San Angelo Residents Sidelined by Commercial Zoning


The residents who inhabit the new homes in the Lamar neighborhood bought those homes with the knowledge the empty lots that remained near Lamar Elementary School would be filled with more houses; however, recently, they learned that wasn’t the case.

Unbeknownst to them, two empty tracts near the school were rezoned as Neighborhood Commercial, and currently there’s a new storage unit being built right on the center of the neighborhood along Southwest Blvd. and Twin Mountain Dr., directly adjacent to the school.

This new development has not only sparked outrage among residents, but many of them are also feeling misled by both the City of San Angelo and the home realtors and developers who failed to give them the correct information when they bought their homes.

“We were told by builders or real estate agents that it was all houses going in,” said resident Christina Deleo. “We’re obviously frustrated with that.”

Deleo, on behalf of Lamar neighborhood residents, spoke at the City Council Meeting during the discussion and public comment on the development at 6025 Southwest Blvd. This is the development that residents are opposed to.

In fact, on Nov. 13, one Lamar resident wrote on the City of San Angelo’s Public Information Facebook Page the following message:

“City of San Angelo, there appears to be a storage unit being built on the corner of Twin Mountain Drive and Southwest that was approved by you and no one was notified prior to construction. Honestly, why would you even think it is a good idea to allow a storage facility to be built in the middle of a residential area and right next to an elementary school? Not only is it an eyesore in a nice area of town, it also poses a threat to the children that walk to and from school in that area. The construction needs to be stopped and you all need to take a good look at your level of competence.”

These are the types of comments Councilman Rodney Fleming, SMD1, has been hearing. One resident, Jessika Morrow Murray began an online petition through that states, “Petitioning Rodney Fleming, San Angelo City Council: Do Not Allow a Storage Unit on Southwest and Twin Mountain!” So far, 210 supporters have signed the online petition.

In her comments, Murray wrote, “We as neighbors who own property that surround the location in question (Twin Mountain and Southwest) were not given the opportunity to oppose the storage units going in to this lot in question. We had previously opposed a rezoning that would lead to the storage units being built last year. And now without warning there is a storage unit now going up on the corner of southwest and twin mountain. This is a horrible location, there is an elementary school right across the street and not to mention the impact that said storage unit will have on our property values. This corner is already unsafe for our children to walk to and from school through and adding storage units will only cause the traffic to get worse. Save our neighborhoods and tell city council that storage units are not welcome in our residential area!”

On the Facebook post, Murray also said if Fleming didn’t want “a running monologue” with a concern that the citizens in the district have, he shouldn’t have run for City Council.

It’s because of these types of comments that Fleming asked for John James, director of the City of San Angelo Planning and Development Services, to come forward with a time line on what happened on this property, and to inform them as to what the future will hold for the property and the residents.

“A lot of residents are upset about the zoning in place,” he said. “They think the council had something to do with this.”

The Timeline of the Property

As requested, James provided a timeline, which outlined the following:

  1. The property was annexed into the city on Apr. 4, 1996 (the original document stated 2006, but that was an error) as Ranch and Estate.
  2. The property was rezoned to Neighborhood Commercial on Aug. 15, 2006 by City Council. Trinity Homes initiated the zone change request, and 23 notices were sent out at the time within 200 feet as required. Two notices were returned as in favor, but three were in opposition because of the proximity of the school and crime.
  3. There were no subsequent rezoning requests.
  4. A Conditional Use was approved on June 23, 2014, which is set to expire on June 23, 2016.
  5. On Apr. 2014, a new owner made a request for an extension of the condition of approval for one year for the completion of a subdivision plat and urban design review. The Planning Commission approved the extension, which explains the June 23, 2016 deadline.
  6. On Apr. 20, 2015, the Planning Commission approved a subdivision plat for the Trinity West property. It was filed for record with the County Clerk on July 28, 2015. No public notification was required.
  7. The timeline stated, “On June 1, 2015, the applicant received approval for an Urban Design Review for Phase 1 of the self-service storage units project. Phase 1 covers about 2/3 of the east portion of the lot. Phase 2 will require another Urban Design Review and the applicant has not submitted one at this time. No publication was required for an Urban Design Review.”

The Overall Explanation

As he explained the timeline, James stated that the self storage units that have been proposed for the site and are under construction are only allowed in neighborhood commercial zones with conditional use.

“That is an approval that does not go to [the City Council]; it does go to the planning commission authority unless it’s appealed to you,” James told council members.

In this case, James said it was not appealed. It went to the planning commission in June of 2014. It was approved for a one-year period although the ordinance does allow that to be extended for an additional year, which happened in this case. Apparently, the property changed hands, and the developer came forward because the added year was needed.

“If development isn’t completed in June of 2016, that conditional use will expire. Because of the size of the development, it does trigger a design review,” James explained. “We review it for meeting standards in terms of aesthetics, and those things that impact the surrounding neighborhood.”

James added that information was provided by the developer as to what was being done to meet the requirements.

James also showed council members a map showing the residential commercial block that sits at the center of the residential neighborhood. There are actually two blocks that are deemed residential commercial, including the Twin Mountain block.

“That is currently under developed, but that is a current tract already zoned neighborhood commercial,” he noted.

Overall, once a tract is zoned Neighborhood Commercial, things can be built as long as it falls within the parameters of what neighborhood commercial is.

