Proposed Lockhart duplex subdivision withdrawn by applicant
By Wesley Gardner
A proposed zoning change that would have allowed for the construction of duplexes on a 17-acre tract near Silent Valley Road was withdrawn Tuesday evening after a group of concerned neighboring residents explained their opposition to the Lockhart City Council.
The tract in question was mostly zoned agricultural open space with a portion zoned residential low density (RLD), though property owner Alan Balser, represented at the meeting by Jason Balser, was seeking to have the zoning changed to residential medium density (RMD), which would have allowed the construction of duplexes.
City Planner Dan Gibson noted the RMD designation would have allowed for a maximum of five duplexes per acre.
According to Balser, the RMD designation was essential to the project’s survival because the ability to lease two properties on each lot using duplexes instead of a single home would provide the finances needed to extend water and sewage to area.
Balser also noted the potential tax benefits associated with project, saying he projected it to bring in more than half a million dollars in revenue.
A total of eight adjacent property owners submitted written oppositions to the proposed zoning changes and several were present at Tuesday’s meeting to voice their concerns.
Natalie Douga, who lives on Silent Valley Road, said she and her neighbors were concerned about potential drainage issues in an area that’s already prone to flooding.
Currently, a large retention pond exists near her property that has thus far kept water from her entering her or spilling onto adjacent roadways.
Balser said he understood the property owners’ concerns about drainage, noting that regardless of whether the pond remained in the final design of subdivision, he would work with engineers to ensure that drainage wouldn’t be an issue for any adjacent property owners.
Douga also pointed out that after visiting a similarly planned subdivision featuring duplexes that had been approved in Flint, Texas three years ago, she found construction on many of the plots had been incomplete. Douga presented councilmembers with several pictures showing incomplete front or back yards that she said she’d taken a few days prior.
“Why is he starting another project here when he hasn’t even finished the property in Flint?” she asked.
Balsar acknowledged the delay in construction on the Flint project but said that wouldn’t be the case in Lockhart.
“I have an investor on [the Flint project] that had some financial problems and some very serious personal problems that caused delays,” said Balsar. “It will be our money on [the Lockhart] project.
“We won’t be going slow. It doesn’t make sense.”
Anna Kieler, who also lives on Silent Valley Road, raised concerns about potential endangered species living in the area.
Gibson noted that city staff was not aware of any endangered species on the property but said his staff could check with state officials to see if there’s anything on record suggesting there were. If there was, he said his office could require an environmental assessment.
Kieler also argued that the proposed subdivision could potentially bring in additional crime and pollution to the area, disrupting the way of life she sought out when originally purchasing her property.
Mayor Lew White expressed concern with approving the RMD designation.
“I struggle with the RMD, with putting that concentration out there in the country by itself,” said White. “I’m uncomfortable with going out there and putting a bunch of duplexes amongst these homes that are on larger pieces of property.”
At-Large Councilmember Brad Westmoreland cited similar concerns.
“I’m just ready for Lockhart to step it up a bit,” said Westmoreland. “We’ve had multiple apartment complexes built the last several months.
“For that area of town, I picture something else. I’m thinking of larger homes to kind of coincide with that countryside.”
District 4 Councilmember Jeffry Michelson also said he’d prefer RLD zoning, noting he’d rather see homes that could be purchased instead of homes people could rent.
“A 6-month lease kind of baffles me,” said Michelson “It’s just a continuous trading of people in a house to me.”
When it became clear that councilmembers would not approve the zoning change to RMD, Balser was given the option to change the entire property RLD, which does not allow the construction of duplexes. He ultimately opted against this, saying he needed to analyze the financial and tax implications such a move might create.
Balser also noted that even under RLD, he would not be obligated to create the larger homes councilmembers said they envisioned in the area.
“I appreciate the council’s concern on the future of Lockhart and large homes,” said Balser. “The RLD doesn’t guarantee [large homes] for y’all, and y’all know that.
“It doesn’t really change the density for what I’ve got designed. It doesn’t really significantly change that at all. Large homes, I’ve been doing it 25 years and I understand all the implication of that, and I’m not sure that, regardless of what y’all rule tonight, that is going to be part of the future of that piece of property anyways.”
Balser ultimately withdrew his application, meaning the property will stay zoned agricultural open space and RLD until a new application is approved.