Will Nasworthy Residents Shoot Down Development Plan?
Party boats, destination hotels, petting zoos and splash pads; the area around San Angelo may be becoming quite the happening place in the future, as a proposed Lake Nasworthy development plan moves closer to ratification.
The plan, which is already one year in the making, was presented at the third and final public meeting on Monday evening to voices of high tension.
Concerns about commercialization, taxes and the destruction of natural habitats—namely, the quiet Nasworthy homeowners currently enjoy—were raised by residents of the area.
Peter A. Ravella, Principal of PARC, LLC and planner involved in the project since its conception a year ago, states that now is the time for concerned citizens to seize upon their fears and make those worries known.
Ravella’s company, PARC, along with Market Feasibility Advisors and Gateway Planning, have been working with San Angelo citizens over the past 12 months to draft a preliminary action plan for project.
A significant part of the planning phase was spent meeting and interviewing different San Angelo groups and clubs, such as the mountain bikers, kayakers, and the Concho Valley Archery Association, as well as state agencies like Parks and Wildlife to discuss wants and needs of the citizenry for the development plan.
“When we met with people, we talked about what areas they used, what they liked, what they didn’t like,” Ravella said, referencing a map of the area with various notations and colored markings on it.
Ravella stated that utilizing the map helped planners determine the areas that provide economic opportunity to the town, and to give an impression of what areas of the lake the citizens use for different activities.
Through this, said Ravella, planners were able to “learn the lake from a local perspective.”
The current blueprint set forth by planning companies divides the area into five different zones, developed from the patterns of use determined in surveys, Ravella said.
Of those five areas, two of them involve commercial interests and are slated for the erection of hotels and other retail stores.
The largest of the two, Harbor Village, will feature a marina, retail stores, restaurants and a resort-style hotel, and is located on the southern end of the lake. The second location is a planned hotel near the old power plant.
Following the presentation, familiar issues surfaced in the public comment session as the prospect of commercial development on the lake’s shoreline was lain out for scrutiny by those for whom it is closest to home.
The concern seemed to be that a smattering of commercial structures would soon be littered around the lakeshores, driving up traffic, crime and tax rates for Nasworthy Homeowners.
For some, it was a question of suitability.
“Have you also taken into consideration the large lots that are for sale on Knickerbocker that do come to the back of the Lake Shore residential area? That has been for sale for so long and nothing has been developed there,” a resident of the area stated sternly.
Another resident questioned about the lighting, by stating he didn’t want to feel he was living next to a Walmart with lights in the bathrooms for the drug deals.
The area in question was identified as the future home of Harbor Village, which had previously been met with concern about loud and obtrusive commercial developments.
Ravella stated that the plan was not to put a blizzard of commercial buildings down on the area, but rather to concentrate them in areas economically viable.
“I don’t think this is about commercializing the lake,” Ravella said. “I think it’s about utilizing the area.” Allaying further fears of the Harbor Village development, Ravella assured that the intention is not to build up bars, but rather that the majority would be dwellings compatible with what’s currently there.
“What does the development of this area…do to the property value of that residential area?” The resident asked.
Paul Alexander responded, one finger in the air, “Up, up,” he said, “it only goes up,” he said.
“And the taxes too,” came an answer from the audience.
Taxes were a big issue for several residents. One Lake Nasworthy homeowner suggested the inclusion of a provision prohibiting the raising of taxes for current homeowners, and rejection of the plan without it.
“I’m serious about this taxes business,” the resident said. “They got some people that moved in there [in California] 50 years ago, and they’re having to move out because taxes have gone up 3-4 times,” he said.
Ravella, however, stated that a ‘blanket freeze is unlikely’ due to the inequality such a freeze would pose against other San Angelo residents.
The tax discussion didn’t make it too far, as other entities would have been better equipped to speak confidently on such matters, and the discussion moved toward two San Angelo favorites: Gun Club Hill parking and the Lake Nasworthy Water problem.
On both issues, the public and Ravella hashed out old concerns: Parking reform is needed and the water quality is low; safety is a major issue for walkers and joggers and the lake management must be addressed. Ravella strongly advised that any plan the city decide upon include provisions for addressing these issues, and that long term.
“We know this water issue is serious and it’s a complicated one, and I’m going to tell you that we didn’t solve it in the plan,” Ravella said. “We think you should retain the people necessary to do further research.”
On the whole, the public has largely supported the majority of the ideas presented in the development plan. Even Nasworthy residents have agreed for the most part that they would like to proceed with the project, even if there are concerns in certain areas that need to be ironed out.
Ultimately, the fate will lie with the City Council to decide what will be implemented and what not, and for this reason Ravella urges citizens to make their voices heard now, before it’s moved out of their hands.
Zoning, brought up in the last City Council meeting, is one of those areas. The plans drawn up by the three agencies were an effort to distill the spectrum of the views of the public, Ravella said, and do not include provisions for zone regulations and coding.
Citizens, therefore, will have to report to Council to let members know what they find acceptable.
“The thing to fear,” says Ravella, “is no plan.” And that extends to each step in the process.
The next meeting on whether to adopt the plan takes place on Nov. 9
Further information on individual zones may be found here.
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