On Monday, McAllen City Commissioners overruled Planning & Zoning on a redistricting request, agreed on a plan to redraw commission districts, heard about the Chamber's plans for the soon-to-be-old Main Street library building and honored two Valley State Representatives for their service and they revisited the proposal to develop the Boeye Reservoir site that they previously had turned down.
The City Hall third floor commission chambers filled up with residents of the Adobe Wells Subdivision on east side of North Taylor Road just south of Daffodil who were there to stop a subdivision proposed to go in immediately adjacent to them to the south. The developer was proposing to get almost 12 acres rezoned to allow duplex & fourplex construction. The Adobe Wells folks had failed to stop the rezoning at the Planning & Zoning Commission but prevailed before the commission.
Robert Starr, the Past President of the Adobe Wells Homeowners Association, told commissioners that the proposed Water Bridge Subdivision would be a multi-family, multi-story, high-density development "inconsistent with the neighborhood." Whereas "population density could be as high as 16 persons per lot" at the proposed Water Bridge, " at Adobe Wells, we are restricted to two persons per lot," argued Starr. The developer also wanted to use 50th Street - a privately maintained street in Adobe Wells - as an emergency street for the heavily populated proposed development since only one exit on Taylor Road was included in the proposed development.
Adobe Wells was cited in the Vision 2000 study of McAllen development by
the American Institute of Architects (A.I.A.) as:
"One of only three communities in McAllen ... exemplifying good planning - Waterwalk, Village of Westlakes and Adobe Wells. These tend to be ... non-traditional developments with common areas and extensive deed restrictions."
Vision 2000 McAllen, Texas: Building Quality into New Neighborhoods, Report to the City of McAllen, October, 1999, p. 9.
Other speakers from surrounding neighborhoods cited concerns over increased traffic and the disturbance of their quiet neighborhoods.
Planning Director Juli Rankin (no relation) told commissioners the proposal "is not consistent with dwelling trends in the area." Although the proposed development could be allowed under current zoning, the proposal is inconsistent with the pending new Foresight McAllen which gives stronger protections to existing neighborhoods.
The Adobe Wells residents had a receptive audience in the commission, which voted unanimously to overturn P&Z and deny the rezoning.
Guerra gets another term
At the last meeting, the commission tabled a routine reappointment of businessman Art Guerra to the Hidalgo County Appraisal District Board of Directors. Commissioner Scott Crane asked the commission to hold off, saying maybe the city and the school district could back "the same slate of candidates."
On Monday they ‘untabled' the appointment and, without comment, reappointed Guerra. The city has had to refund tax payments to property owners who were able to get their property values lowered and were entitled to a refund, and it has been suggested that perhaps the appraisal district was not getting accurate enough values.
Arts incubation will take place further north
At the workshop which routinely precedes the regular 4 p.m. meeting, McAllen Chamber of Commerce President Steve Ahlenius discussed plans to move the arts incubator to the Main Street building after the new library at North 23rd Street and Nolana is built. This would put the arts incubator square in the Arts District.
The incubator is currently housed in the old Sam Houston Elementary School at Jackson Avenue at South 16th Street.
Fifty-five different artists have "gone through" the incubator since it was established six years ago, Ahlenius said. "The opportunities at the old Main library are exciting," he offered, citing studios being set up in the area and the new Art Village down the street, creating "some synergy."
The incubator was established six years ago with $50,000 from the city, he continued, asking for a "one-time investment" of $75,000 from the city to help pay for the move. The Chamber would cover up to $3,000 per month in electric expense, continued Ahlenius, who said he wants to set up the incubator on the ground floor of the building and block off the 2nd and 3rd floors to save on air conditioning bills. The Chamber would also pay for water and sewer service and general maintenance but does not want to be responsible for maintaining the roof, elevator or the A/C system because they are so expensive. He said more than once that this would be "a bootstrap," i.e., not much money.
City Manager Mike Perez told commissioners "we'd like to sit down with Steve and work out a contract" and bring it to the commission for approval.
Commissioner Jim Darling asked what would happen to some residential lots the city owns "behind" the library, to the west on 15th street. The city at one time was going to use them for library parking but neighborhood and FUTURO McAllen pushback stopped that. The consensus of the commissioners was to put the lots on the market but with deed restrictions so that any construction matches the neighborhood. That part of 15th Street is in McAllen's Historic District.
New Commission districts
Commissioners took a look at their new commission districts. Every ten years, after the Census is taken, the city has to redraw new lines. Population ranges from 20,762 in John Ingram's central city District 5, to 22,250 in Marcus Barrera's District 2 in Northwest McAllen.
The city manager said he will send the plans to the legal expert hired two years ago for his blessing and then put them on the agenda for adoption.
Lastly, the Boeye Reservoir development proposal was back on the agenda for the Monday meeting but what was said about it is secret, at least to the public.
The agenda lists it as "Consultation with City Attorney regarding communication from developer related to...development proposal" to be discussed behind closed doors in Executive Session.
The law says they can discuss certain things in private but any action on that discussion must be done in open session but they took no action and the proposal, apparently, remains as it was.
Mayor Richard Cortez was out ill and Commissioner Hilda Salinas was there for the Workshop but not for the meeting.