By Betsy Dolan
Homeowners in historic Sugar Land will have another chance to voice their opinion over a controversial plan to build 625 apartments as part of the Imperial Development project at a public hearing on Tuesday, April 3, at Sugar Land’s City Hall. The plan calls for 300 apartments to be built near Constellation Field and the other 325 to be built in the historic district on the site of the old Imperial Sugar Refinery property. The apartments, said the city, are necessary for the development’s viability and the city’s future growth but some residents are concerned about lower property values, increased traffic and crime, as well as, a reduced quality of life.
The issue has been accelerating in recent weeks after the Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously voted to recommend the apartments at their meeting February 23. The Commission then held a joint meeting with the City Council on March 7 to discuss the project but the Imperial Development Committee, a citizens group opposed to the apartments, felt unfairly treated after the developer, Johnson Development, was allowed to speak but residents were not. In an email to the “Fort Bend Star”, city spokesman, Doug Adolph said that “what the City sent by e-mail was that Johnson would not be making a presentation at the meeting. Although the mayor did ask them to address several questions, they did not come with a presentation, nor did they give a presentation.”
Despite a petition signed by over 2,000 concerned citizens and formal opposition to the apartments by homeowner’s associations in the area, the IRC said they feel stymied and ignored by the Commission and Council, who “have turned a deaf ear” to their concerns. The City disagreed, stating that feedback from residents was a key reason Johnson Development reduced their initial plan for 1,950 apartments down to 625 and the number of apartments in the historic district from 459 to 325. At the Commission’s request, Johnson Development also agreed to hold off on building the apartments in the historic district until the first phase near the ballpark was at 75 percent occupancy.
City Councilman Tom Abraham is also conflicted about the Imperial apartment issue and that there is no easy answer. “I don’t have a problem with the apartments but I am still concerned about the location,” he said. “I feel that all of the citizens concerns have to be heard and that we have to do the right thing.”
Compromise is possible, said the IRC, if the City will agree to build all 625 apartments along the Highway 6 corridor rather than putting 325 in the historic district. In a letter to the City, the Oyster Creek Property Owner’s Association said, “We recognize that apartments are viewed as a necessity for the viability of this development, and therefore recommend that the second phase be located in close proximity to the baseball field and Highway 6 in order promote this urban lifestyle in an area that will not negatively impact the single family residences that already exist.”
Another option, said the IRC, is for the City to consider waiting to approve the 325 apartments in the historic district until they see the success rate of the first phase of 300 apartments near the ballpark.
The public hearing on the apartments will be part of the City Council’s regular meeting. It begins at 5:30 on Tuesday, April 3, in Sugar Land’s City Hall.
1) during various public meetings with Planning and Zoning and City Council, many residents offered the idea that the City wait and see how Phase I apartments in the Ballpark District do before building any new ones in the Historic District. This seems like a more logical solution than approving both locations at this time. You could force the developer to come back to get approval for Phase II after proving Phase I has been a successful assuring that the units are occupied and the city is not over built. 2) Another idea is to consider another location for the apartments, like the highway 6 corridor.