Citizens rail against zoning change
By LPR Staff
Dozens of Lockhart residents approached the city council on Tuesday evening to protest a request to put commercial property in their collective backyard.
The request for a zoning change made by Randy Morine Heritage Properties, Inc. fell under heavy fire from neighbors who believe that commercial property would be detrim
ental to their neighborhood in the Windridge Subdivision off Highway 142.
“This decisions affects us all, because the property is at the only entrance or exit to our subdivision,” said Tara Chapman, a resident of the subdivision. “Any convenience store or business they put there is going to make the traffic worse.”
Many other residents echoed Chapman”s concerns, some stating that it takes more than 15 minutes to get out of the Windridge Subdivision during peak-traffic times.
At Large Councilmember Paul Gomez empathized with those concerns.
“Traffic in that area is pathetic now,” Gomez said. “Any commercial development is going to make it worse, and is going to make life miserable for the residents. I”m against any decision to allow commercial development there.”
The other councilmembers expressed a desire to strike some kind of compromise.
“I don”t think that we should just rule this out,” said District One Councilmember Kenny Roland. “I hear that the residents are concerned, but I think that if we make a plan for something that”s not a convenience store – say a fitness center or something like that – it will actually increase property values and make life a little nicer for the folks out there at Windridge.”
City Planner Dan Gibson told the council that the Planning and Zoning Commission had reviewed the request and supported the change, which would make some 2.6 acres currently zoned for residential building into comercially-zoned property. He said the developer”s request is in line with the city”s current land-usage projections.
Gibson did note, however, that more than 44 residents in the area sent in letters of opposition.
“Under state law, if more than 20 percent of the adjoining property owners are against it, it would require six of the seven votes from council to change it,” Gibson said. “Still, some of the people that sent in protests do not own adjoining property, and the letters that we got only amounted to some 19 percent.”
A chief cause of concern for District Two Councilmember Frank Estrada, who is the district representative for the area, is the fact that there are ongoing tensions between the developer and the property owner. Estrada suggested that those tensions might be in part responsible for the residents opposition to the zoning change.
“To say that the owners are concerned is putting it lightly,” Estrada said. “But most of the concerns that I”ve heard are personal disputes not directly related to this issue.”
Estrada suggested that the issue be tabled in order to give the developer and the residents time to discuss and settle their disputes, thinking that some of the community opposition might be resolved.
Two councilmembers, Gomez and At Large Councilmember Dick Wieland, voted against tabling the issue, instead voting to deny the zoning change. The other five members, however, opted to take the issue up at the council”s April 3 meeting.
In other business, several organizations approached the council requesting a share of the city”s annual hotel-motel tax collections.
Each year, the city collects and redistributes upwards of $35,000 in hotel-motel tax revenue. The distributions are aimed at helping organizations promote tourism and put “heads in beds.”
Lockhart Chamber of Commerce president Wayne Bock asked the council for the lion”s share of the funds, around 75 percent of the available revenue. The Chamber of Commerce should receive the largest amount, he said, because they are the official tourism center for the city and because of the many annual events they sponsor.
The Greater Caldwell County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce also asked for a large slice of the pie, about $10,000. According to president Alfredo Munoz, the Hispanic Chamber needs the funds to institute tourism programs they have scheduled, including stepping up their efforts to educate small business owners about the value of tourism.
Lockhart”s two theater groups each made requests, as well. Under law, 15 percent of the hotel-motel tax must be applied to the arts, if the funds are available.
All told, the council received requests of more than $48,000. However, according to Mayor James “Jimmy” Bertram, there will only be around $39,000 to distribute.
The council will announce their decisions about distribution during their next regular meeting on Feb. 20.
In brief council news:
The city vacated right of way on a property on East Pecan Street.
They discussed the findings of the Charter Review Commission, which has been working for months to update the city”s charter. At the recommendation of the commission, the council approved scheduling a charter amendment election in November.
Bertram announced that the council will take up an issue concerning the issuance of bonds to pay for a civic center on Feb. 20.
The panel approved changes to the city”s performance standards for commercial and industrial districts regarding the regulation of noise.
The Lockhart City Council meets on the first and third Tuesday of each month at 7:30 p.m. in the Glosserman Conference Room at Lockhart City Hall. The meetings are open to the public, and are also televised on Time Warner Cable Channel 10.