Heap remembered for his contributions in Glen Rose

Staff Writer
Glen Rose Reporter
Stephenville resident Tom Heap is pictured speaking at the podium during a Glen Rose City Council meeting in 2017.

Heap remembered for his contributions in Glen Rose

Editor’s note: The following column was written by Glen Rose City Administrator Michael Leamons about Stephenville resident Tom Heap, a former building inspector for the city of Stephenville. Heap, who had been the building inspector and code compliance officer for the city of Glen Rose since 2016, passed away last week.

GLEN ROSE — The City of Glen Rose suffered a great loss with the recent passing of Building Official Tom Heap. Tom was a fountain of knowledge regarding the field of building and development. He not only had mastered the technical data needed by a building inspector, but also, due to his career as a builder, had accumulated a wealth of practical knowledge.

Tom differed from many in his profession in that his passion was to help those affected by the codes to find less obstructive and less expensive ways to comply with them. He wanted things built with an eye to safety and consideration for the neighbors, but he didn’t want to create unnecessary barriers to commerce.

He found great satisfaction in serving others. He wanted everyone to get a fair shake. When conflicts arose, Tom encouraged those involved to follow the biblical commandment that inspired him, “Love your neighbor.”

When Jack Johnson was appointed to the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) and became an advocate for affordable housing, Tom found a mission worthy of his attention.

Early on Johnson indicated he would like to see more small, affordable housing units, like the Lamp Post next to David’s Grocery, built in Glen Rose. He was informed that after those units were built the City’s minimum square footage requirement was increased and that it was no longer possible to build units like those.

It wasn’t long before the P&Z recommended reducing the minimum square footage required for R-3, R-4, and B-1 zones from 800 square feet to 550 square feet. The City Council approved the P&Z’s recommendation in July of 2019. Once again units like the Lamp Post can be built here.

Johnson moved on from the P&Z to the City Council, but Building Official Heap continued pursuing his affordable housing mission. Over the next year, with input and approval from the P&Z and the City Council, several other improvements were made to the City’s codes and ordinances.

In the past to protect consumers against failed slabs, the Council had required that all slabs be engineered. That requirement was much more stringent than those found in state law and added about $5,000 to the cost of a housing unit.

Heap proposed an alternative, less expensive solution and, in October of 2019, the Council agreed to implement it. Now, slabs in Glen Rose simply must comply with state law requirements, which primarily require engineering for slabs of multi-story buildings and commercial buildings larger than 5,000 square feet.

Two months later, the Council adopted the most up-to-date building codes for Glen Rose, but at Building Official Heap’s recommendation adopted some local amendments promoted by the National Association of Homebuilders to soften the financial impact of those codes and make them more user friendly. All of the amendments helped reduce construction costs, but the ones to the International Energy Conservation Code, alone, should result in thousands of dollars of savings per housing unit.

In addition to his efforts to promote affordable housing, Heap also advanced two measures to assist future development, with one being a Future Land Use Map which was adopted by the Council at the same meeting the new building codes were adopted.

The second measure was to develop a more business friendly sign ordinance. Tom worked on this project with the P&Z for several months, but he didn’t get to carry it across the finish line.

The week of his passing, the P&Z finished what Tom had started by approving a revised sign ordinance for the City Council to consider at its October meeting.

In addition to his contributions to the City’s Building and Planning Department, Tom also worked hard to improve City/County relations. He was a peacemaker.

Tom loved to visit with people. Many times, I found myself engaged in a discussion with him about a history book he was reading or some aspect of our shared Christian faith.

I and many of Tom’s co-workers, friends, and associates are deeply grieved by his passing. Glen Rose is blessed that Tom Heap devoted the last years of his life to laboring in our midst.