City Denies Bentwood Residents' Demand to Stop Apartment Development in Their Backyard Amid San Angelo's Housing Shortage
SAN ANGELO, TX — Only a few residents of Bentwood Country Club Estates showed to Tuesday’s City Council meeting to appeal the conditional use re-zoning of the a 20.192-acre land area where multi-family apartments are planned to be built. Bentwood is an exclusive residential neighborhood of upscale $300,000 to $500,000 homes on average; some homes have their backyards on a golf course. But other homes on Bentwood’s north side face the prospect of apartments beyond their back yard. Those residents weren’t happy.
At issue were resident complaints that the San Angelo Zoning Commission, comprised of citizens appointed to the body by city council members, green-lighted the construction of a 307-unit apartment development behind newer homes on the north side of the Bentwood development. The commission’s vote was unanimous, at 4-0, to grant a conditional use zoning exception to allow residential apartments to be constructed in general commercial and office commercial zones at the land located in the 1800 block of Loop 306.
After the planning commission’s vote to approve, an appeal to city council was created by 86 organized Bentwood residents and filed on July 16. City council has the authority to overturn a planning commission decision.
According to Bentwood Partners managing director Kevin Collins, who is selling the land to Tigres, LLC who will develop the apartments, he has accounted for all concerns, including the increased vehicle traffic and setbacks to allow green space between Bentwood homeowners and the new apartments. Besides, he told council, the apartments planned are only one story. “You aren’t going to have apartment dwellers looking down into Bentwood homes’ backyards or anything like that,” he said.
Above: The 21-acre plot of land where apartments are proposed is currently overgrown. (LIVE! Photo/Joe Hyde)
Mayor Brenda Gunter was in favor of the apartment development. The mayor sets the agenda, and prior to the hearing of the appeal, she scheduled a review of the dire housing situation in San Angelo.
“We have to have housing,” said Mayor Benda Gunter. “We have to address the housing shortage within the city.”
Council heard a wide-ranging discussion on San Angelo’s housing shortage presented by consultants led by Community Development Strategies' President Steve Spillette.
The nexus of his presentation was that his study estimates San Angelo requiring 3,700 new housing units — apartments or single-family homes — right now. Yet, as of today, all his company counts are 1,100 new housing units in the development pipeline.
“We cannot have jobs and economic growth without housing growth,” Gunter said.
Councilman Tommy Hiebert represents the district where Bentwood residents reside and he had to straddle the concerns of a number of his constituents with the likelihood the appeal would fail.
Holding up two handfuls of citizen complaint letters, Hiebert took the floor and navigated through his constituents’ concerns methodically; at each step obtaining assurance that each mitigating factor was addressed. Traffic was foremost the concern. Collins argued that the amount of traffic from a residential apartment complex is less than commercial development. And, a commercial development would go in there eventually with its current zoning, he argued.
The appellant residents argued anecdotally that traffic has increased through Bentwood with the introduction of the Walmart Neighborhood Market at Valleyview and Knickerbocker Road, almost defeating their argument about apartments and traffic versus traffic caused by commercial development. Flooding was also brought to the floor. Would there be adequate drainage, appellants asked? The City will look at that as a larger problem than just inside the confines of approving this proposed development was the general consensus.
Hiebert seemed satisfied with the answers from the developer, Collins, and the City Planning staff then made a motion to deny the appeal. The vote on the motion was unanimous.
What are promised to be upscale, single-story apartments are coming soon to Loop 306 at N. Bentwood Dr. The owner of Tigres, LLC said the number of units would be reduced from 307 to 270 to allow for an 80-foot setback from the backyards of Bentwood homes there. The name of the apartment development is tentatively set to be “Wolf Creek,” the same name as the proposed road to be built within the next five years along the east side of the apartments.
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