“Once the zoning is in place, they’re allowed to do anything within that zoning district short of the council rezoning it to something else,” James continued. “Once [developers] are in the development process, which is the case here, they are vested in the development they brought forward.”

James added that once a developer applies for permits, even if the property was rezoned today, that developer is vested in that development.

In addition to the storage units, the general retail that can be put up in that area includes the typical commercial convenience store, small strip shopping centers, and retail commercial, James explained. 

Fleming asked James if the zoning was put in place before those residents were there. Most of the home sites weren’t built, and Fleming was also under the assumption the school wasn’t there as well.

James said he wasn’t sure when the school was built, but he does know that the school owned the site. The district responded in opposition when notices were sent out.

“They didn’t like the idea of commercial that close to the school,” James said. However, he reiterated that neighborhood commercial is intended to be compatible within the neighborhood.

Councilwoman Elizabeth Grindstaff, SMD5, pointed out that there’s a train that also goes through there regularly, and that generates more traffic at times than the school does itself.

“The idea of neighborhood commercial is to provide some commercial development that serves the neighborhood; that is actually beneficial to the neighborhood.”

Fleming agreed and added, “We do this throughout the city, especially through our new developments. There’s a master plan on how these things are done. Neighborhood development can be relief of some sort.”

With vacant land, Fleming said as a broker, that’s one thing people will ask about.

“If I don’t know, I go find out because there’s a liability on me,” he said. “If it’s not going to be just houses, it could be a problem in the future. You want to be informed about what’s around you.”

James added that his staff meets with people almost daily. He said his department is eager to explain the zoning and what’s being planned to help with awareness of the area plans for citizens looking to buy a house.

“That’s some questions we answer frequently, and I would encourage anybody wanting to buy a house to ask us those questions,” James stated.

The Main Objections Presented

All of these explanations are fine, except the residents went by what they were told, Deleo responded to the council. Deleo told the council she lives on Canadian Street along Southwest across from the school, and people in her area are feeling “unheard.”

“First of all, a lot of the residents there are boggled as to why the rezoning passed and when there was more opposition than proponents for it,” she said.

She added that the 200-foot notice is nothing.

“When that happened there were hardly any houses because most of the properties were owned by the builders,” Deleo noted. “Twenty-four letters were sent out, but probably 20 of them went to builders; and when people bought those houses, they were under the impression that houses were going in there. That’s what I was told. You have a lot of military families in there. We weren’t told to go check with the city about the zoning.”

Overall, with the commercial developments, Deleo said the main concern had to do with school safety. She said with the storage units going in, there are sidewalks that developers are planning to put along the property on Southwest; but, there is no sidewalk between the property that’s going in and the railroad tracks.

“That presents a big problem with the safety for our children and the growing number of kids [who] are going to be walking to school from the opposite side of Southwest,” Deleo said.

Because of this, Deleo said residents wanted to propose safety measures that will help to decrease the risk of injury and death.

“Studies have been done and approximately 100 kids have been killed every year walking to and from school,” Deleo told the council. She then said that 25,000 injuries resulted from school zone accidents.

“We would like to see sidewalks put in from the new property that’s going in and extend that to Canadian drive,” she said. “That wouldn’t be a long section, but it would come up to Toya and Toya and Canadian St.”

Deleo also asked that a cross walk be established from Toya across the street to the school with some type of crossing guard. There’s a crossing guard on the north side of the railroad tracks, but there is nothing on the south side.

Deleo added that the speed limit in the area was also a concern, and with the added commercial businesses, things will get worse.  

“If we’re expecting more traffic with businesses, and if the rezoning isn’t changed, you’re going to get stores, and other things are going to attract outside residents as well as the resident that are already there,” said the resident.

Deleo proclaimed that the safety of the children is the most important thing, and the city doesn’t want blood on their hands or injury.

“I’m not trying to dramatize it, but children safety is at stake,” she said.

The Solution

Although nothing can be done to stop the businesses from building in the Lamar neighborhood, Fleming asked James if anything could be done to develop another cross walk in that area.

“Normally, we can put a cross walk at any cross section,” James said. He noted that they have to look at the streets. Legally, there’s a crosswalk wherever there’s a sidewalk and whether it’s marked or not.

City Manager Daniel Valenzuela said the city can also do a safety study.

“That would be the feasible thing to do,” he said. “Our kids’ safety is extremely important to us, so that’s something we’ll take a look at.”

Fleming added that the city will look into adding another crosswalk to help alleviate the concerns that the storage units are causing.

However, he told Deleo, “One thing I want to point out to you and the residents out there, according to how many phone calls and comments I’ve gotten on this, that property that’s right behind there, it is zoned Neighborhood Commercial on the other side of that street, on that corner. It will probably be some kind of business; it’s just a matter of time before it goes in. That’s a good thing to know for in the future. I wish that would have been explained better to you.”

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The surrounding neighborhood requires trees to be planted, full landscaping, 90% brick/rock, and no chain link fencing. If the developer will put in a brick wall/fence along all sides similar to that on Twin Mountain and landscape the property to match the Twin Mountain side of the property, I do not see a real issue with storage aesthetically. If the city requires sidewalks and cross walks, I'm not terribly concerned about the traffic. My greatest concern is that this is a climate controlled storage facility which may be used by hobbyists to reload ammunition, work on vehicles, etc. that could create a hazard or noise in this neighborhood. Overall, this was a incredibly thoughtless decision by our city officials, but what are we to expect really? Let's just at least try to put lipstick on the pig now...

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