by ANDY SEVILLA
Emotions were strong last week as residents of the Plum Creek RV Park begged Kyle City Council members not to take away their homes by having them removed through a rezoning process.
PGI Investments owns the 47.74 acres at 24800 Interstate 35 where the RV Park is located. The developers now want the property rezoned Retail Services (RS) on 37.37 acres and Recreational Vehicle Park District (RV) on 10.37 acres, from its current designation of agriculture.
Several RV park residents implored council members during the citizen comment period to not “take our homes away.”
With tears in their eyes, the residents told stories of financial struggle and personal disabilities that would hinder their survival should council decide to rezone the property.
A visibly upset and nervous resident, who begged council for the right to remain at the property, had a seizure during the citizen comment period, prompting Mayor Lucy Johnson to call for a recess while first responders assessed the situation.
Once the chaos settled, City Manager Lanny Lambert took the stage and lambasted the developers, saying that they stirred strong emotions from the residents aimed at council, which in his opinion were directed at the wrong body.
“Apparently someone has told the people that live (at the Plum Creek RV Park) that the city of Kyle is trying to kick them out of their homes. That’s the interpretation that I’ve gotten from this discussion,” Lambert said. “I want the community and people that live there to know that couldn’t be farthest from the case. This is a zoning request from the developer who bought this land, who wants to put in a truck travel center, or travel center, at the intersection of Yarrington Road and (IH) 35.”
According to the rezoning request, the developers want to move the RV park north on the property, to allow for a proposed truck stop and truck service center to be located on the 37.37 acres where the park is currently located. The developers also would put retail on the outer edge facing IH-35.
Council members, faced with a difficult decision that could pit them against the comprehensive masterplan in place, decided to deny the rezoning request in a 5-2 decision, with council members Bradley Pickett and David Wilson dissenting.
Johnson was adamant, before moving to deny the request, that a truck stop was “inappropriate” for the city’s gateway.
“Having a truck service center, at the center of this development with over 300 parking spaces, which would become practically a trucker’s hotel of sorts and service center, is not what I imagined, or what the people who were involved with the development of our comprehensive plan, saw as our gateway to Kyle,” Johnson said. “I think this use is completely inappropriate for our gateway.”
Pickett, on the other hand, disagreed.
“The property owners, in my view, have the right to do what they would like with their property,” Pickett said. “I may or may not agree with the business plan of what they’re trying to do, but if as you say this will be full of hundreds of trucks, sounds like a pretty viable business to me.”
Wilson, who echoed Pickett, said that although a truck stop is not ideal as a community gateway, it was “reality” because of the location on I-35.
“This to me is not an appropriate gateway to Kyle,” Johnson said. “It doesn’t meet the pastoral idea, or even concept, that we talked about in the comprehensive plan, and I congratulate (the developer) for trying to make the argument of it, but there’s no possible way you can ever argue that a relatively large 18-wheeler service center with over 300 parking spaces would ever be considered pastoral, would ever be an appropriate gateway to any community, regardless of that community’s status along Interstate 35.”
A council-approved motion to deny effectively stops the project for at least a year, when the developer is allowed to bring it back to council, unless the business owner gets a variance to the rules from council and brings it forth sooner.
On July 24, the city’s Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commission motioned to postpone action on the rezoning request to allow for additional information on the proposed development, but that motion failed with a 3-3 vote. The P&Z then motioned to deny the rezoning request, but it, too, failed with a 3-3 vote.
The 47.74 acres are located west of I-35, and are bounded on the west by Post Road, and on the south by Yarrington Road, and on the north and east by I-35. City documents show that the property was annexed on Oct. 20, 2009, and received its current interim designation of Agriculture (AG).
City staff recommended that the RV request on the 10.37 acres north on the property were not consistent with the intent of the future land-use district or stated goals of the comprehensive masterplan.
“While the intent of the retail services zoning designation is generally consistent with the stated land-use goals of the Regional Node future land-use district (grocery stores, retail shopping centers, multi-family housing, and municipal services, such as libraries and recreation centers), the goal of aggregating density to enhance different activity levels does not appear to be accomplished through the development of a truck stop or RV park,” stated city staff’s recommendation to council.
Hugo Elizondo, who represents PGI Investments, told council members that the retail pads and truck stop provide the retail aspect of the Regional Node, and that the RV park is in essence multi-family housing that is called for by the masterplan.
If council took no action on the rezoning request or denied it, the property would stay zoned AG and remain as it was with the RV park in the property.
Johnson said that although the RV park was not ideal nor recommended for that property, it at least allowed for the preservation of some wooded area along I-35, not just in Central Texas, but throughout the state. She said the approximately 20 truck spaces at the Conoco at Windy Hill Road and I-35 already generate dozens of complaints per year, causing her not to support the proposed “mass of paved concrete to provide spaces for hundreds of truckers.”
“This is massive, this is not anything that I would ever consider standing behind or wanting for Kyle,” Johnson said. “… It’s certainly not my intention to have this RV park taken away from the current residents, and I’m more willing to keep the RV Park as it stands and preserve whatever is left of that really beautiful area… than allow it to be paved over and turned into what is a truck stop with hundreds of 18-wheelers spending their nights and days there. I can’t do it.”
Giving credence to Lambert’s assertion of “unethical” developers, one of the RV park residents said they were told the city didn’t want an RV park at the property, and instead wanted to put in apartments, prompting them to implore council en masse to preserve their residences.
“I think we’re being played by the developer here,” Lambert said. “I think it’s unethical what the developers are doing with city council and the people that live there … I think that the poor people that live there are being told some misinformation by the developer. It’s not the city that’s taking any action whatsoever to remove you from your homes, it’s the developer that’s bought that property. I’d like to make sure that’s clear, and I certainly can be corrected if that’s not the case.”