By Betsy Dolan
An overflow crowd is expected at tonight’s, March 7, workshop between the Sugar Land City Council and the Planning and Zoning Commission over recent recommendations for the Imperial Development project. On February 23, the Commission unanimously voted to recommend a controversial plan to build 625 apartments as part of the development’s General Plan Amendment. Tonight the City Council will discuss the entire project with the Commission and a large crowd is expected even though no action will be taken and citizens will not be allowed to speak.
The General Plan Amendment, submitted by Johnson Development, is largely a blue print for the entire Imperial Development project. The Commission held numerous meetings, workshops, and public hearings, in order to tweak different aspects of the plan. By far the most contentious has been the proposal to build apartments in two different phases on the site. Phase 1 would involve 300 apartments near Constellation Field. Phase 2 would include 325 apartments in the historic district near the Char House. Residents who live near the old Imperial Sugar Refinery have been very vocal throughout the process and did appeal their case again before the Commission’s vote.
“I’m very saddened and discouraged by what appears to be a general acceptance of apartments in the historic district”, said Mikie Groscurth of the Imperial Redevelopment Committee. “We have one shot at making this lovely historical district a fantastic place for all of us to enjoy and we will support it enough to where we won’t need the apartments.”
“We know this will cause a spike in crime”, said Tony Johnson who lives in the historic district. “Why not put this a little farther away from these residential areas. It is Planning and Zoning’s job to look out for the residents of Sugar Land.”
While the majority of the citizens who spoke during the public comment period were against the apartments, one person did speak in favor of the plan. Jane Goodsill who lives in the historic district said she’s been looking out her kitchen window at a dead industrial zone for 9 years. “My worse fear is that we’ll end up with a dead redeveloped area. Pockets of urban living add desirable housing options in Sugar Land.”
After the vote, some of the Commissioners spoke to those who had opposed the apartments commending them for their organization and diligence.
“The fact that we started with 1600 apartments and we got it down to 625 is a credit to the people who have put the pressure out there,” said Kathy Kuebner, Planning and Zoning Chair.
“A lot of times it probably appeared as though we haven’t listened”, said Commissioner Joe Zimmerman. “We did listen but you didn’t get everything that you wanted and we recognize that. But we believe that this is a superior development. I think it will be something the city of Sugar Land is going to be proud of.”
Tonight’s joint meeting between the Sugar Land City Council and Planning and Zoning starts at 5:30 in the Cane Room at City Hall. The City Hall Council Chamber will be open for overflow. There will not be an opportunity for public comment at the workshop, nor is Johnson Development making a presentation. However, there will be a public hearing set before the City Council as the project moves forward for City Council consideration.