by ANDY SEVILLA
Several Kyle residents could soon lose their homes as council members denied a developer’s request to amend the city’s Comprehensive Master Plan, meanwhile a recently denied truck stop project on the same property received new life.
The originally proposed, often-contentious, project called for a 300-parking-space truck stop with a service center on 37.37 acres of the property, all the while hosting an RV (Recreation Vehicle) park on the north 10.37 acres of the tract located at 24800 Interstate 35, just north of Yarrington Road.
Council members passed a vote to deny rezoning for the proposed project from Agriculture (AG) to Retail Services (RS) and Recreational Vehicle Park District (RV) in August, effectively rendering the project dead for a 12-month period, unless the developer received permission from council to bring the project back for a second look.
With tears in their eyes, several RV park residents told stories during the Aug. 21 council meeting of financial struggle and personal disabilities that would hinder their survival should they have to vacate the place they’ve called home.
But with the council’s August rejection of the requested rezoning, the RV Park remained an allowable use of the property.
When the city annexed the 47.74-acre tract on Oct. 20, 2009, the property received its current interim designation of AG, but the RV park, Plum Creek Campground, which was on the property before annexation, was grandfathered in, thus allowing several of Kyle’s less fortunate residents to set down roots.
“These are people that do not have a job, that are disabled, they are in medical needs situations, and I don’t think that it is fair for us to throw the RV park out,” said Council Member Becky Selbera in support of amending the master plan on Nov. 6. “I think that we should work with (the developers) and try to figure out what we can do to keep (the residents) where they want to be.”
Kyle’s Comprehensive Master Plan identifies RV zoning as not recommended for the city’s New Settlement District and Regional Node, thus PGI Investments’, the developers, request for an amendment to the Comprehensive Master Plan to identify RV zoning as a conditional use failed on the dais.
“I know that we are playing with people that live there, and it is extremely heartbreaking and I do send out my most profuse apologies to them, because no matter what, they’re going to lose their home,” said Council Member Samantha Bellows-LeMense before voting in support of denying the amendment to the master plan. “…We have to do what’s right for the city, and unfortunately sometimes people get run over by developers, they get run over by situations that they are in, and it’s horrible. The problem is that it happens. There’s no amount that I can say I’m sorry to fix it, but I have to do what’s right for my constituents.”
In a split decision Nov. 7, council members voted to allow PGI Investments to bring back their proposed project for council consideration before the expiration of a 12-month waiting period denied projects must adhere to according to city law, setting “precedent” that council members LeMense and Ray Bryant took issue with.
“I have nothing personally against the project or the developers. Again, I have a concern with setting a precedent that when a developer gets denied in the future, they can always come back with a different project. I believe in treating everyone fair – what you do for one, do for all – and I’m just not willing to do that,” Bryant said.
Planning Director Sofia Nelson said that in studying council minutes for the past five years, she could not find an instance where waivers to a denied project’s 12-month wait time had been requested from council.
Council Member David Wilson said the developers’ request is “obvious for a waiver,” because it had “very unusual circumstances,” including the “partial presentation, and maybe not a clear one” to the city’s Planning & Zoning (P&Z) Commission, whose members could not give a definitive recommendation to the city council on the July 24 rezoning request before the commission.
PGI Investments’ representative Hugo Elizondo said the project has been scaled back and that they have met with affected and interested parties to revise the concept plan and address concerns, including reducing the amount of parking spots available at the proposed truck stop and coordinating with the Historical Commission to preserve the existing spring flow on the property.
But the developers had not met with residents of a nearby neighborhood, Blanco Vista, and these San Marcos residents came out in droves to speak with Kyle’s elected officials.
Speaking on behalf of Blanco Vista residents, Chance Sparks, said in an Oct. 23 letter addressed to council that area residents are concerned with truck traffic that could be generated by the proposed truck stop and the dangers that could ensue, given its proximity to the elementary school in Blanco Vista, which he said also serves Kyle residents.
Sparks also stated that Kyle’s road infrastructure does not meet the demands to cater to the truck traffic the proposed development would produce. Other Blanco Vista residents who spoke before council stated concerns about increased crime associated with truck stops, such as prostitution and the smuggling of drugs, while others touched on environmental responsibilities.
“What they did to this land, to me, is awful. They devastated it. They tore down 150 year-old oak trees, if not older. And they’ve certainly done their share of filling in a spring that does have historical significance,” said Kyle Mayor Lucy Johnson before voting in favor of granting the 12-month time waiver, because she said she cannot base her decisions on the personality of the developer, and the property sitting as-is for a year does no good for Kyle.
Johnson said there were only two ways of moving forward, either by having “an angel” buy the property and develop it in conjunction with the wants of the city, or work with the current owners and improve the property in accordance with the master plan.
“I think the first step in us moving forward, in us doing anything to improve this, is to grant this waiver,” Johnson said. “Not because I agree that (the developers’ proposed changes to the project) are enough to meet (the master plan), but because I can’t, in my own conscience, let this land sit as-is without council taking any action.”
The developers will now push for a Planned Unit Development (PUD) on the project in an effort to alleviate fears that negotiations between the developers and the city will be honored, said Elizondo.