A heated zoning fight in Government Hill, which has been ongoing for a year, has come to an end.
The City Council on Thursday rezoned a cluster of residential properties at Interstate 35 and North Walters Street into a lighter form of commercial, or C-1. The properties’ two owners, a woman named Sara Martinez and the Jackson Cloma Living Trust, an entity managed by Frost Bank, plan to build a small retail building of roughly 18,000 square feet.
Martinez and the Jackson Cloma Living Trust had previously sought to rezone the properties to C-2, which would have allowed for larger forms of commercial use much to the ire of many nearby residents. All along the way, the majority of residents who live within 200 feet of the properties fought the heavier form of commercial, fearing they would eventually live next to a gas station, which Martinez and the trust planned at one point.
In the beginning, those who opposed rezoning the properties argued for the preservation of eight homes that currently stand there. Eventually, many of the nearby homeowners agreed to C-1, which allows for businesses that cater more to the neighborhood.
“The neighbors from within 200 feet, including myself as a future homeowner, are not against development or change,” Erica Rangel, a Texas State University student who will inherit her parent’s home down Sandmeyer Street, near the site, told the council. “We’re just asking for a C-1 (designation). C-1 brings businesses that fit the neighborhood and will work for all of us.”
Some in the neighborhood, most notably, housing advocate Marlene Hawkins, have continued to advocate for the preservation of the homes.
Martinez said she doesn’t have the financial means to continue her landlord business.
“I have turned 70 years old now and I cannot work with the same energy as I did before,” Martinez, who immigrated here from Mexico in 1968, told the council. “I don’t have the energy, and I don’t have the money to continue with the business either. … I need this to be able to retire with dignity.”
District 2 Councilwoman Jada Andrews-Sullivan had supported a C-2 designation. On Sept. 17, Andrews-Sullivan tried to get the designation passed, but was stymied by council members who had been bombarded by homeowners’ concerns in their own districts who worried the Government Hill case could set a precedent for sharp commercial encroachment into a neighborhood.
Andrews-Sullivan said she backed the C-1 compromise, but didn’t explain what changed her mind.
“I was not going to stop until we had something that benefits the District 2 area as a whole, but when I walked the property in Government Hill for myself, I didn’t need to have anyone else tell me what was already understood.”
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