By MIKE EDDLEMAN
Is Council member Kathy Canady a resident of Liberty Hill?
The question was raised when a notarized affidavit surfaced from a loan application where Canady claimed a homestead in Burnet in May 2019 — less than two months prior to her appointment to the Liberty Hill City Council.
That, along with questions on the legality of residing in her downtown business since before her appointment poses the question – does Canady meet the residency requirement to hold office in Liberty Hill?
The loan document, signed by Canady on May 29, 2019, is a “Designation of Homestead and Affidavit of Nonhomestead” and was part of the paperwork connected to financial dealings regarding her 1100 Loop 332 business, an auto repair garage.
On the affidavit, Canady claims 402 S. Boundary Street in Burnet as her homestead property. The address is a triplex in downtown Burnet.
In signing, according to the affidavit, Canady is swearing that:
“(She) does not now and does not intend ever to reside on, use in any manner, or claim (her) Nonhomestead Property as a business or residence homestead.”
“The above-described Homestead Property is designated as the homestead of (her) family.”
“(She) now owns and resides on, uses, claims, and designates (her) Homestead Property as (her) only legal homestead, exempt from forced sale under the Constitution and laws of Texas.”
But in an e-mailed response to questions from The Independent, Canady denies ever residing at the Burnet address, and said she was told “by the title company that it was a formality and that I should give them an address to close.”
The title company listed on the affidavit is Independence Title in Liberty Hill.
“It was to make it easier for my lender to foreclose on me if I was late on payments and was a formality to allow that,” Canady wrote, explaining the affidavit. “I had no problem giving him that latitude as I felt I owed him that for making me the loan…I was going to meet Paige (Canady’s daughter) after the closing and so I chose that address as I thought it would be what my lender would want.”
She added that at the time of the loan she was still partially living at the home she had sold at 3302 RR 1869, and continued to receive her mail there, and was also staying in her office at 1100 Loop 332 and then some with family.
“It was a formality to close my loan and I never thought about it again,” she told The Independent.
Liberty Hill zoning issue
Despite signing a legal loan document claiming her residence in Burnet, Canady contends she has lived at her business address for the Quick Service Garage, 1100 Loop 332, since that time, which also contradicts the sworn affidavit.
When Canady filed to seek election to City Council last February, she listed the business address as her residence on the filing form.
But that address is zoned C2 – Downtown Commercial, and is not eligible for home occupation under the City’s Unified Development Code (UDC).
City Attorney Tad Cleaves wrote in response to questions from The Independent about the issue that, “Living in a property zoned C2 is not necessarily against City ordinance, and no complaint or investigation was pending against Ms. Canady at that time.”
According to the UDC, the C2 zoning category does allow for residential use, but the property must be designated a business or residence and is not eligible to serve as both.
“Living in town hoping to refinance my property and apply for a mixed use permit was a plan I was trying to see come to fruition, but it all takes time and money along with overcoming the financial devastation that cancer and death bring about that I have been working my way through,” Canady wrote.
But neither Canady or the City of Liberty Hill responded that a conditional use permit had been sought during the 14 months since her Council appointment.
Canady’s business is an auto repair garage, and the UDC also specifies under Section 4.12.02 that home occupations are prohibited in garages — one of nine business type prohibitions listed.
She said she has recently been forced out of the garage, alleging a complaint was filed with the City. However, City officials said they have received no complaint.
“Now staying at my office is no longer an option due to the complaint filed by someone because of the zoning issue,” she wrote. “I am now staying with friends in the city limits of Liberty Hill and visiting my children to see that I have a roof over my head while I continue to work my way to having my own home again.”
According to Canady, her living arrangement was no secret to City leaders at the time of her appointment in July 2019, saying Mayor Rick Hall, Mayor Pro Tem Liz Rundzieher, former City Administrator Greg Boatright, and former Director of Planning Sally McFeron all knew she was residing at the business address.
“I didn’t try to hide anything from the City,” she wrote. “It was my intention to stay a resident of the city of Liberty Hill before being on the council and still continues to be my intention to stay a resident of the city of Liberty Hill.”
When asked about the question of residency in relation to Canady’s eligibility to serve on the Council, Cleaves wrote in his response to the newspaper that “‘Residency’ or the idea of ‘residence’ or ‘residential’ has different meanings depending on the legal context. The meaning of ‘residential’ in a zoning context is inapplicable to the ‘residency’ requirement for a person to serve in public office under the Texas Election Code. It is the understanding of the City that Council Member Canady has resided within Liberty Hill during her entire term and continues to reside within Liberty Hill as required by the Texas Election Code.”
According to Texas Election Code, to be eligible for public office, a person must “have resided continuously in the state for 12 months and in the territory from which the office is elected for six months immediately preceding the following date: for an appointee to an office, the date the appointment is made.”
He went on to write that Canady currently resides in Liberty Hill, though not at the 1100 Loop 332 address, but did not provide her current address.
He said no one has come forward to challenge Canady’s eligibility to either hold office or run again.
“If someone challenges the facts in the Application or Council Member Canady’s candidacy, the City will deal with the situation at that time. The same is true if her eligibility to serve is challenged.”
The Council has no plan to take action on the issue, he said.
The City response concluded that Canady “has lived in the Liberty Hill for nearly four decades” and said “there is no reason to doubt that her intention, while both serving the City and running for office, is to ‘reside’ in Liberty Hill for purposes of qualification under the Election Code.”
Canady said she does not plan to resign her position over the questions of the loan affidavit or her living arrangements since her appointment.
“I have no intention to resign my position from the Liberty Hill City Council,” she wrote. “I have lived in the city limits since 1993. I am lucky that I have been able to visit my children and stay at the shop while I pursue permanent housing in the corporate boundaries of the city of Liberty Hill.
“It was not a problem for any city official or council member until recently – I assumed it was because it was a temporary issue and everybody knew I have been trying to find a place to live.”
She said she is still living within the city limits, though she did not provide a specific address.
“I am still looking for permanent housing in the city limits. I am now also able to stay with friends in the city limits, continue to visit my children, am on a waiting list for an apartment and I am still able to stay at the shop periodically albeit in limited capacity, all while looking for new permanent housing in the city limits.”
As far as conflicts posed by being on the Council and making decisions on zoning issues and variance requests that may come before the Council, Canady said she does not see her own violation of the ordinance to be an issue.
“I have not voted on anything in the zoning or UDC concerning this type of issue and would have recused myself if it had become necessary.”