SAN ANGELO, TX — Zane White, nicknamed The Cactus Crusader in a lawsuit, is on a self-gratifying campaign to force a the owner of the Cactus Hotel, 36 E. Twohig Ave., to fix the very large “Hotel Cactus” sign that formerly adorned the building’s rooftop. The Crusader made his way to the most recent meeting of the Downtown Historic Review Commission to harass his nemesis, Cactus Hotel owner Lee Pfluger, over his request to get more permanent awning replacements around the former hotel’s first floor.
The DHRC is a city council-appointed citizen commission that approves renovations that generally impact the aesthetics of structures located inside San Angelo’s downtown district. Chairman David Mazur, elected chairman at the Jan. 26, 2023 meeting in question, took no time making his preferences known.
We will get to Zane White’s appearance later. First, citizens should know about the wringer the DHRC puts applicants through to obtain approval for renovating their private property.
Under Mazur, The DHRC demanded strict adherence to seemingly subjective standards on projects brought before the commission for approval before construction can begin.
The first applicant grilled by Mazur and the commission was subjected to additional tasks in order to obtain approval. The property owner’s rendition of how the now-dilapidated building, most recently terribly damaged after a vehicle crashed into it, appeared to have an Austin stone facade adorning faux garage doors. The building was a post-modernist representation of the former car dealership building it once was. However, currently the unsightly building is barricaded with a chainlink fence since 2021.
“I have some questions. Can you bring it back to the picture?” Mazur demanded. What followed were a series of “My only other concern is…” by Mazur panning the unhistoric appearance, the doors, the windows, and the proper plaster to be applied to the external surfaces. He also complained that the contractor didn’t provide paint chips so the commission could approve the paint colors even though the supplied rendering was in color. The applicant claimed the paint chips were included in the original application but were not presented at the meeting.
The building will be Valley Vending, a game and amusement venue, with pool tables, a juke box, and etc.
“We’re trying to do this on a budget,” the building owner’s contractor said in response to Mazur’s objections over the size of the faux garage doors as well as other objections to their design.
“My only defense is that the City’s Permits Department (the City-owned historic building that was the former county library next to City Hall) has the same look [as our design] right now,” he said. “That’s over 112 or 113 years old and they did it with historical protocols and everything."
Mazur asked for a photo of the old county library. “Can someone at the permits office walk outside and take a photo of it and send it to someone’s phone?” The photo never materialized so the board moved toward approving or disapproving the property owner’s plans.
“I move that we approve based upon all the condition that by the next meeting we can see specific paint colors, glass type and a new design on the light,” Commissioner Stacie Elkins said. The conditional approval passed by unanimous vote.
Local attorney Jeff Chandler requested that the commission approve the signage that was to be painted on the west wall of his new offices at 210 W Beauregard Ave. The board chaffed over the drawings, claiming the painted wall’s image wasn’t perfectly centered. They eventually relented and approved the exterior wall sign only if Chandler more perfectly centered the painting’s words.
The nitpicking seemed to end when The Cactus Hotel’s Lee Pfluger approached the dais to obtain permission to replace the hotel’s canvas awnings with steel. Pfluger, expressing his fear of his own mortality, said the canvas awnings will not last long enough after he is gone and now was the time to replace them with more durable steel awnings. He even showed the commission one awning that was already installed as an example and apparently without DHRC approval.
Incorporated into the prepared agenda item for Pfluger’s approval was a restriction of sorts to rescind a 2016 DHRC approval for a special awning that was to mark the entrance to a basement speak easy bar. The bar never happened, Pfluger said. He was looking for another tenant who may want to make a go at that type of business. But, Pfluger said, the special awning was already approved and he didn’t want his new awning request to eliminate his ability to legally build the very special awning for the bar’s entrance in the future.
After fawning over the new Cactus Hotel’s steel awning replacements, the board not only approved the new awnings, but deleted the provision in the motion that would have eliminated the previous approval as Pfluger requested.
Cactus Crusader Zane White was watching and scratching notes on a yellow legal pad seated in the audience. As soon as public comments opened up, he called out the commission for the blatant favoritism the board gave Pfluger's awning project.
In a growling voice, White opened his remarks stating, “I think this last little exchange here is a really good example of checks and balances not being followed through with.”
Mazur chose to engage with The Cactus Crusader but almost as soon as he did, two board members, Stacie Elkins and Lisa Wallace, left the dais breaking the quorum and forcing the meeting to recess. The City cut the recess out of the video of the meeting, but during the recess, a member of City staff confirmed with others in the room that White was “That guy.” White took the opportunity to re-introduce himself as “that guy” once the two board members returned and the meeting was called back into order.
“I believe in one of the slides there was a picture of a metal awning that I believe is on the building now,” White said.
“They said they did a sample,” Mazur responded.
“And where was the authorization for that? They’ve been up there for a while,” White pressed.
“It did not come through this board,” Mazur answered.
“I think you saw that there are things going on at the Cactus Hotel that aren’t going through proper protocol and procedures consistently. There’s a long history of it from what I’ve seen,” White said.
Then White asked for the photo of the proposed and existing Cactus Awnings to be displayed. Pointing to them, he called out his opinion of the hypocrisy of the DHRC.
“You went meticulously into the background with this other gentleman here about it needs to be consistent with the historical… all of it, over and over… Now, if anybody being here thinks that that (awning) on the left is consistent — other than it being green — there’s nothing consistent. It’s triangular. There’s nothing consistent about that. It’s unsightly. It looks like the outside of a shipping container!”
In the end, the board unanimously voted to approve Pfluger’s metal awnings and to remove the language that would have rescinded the special speak easy awnings previously approved in 2016, practically proving The Cactus Crusader’s point about its favoritism.
During the open comments at the end of the meeting, The Cactus Crusader returned to the podium to offer an encore recital of his complaints against the City for not enforcing the sign ordinances concerning the dilapidated “Hotel Cactus” sign visually in disrepair high atop the 1928 building owned by Pfluger.
In November, Pfluger won a default judgement in a lawsuit against White for defamation. The court decides how much White must pay Pfluger in March where Pfluger is asking for $1,000 for every person who has heard what Pfluger argued were White’s slanderous tirades against him.
Despite not having the final judgement of the lawsuit, Pfluger elected to answer White’s accusations this time. Watch:
Neither White or Pluger are to blame in this. I just wish they could work together.I grew up when the Cactus was a thriving business a a beauty to behold. I went to Business Mens Bible class on Sunday mornings and with my Dad to the barber shop in the basement. I even got special permission to honeymoon there in a room they renovated to accommodate my bride and I in the early 80s long after it ceased to be a hotel. The family would go to Neffs amusement park Sunday afternoons. We shopped for School clothes downtown. The issue is not with the sign on the Cactus or the awnings. 60+ years of San Angelo politicians have done their damndest to drive businesses out of downtown, South Oakes, South Chadborne and Lakeview to move out to Sherwood Way and the Southwest. San Angelo should be happy every nickel invested in Downtown rather than install history police to restrict redevelopment of downtown, otherwise just build a fence around it and turn it into a historical park like Fort Concho complete with reenacts. Maybe this historic commission could even restore the glory to Concho Street including the red light distict.
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Yep, republicans favor their own and play favoritism. All while trying to grift money through lawsuits. Par for the course for domestic terrorists.
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