Residents strongly against Smokehouse Rd project
Over two dozen people spoke during Monday night’s Fredericksburg City Council meeting against the application from Park Atkins, P.E., for a development on Smokehouse Road, adjacent to Heritage School.
Atkins’ request was to change a land use plan from low- to medium-density residential and establish R-2 Mixed Residential Zoning on 24.8 acres of land located on Smokehouse Road. Plans are for a mixed residential space for young, working people, ranging from $200,000 to $315,000.
Concerns for the development ranged from: high costs for the proposed affordable housing, a higher increase in traffic volume and a disregard for neighboring residents.
Atkins was unavailable to attend the meeting because he had withdrawn his application earlier in the day. The council took no action, and additional public hearings will be held at the June 5 and June 19 meetings.
Mayor Linda Langerhans said more housing is needed within city limits.
“Our general fund is supported by property tax,” Langerhans said. “I think annexation is something that has to happen, areas that we can easily supply water lines to and can be developed and follow guidelines. It isn’t going to work if everybody says ‘not in my backyard.’”
Although Atkins received verbal approval when the project was first introduced, his proposal was turned down, 5-1, by the Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commission.
Despite not being annexed into the city, Atkins can still develop as county property.
“He will be purchasing the property,” Langerhans said. “If he isn’t annexed, I guess he can do anything he wants on that property.”
Director of Development Services Brian Jordan said even without annexation or land use change from the city, Atkins can develop the land under different uses.
“If they don’t divide the land, and rented spaces, and do a community water and well system, then they wouldn’t have to come to the city, because they aren’t dividing the land,” Jordan said. “If he purchases this property and does an R-1 (single family residential) development, then he’d be in compliance with the land use plan as it presently sits.”
Since the P&Z voted against Atkins’s original request, the city would need a super majority, a minimum 4-1 vote, to overcome the P&Z’s suggestion.
The council isn’t obligated to take action, and a final vote on the application will take place during a meeting in July.
Atkins didn’t attend the meeting because he had withdrawn his proposal earlier in the day, but was reached early on Tuesday for comment.
Currently based in Boerne, but having spent the last three decades in the area, Atkins said he’s seen the need for housing increase.
“This has been going on for more than a decade,” Atkins said. “The city staff have controlled this and have yielded to a very small minority. Other developers have been met with the same thing.”
Atkins said he holds a high respect for Langerhans, and P&Z, but feels as if he’s been treated unfairly.
“We will not sign a development agreement where we have to deal with staff that isn’t straightforward and honest,” Atkins said. “It’s been clear to me that city staff has yielded to political pressure from individuals in the county.”
Atkins said despite not being annexed into the city, he still plans to develop it as county property.
“We had the nicest development that anyone has ever proposed within these price points,” Atkins said. “Now, our only option is to develop in the county. We are going to buy the land and the only way the city can regulate is if we subdivide, so we’re looking at something very large where we’re not going to subdivide.”
Some of the options Atkins said he now has include developing governmental subsidized housing or an apartment complex.
“We can design our own water system and put in our own sewer system,” Atkins said. “We’re looking at all the options. We are committed to development and could do apartments. They will protest anything they can. They said nobody can afford this. Ok. So we’re going to build a bunch of apartments over there and we can do that on this property.”
Atkins said he doesn’t want to make people angry, and that he’s simply trying to solve a need in the market.
“Everyone has turned against me, now there is no way I can do something like that because we can’t subdivide in the county like that,” Atkins said. “It’s going to have to be workforce housing or apartments.”
The development will not be like the original designs, Atkins said, which he intended to cost around $700-$900 a unit.
“There’s a whole lot more than just running the standard numbers and adding private mortgage numbers and taxes to it,” Atkins said. “But no one wanted to hear us out.”
Atkins said the property will soon be purchased and developed and there won’t be any chance to protest, since it’s in the county.
“It’s not that they don’t want it, they just don’t want it in their backyard,” Atkins said. “Some of these protestors lobbied the P&Z commissioners. I was told I could not contact P&Z. While my protestors could lobby them, I could not, which I feel is wrong.”
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