San Angelo Homeowners Win Zoning Debate


A land tract on Southland and Green Meadow that has been a source of contention since a zone change proposal was first brought before City Council on Sept. 16 was a source of serious debate once more at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, as councilmembers and the public discussed traffic problems the change would spur.

The proposed area is currently zoned single-family residential (RS-1), however landowner Greg Huling has petitioned Council for a change to multi-family residential (RM-2) in order to build a three-story apartment complex.

At the past meeting, Council was not in favor of the zone change to RM2, however discussed a compromise of RM-1, which would allow for mixed apartments and houses, a lower-density option.  

Huling decided to waive the compromise, holding out for the RM-2 zone change, as Council postponed ruling on the matter.

By Tuesday, Huling’s chances of receiving a zone change at all had become all but minimal. As time had lapsed, numerous citizens living in the area had had time to voice protest.

Approximately 110 letters of opposition had been sent from area residents in the space of time between the two meetings, and councilwoman Charlotte Farmer had received a number notifications from concerned residents of her district.

One of the letters, said Senior Planner Jeff Hintz, came from the school district’s Assistant Superintendant, who mentioned that the proposed apartment complex would be built directly across the street from the playground at Bonham Elementary, a concern that resounded in public comment.

Farmer spoke out on behalf of the members of her district: “I have paid attention to the petitions and the emails and the phone calls that I’ve gotten,” she said, “and the people don’t want it.” Applause broke out in the meeting room as a number of citizens present cheered Farmer’s recognition of their concerns.

The central issue of the proposed zone change has been consistent since the onset: increased traffic. Currently, traffic is an issue in the area as large trucks cut through the streets and several development projects underway mean traffic will inevitably rise.

The addition of a three-story apartment complex of up to 100 units could mean up to 200 or more additional cars, thus adding to the congestion and the safety issues for children playing in the schoolyard across the street.

“I drove it [the stretch of road] as recent as 9 o’ clock last night to look at the traffic,” Farmer said. “I’m all for development…there is a lot of construction taking place right there. If you look closely at the road situation…everything dumps back on Southland,” she said.

Linda Silva, a resident of the area, also spoke to the issue of traffic.  “I have a heart for it [San Angelo], since I’ve been here for so long. I also have a heart for my neighborhood,” she said, mentioning that she walks daily and has gotten in the habit of counting cars driving down the street. Nowadays, she says, there are roughly 36-40 cars passing just in front of the school—a stretch at the beginning of her walk. She too feels for the safety of the children.

Another resident made mention of the property’s proximity to Fire Station #2, stating that increased traffic and congestion would also limit access to the Fire Department.

Terry Jackson of the Planning Commission, however, stated that the issue of traffic is already present, and that the addition of an apartment complex would not dramatically alter the current traffic situation.

Councilman Rodney Fleming also spoke in favor of the approval, citing the growing need for housing and the necessity to distribute that housing throughout the city, rather than restrict it to certain areas.

In a virtual cross-examination of Hintz, Winkie Wardlaw, questioned whether the proposed zone change would constitute “spot zoning, ”which occurs when a zone is changed to something different than all surrounding areas. Wardlaw stated spot zoning will destroy a neighborhood, citing rulings from the Texas and the U.S. Supreme Courts.

“The adverse impact upon the lands neighboring the…tract would be substantial. The single-family residential neighborhood can be destroyed by incoming of an apartment house. The increase in density of people, automobiles and accompanying traffic and noise detracts from a neighborhood until the area’s desirability as a place of residence is destroyed.”

Wardlaw stated that the population of those living in apartment complexes tend to be more transient without an invested interest in the upholding of the property, citing six month lease agreements common in San Angelo.

As an apartment complex owner, Wardlaw says he himself does background checks on those moving in to his property, a practice that is not as common among other complexes in San Angelo.

Rodney Fleming, who also sells property, countered that Wardlaw’s argument was invalid, stating that most of those purchasing homes are not subjected to as extensive checks as those living in apartment communities.

Mayor Morrison cut off the bickering before it got too far, and called for a vote on the matter to deny RM-1 and maintain the current zoning as RS-1. Council voted 4-3 in favor of the denial.

During the meeting, Fleming had stated that if the owner had backed down to RM-1 the last time, it would have passed, stating that Charlotte Farmer was also for it at the time.

Farmer affirmed this after the meeting, stating that she was glad Huling had not accepted the offer then, thus allowing her to better gage her district’s stance on the issue.

Huling said after the meeting, “I thought it was a fair decision.” He said he’d now have to make new plans for the development of the property that are in line with the RS-1 zoning, and has not considered what those plans may be at this point. When asked if he wished that he had, in retrospect, accepted the RM-1 zoning when offered, Huling simply answered “No.”

The homeowners of Farmer’s district six celebrated a victory with applause and gratitude.

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