City Reverses Itself and Will Not Impose Stricter Zoning Restrictions on Sunset Mall
SAN ANGELO, TX — The San Angelo City Council reversed itself on a rezoning proposal for the Sunset Mall area Tuesday. As an administrative move, Planning & Development Services Director Jon James had successfully pushed through Council last month an ordinance that changes the zoning around the Sunset Mall. It is currently zoned Commercial General/Commercial Heavy. James persuaded Council to change the area’s zoning to simply General Commercial, or “CG.” The motivation for the change was an administrative matter. Eventually, James wants to retire the CG/CH designation.
The CG/CH zoning designation was implemented 17 years ago as a temporary zone to be used to transition to a newer zoning scheme. However, LIVE! reported last month the two zones carry with them different restrictions, and the CG designation was more restrictive that the current CG/CH.
Placing more restrictions on the land use was equivalent of taking property rights away, argued San Angelo real estate broker Lance Lacy Tuesday. Changing the zoning was, “about transferring control of property rights from the property owner to the government,” Lacy argued.
Lacy qualified his stance. Rezoning actions that reduce property rights should not be absolutely forbidden in his view. There can be exceptions, he said. However, “The rational for removing property rights should exceed a high water mark of public need,” Lacy said.
San Angelo commercial real estate broker Steve Eustis agreed. “Here we are 17 years later debating the same thing: removing rights of use from a group of property owners who don’t want that to happen,” he said.
Eustis and Lacy also successfully argued that the scare about the Mall transforming from a family friendly brick-and-mortar retail experience to a bustling beehive of freight trucks servicing large ecommerce warehouses rested upon unreasonable economic assumptions.
Neither believes big trucking companies will operate out of the property at or around the mall. “There’s land outside of town at 10 percent the price of the mall’s property leases,” argued Eustis.
Last month’s passage of the new property designation awoke the big money in town. Multi-millionaire Steve Stephens, who is in a partnership that owns land impacted by the zoning change, the former lumberyard property that today houses Blue Cross/Blue Shield, approached the dais yesterday. He said he is not anticipating any change to the tenant status at his building, but if he were, he’d want to maximize his partnership’s opportunity to find a new tenant. The wider property use rights that the current CG/CH zoning designation allows would be preferred to maximize his partners’ opportunity to find viable tenants.
Stephens sympathized with the Council, describing his own struggles deciding rezoning cases 20 years ago when he was on the San Angelo City Council. “You’re not going to please everybody all the time. But please support the motion to defeat this ordinance change,” he said.
Last month, Councilmen Harry Thomas, Lane Carter, Tom Thompson, and Councilwoman Billie DeWitt were in favor of the zone change. By yesterday, all had changed their minds.
Mayor Brenda Gunter, who controls the Council’s agenda, made the second reading of the ordinance a regular agenda item yesterday. These changes require two readings at a council meeting before enactment.
She made the motion yesterday to deny the zoning change. Councilman Tommy Hiebert seconded it. The motion to deny the change, and preserve the Mall’s property rights, passed 7-0.