City nixes mixed-use rezoning proposal

RBFCU drive-thru gets thumbs-up

La Vernia City Council members gather March 9 for their monthly meeting. Taking seats at the dais are (from left) Garrett Rabel, Justin Oates, Mayor Martin Poore, Dianell Recker, and Gary Gilbert. Councilman Amanda Hutchinson arrived shortly after the meeting began.

Single-family homes, a retail space, and a three-story apartment building.

NP Homes presented plans March 9 to the La Vernia City Council, wanting to bring all three to a mixed-use development on U.S. 87 just west of H-E-B. To do so, the developer asked the city to rezone the land from C2 Commercial to C1 Retail, which would allow for the mixed-use development of more than 80 single-family homes, apartments, and a commercial site.

NP Homes also presented the plans during a Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting just prior to the council meeting, to seek a variance for the height of the apartment building and the number of proposed parking spaces. While the parking spaces — changing from one per bedroom instead of 1.5 per unit — met with approval, the building height did not.

After lengthy discussion, the council also denied NP Homes’ rezoning request, following the recommendation of the city’s Planning & Zoning Committee.

The council invited the developer to consider a planned development district (PDD), similar to Woodbridge Farms at Bluebonnet Road and F.M. 1346 in the city, instead of rezoning to C1.

Also related to development, the council unanimously approved an ordinance requiring pre-development meetings prior to the development of subdivisions or large commercial projects in the city.

“This brings everybody to the same table at the same time,” said City Administrator Yvonne Griffin.

“It makes it a mandatory part of our process,” Mayor Martin Poore added, following the unanimous vote.

The meetings will include city staff, representatives from the fire and police departments, and others, to consider impacts and concerns prior to any large undertakings.

Continuing to address growth, council members, following a public hearing, approved a special use permit for 427 Bluebonnet Road (F.M. 775) for a drive-thru for Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union (RBFCU) on a portion of the 7.59-acre site.

The council also heard a presentation by La Vernia Independent School District Superintendent Hensley Cone about the district’s $109 million bond proposal to address the growth in student population and the need for building renovations to accommodate the needs on all campuses. The bond will be on ballots in May (see page 1 for more on this).

The council also approved grant applications by the La Vernia Police Department for body cameras and ballistic shields, along with a new mental health policy for the department, including a mandatory annual mental wellness check per officer. Costs will be incorporated into the department’s budget.

“We don’t often realize they’re human beings with feelings and emotions,” said the mayor. “They’re not bulletproof.”
The things police officers and firefighters deal with take a toll, Gilbert added.

“Thank you for everything that y’all do,” he told the officers present.

The council also approved:
•A plan to purchase and install isolation valves on city water lines
•A plan to upgrade lighting in the city park
•Plans to use the city’s remaining American Rescue Plan Act funds for a mobile generator and a vehicle for the Public Works Department
•To explore moving forward to contract with a third party — such as District 1 Fire & Rescue — for fire inspection services in the city (see related article, above).

The city also welcomed members of Girl Scout Troop 316 as the city proclaimed March 6-12 as Girl Scout Week in La Vernia (see photo, page 7). Also, April was proclaimed as Child Abuse Prevention Month in the city.

Council members and the mayor also withdrew into executive session for almost an hour to meet with the city attorney and discuss matters related to the City Council Code of Ethics and state statutes. Hutchinson did not participate in the closed session.

Council election canceled

The La Vernia City Council voted March 9 to cancel its scheduled May 6 election, after councilmen Garrett Rabel and Gary Gilbert were the sole candidates to file to run for three at-large council places. They will be declared elected, unopposed.
A third seat, currently served by Amanda Hutchinson, will be vacant in May.