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Rezoning request leads to contention

Rezoning request leads to contention
NANNETTE KILBEY-SMITH This modest appearance of this property on Seguin Road opposite the Immanuel Lutheran Church belies the heated debate it caused during the March 11 La Vernia City Council meeting.

It’s a small, white wood-frame house that sits back off Seguin Road (F.M. 775), across from the Immanuel Lutheran Church in La Vernia. It looks like anything but a bone of contention.

Yet this modest building was the focus of all attention March 10, as the La Vernia City Council considered a rezoning request for the two neighboring lots located at 309 Seguin Road.

During a public hearing on the matter, property owner Don Rackler advocated for the city to approve his request to rezone the properties from R-A, single family residence, to C-1, retail. According to Rackler, the area where the property sits is a mixture of commercial, industrial, and residential.

“It coexists comfortably,” he said. “I’m not asking for anything not currently happening.”

He renovated and remodeled the building, and hopes, he said, it will be a professional building, such as a title business, “operating 9-5.”

A neighbor took to the podium to voice objections, however.

“We never had commercial there,” Julia Ann Mattke told the council. “It’s residential, and that’s the way we like it. We don’t want a business down there. There’s a lot of places in La Vernia he can have a business.”

Council members explored various aspects of the matter during discussion following the public hearing.

As there are two lots, Councilman Mark Doege queried, “Why not just zone the house and not the other property? I think that’s what’s scaring the neighbors.”

Mayor Robert Gregory asked how many responses to the rezoning application were received from neighbors within the requisite 200 feet from the property. City Administrator Yvonne Griffin confirmed the city had received five responses, all opposing the requested rezoning.

This matched the recommendation from the city’s Planning & Zoning Commission, which originally received the request in 2014. At that time, the matter was tabled; it came before the commission again this year, after more work was done.

“P&Z is unwilling to give a blank check over the property and just zone it commercial,” commission Chairman Gordon Bake said. “We took into account the wants and concerns of the neighbors.”

“No one disputes the value to the city,” Bake added. “It’s just the way it came to be. It’s not a good place for a business.”

The mayor invited a motion to approve the rezoning request. After a period of silence, Councilman Rhonda Watson motioned to approve, with a second by Councilman Jennifer Moczygemba. It passed with a 4-0 vote, with Councilman Harold Schott abstaining.

“Mr. Rackler has met the requirements of the city,” Gregory said. “Hydrology, ordinances, etc.”

Moczygemba, after the meeting, offered a comment.

“I’ve had heartaches and heartaches about this decision,” she said. “Ultimately, we had to determine the highest and best use for the property.”

Allowing it to sit idle, she said, would not benefit the city.

In other matters, the council:

¢Approved a special use permit for O’Reilly’s Auto Parts at 14101 U.S. 87 W.

¢Canceled the city’s May 7 general election, after the mayor, Schott, and Councilman Eloi Cormier were unopposed in their re-election bids

¢Approved to contribute matching funds of $838 to the Floresville Electric Light & Power System for the 2016 Summer Youth Program, for the Little League Challenger Program

¢Approved to appoint Public Works Director Jason Mills to represent La Vernia for a one-year term on the Canyon Regional Water Authority Board of Managers

¢Approved the city’s part-time fire inspector, Andrew Flores, to take on the duties of code enforcement, also in a part-time capacity.

¢Met new public works employee Richard Robins.

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