McAllen City Commissioners once again stopped a proposed subdivision just south of the Adobe Wells Park on Taylor Road, the second time in two months they've said ‘No'. They voted unanimously to deny a rezoning request which would have allowed almost 12 acres now zoned for agriculture to be rezoned to allow a development of duplexes and fourplexes.
The commission turned it down during its October 10, 2011, meeting, citing traffic and density concerns as well as saying the proposed development is inconsistent with development trends in the area. The developer made what were called minor changes to the proposal and took it back to the Planning & Zoning Commission, which recommended (unanimously) that the city allow it. City staff also approved it.
Adobe Wells Park is on the east side of Taylor Road and both north and south of Daffodil Avenue. The proposed subdivision, called Water Bridge Subdivision, is on the east of Taylor and south and adjacent to part of the park. Adobe Wells residents packed City Commission Chambers such that extra chairs had to be brought in. The chambers normally seat about 100.
The city's disapproval was evident before the unanimous ‘no' vote, with City Manager Mike Perez recommending disapproval because of "traffic issues" on Taylor Road as were discussed the last time the Commission heard the issue. Taylor Road is a "two-lane county road with a traffic load already," commented Perez.
"I find it incredible," said Commissioner Jim Darling, "with all the development on Taylor, astounded, that staff would approve it" especially since McAllen has no agreement with Mission on developing Taylor. Taylor Road is the dividing line between the cities.
Commissioner John Ingram was likewise vocal in his opposition to allowing the subdivision and he made the motion to disapprove it, which was seconded by Commissioner Marcus Barrera.
City Attorney Kevin Pagan also recommended disapproval saying, "In my 17 years (with the city) I don't remember (a development) coming back so quickly without significant change."
Commissioner Scott Crane voiced his objection, mentioning the Foresight McAllen Comprehensive Plan and the McAllen Development Code. The city has adopted Foresight, which describes how land within the city should be used, for example, whether for homes, apartments, industry, etc., (and for which members of FUTURO McAllen served on the committee to write the plan to be adopted by the commission). The Development Code for the plan is still being scrutinized by the Planning & Zoning Commission and will have to be adopted by the city commission to go into effect. Think of the Development Code as the legislation that implements the goals set out in Foresight.
Crane said the proposed project referenced the new land use rules but without the new recommended buffering and space requirements that are to protect neighborhoods. The new Foresight rules require buffering and open space related to the density of the land use project. Materials in the Commissioners' packet included with the objections pointed out that the density of the proposed apartment project would be 11.51 dwelling units per acre compared with the 8 dwelling units per acre of the adjacent neighborhoods and the actual 5.9 dwelling units of Adobe Wells, which is a Planned Unit Development (PUD). Mobile home parks may have densities of 12 dwelling units per acre but because Adobe Wells is a PUD the actual density is well below that figure. Therefore, the density disparity between the project and surrounding neighborhoods should require protective buffering and open space between the neighborhoods, which was not in the proposal.
Creative Incubator to the old library on Main Street
McAllen Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Steve Ahlenius briefed commissioners on plans to move the creative incubator from the old Sam Houston Elementary complex south of downtown to the now-vacant old main library building on North Main Street. The facility will be used for artists' studios, performance venues, classrooms and offices for non-profits. He said the Valley Symphony office might even be moved in by mid-2012.
He committed the chamber to pay up to $3,000 per month for utility costs, with the city to be responsible for the elevator, the roof and air conditioning. The "key" to making it work, said he, will be to keep utility costs down so he plans to open up only the ground floor. He also wants to the city to spend up to $75,000 for remodeling. It will not be a fancy place, he emphasized, calling it a "bootstrap operation" and that he believes the new space has "a lot of potential." He is negotiating with the city manager on a contract, which should be presented to the commission in January.
This was the last city commission meeting of the year. The next meeting will be in January, 2012.