise’s request to rezone the 5.3-acre property from commercial district to planned development district.
Council also granted a temporary use permit allowing Hulen Park to be used for Springfest from April 14-18.
The annual festival was cancelled last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“They’re excited to be back holding it this year in hopes of helping bring us back to some sense of normal,” Cleburne Executive Director of Services Shane Pace said.
The festival will run 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. each of those days.
Council members approved a resolution opposing “efforts by the Texas Legislature to silence local government and reduce local control.”
The Johnson County Commissioners Court as well as several other Texas counties and cities have approved similar resolutions recently.
“There’s an old saying that the king can do no wrong,” Mayor Scott Cain said. “I think it’s important to start with the understanding that the state has the power and they give and delegate some of that power to the local governments. But over the last few years they’ve been taking that back little by little.”
Doing so, Cain said, is antithetical to sound governance.
“There’s another saying that government is best managed and controlled when it’s closest to the people, and that’s at the local level,” Cain said. “Cleburne knows best how to govern ourselves. I have spoken with [Texas Gov. Greg Abbott] about this. Specifically, I strongly encouraged him to not go the one-size-fits-all route in a state so big and to allow for flexibility in a state that’s as diverse as the size and style of boots that we wear.”
Cain’s conversation with the governor proved to no avail.
“Last session I went down in attempt to negotiate, work and solve problems with the legislature only to learn that the then speaker and others, we’ve heard the infamous audio tape where they went after political allies. But what a lot of people are forgetting is that they said, ‘We stuck it to local government last time. Well, wait till next session.’
“So they’re continuing to erode local control and that’s not good for Texans. That’s not good for our economy and it’s a principle that flies in the face of everything we hold dear.”
It’s important, Cain added, for Cleburne and other city councils to take a stand.
Cain went on to encourage residents to contact their state representatives and senators to urge them to support local control measures.
“They’re going to do what they’re going to do but I think it’s important that we try to hold them accountable and transparent,” Cain said.
Councilman Derek Weathers agreed.
“It’s getting to the point of ridiculous the power grab that’s going on right now,” Weathers said. “It’s got to stop.”
Cain said the legislature attacks the Texas Municipal League through sound bites and other methods claiming that the league spends taxpayer funds to lobby the legislature to raise taxes. Cain said he’s unaware of any such instances and added that the Cleburne City Council has been very conservative during and before his time and worked to hold taxes in check or lower them.
“We’re not here to raise anyone’s taxes,” Weathers said.
Weathers argued that, if anything, policies set forth in Austin often lead to raised taxes.
“We need to keep our money here so we can invest in our community and we need to keep local control,” Weathers said.
The Texas Municipal League, Cain said, keeps Cleburne and other cities apprised of developments in Austin and their possible effects on cities, and it serves to give cities a voice in Austin.
“One of the measures they have right now does away with using taxpayer funding to come lobby them,” Cain said. “That means our city manager can’t go down there to talk on behalf of our community. Our county judge would be prohibited from going down and talking to our legislature while they’re in session.
“That smacks of closing the doors on a smoke-filled back room where they’re going to tell Texans what to do. We need more transparency on that.”
Council members authorized city staff to apply for a grant through the United States Economic Development Administration for the Public Works Economic Adjustment Assistance Program to request $1.4 million.
Should the city receive the grant they will use the funds to complete the Sparks Drive Connection Project. That project calls for extending Sparks Drive to the Chisholm Trail Parkway and installing a bridge over West Buffalo Creek. Doing so, city officials say, will greatly improve transportation in and around the toll road and Cleburne’s industrial park.
Estimated cost of the project totals $2,664,860. Revenues into the city’s Tax Increment Financing District #1 will be used to fund part of that project. Council members recently voted to extend the life of that TIF to realize additional revenues.
“The point is that, if we should be awarded this grant, we can start construction on this much-needed project that much sooner,” Cleburne Director of Public Works Jeremy Hutt said.