By Betsy Dolan
Sugar Land Mayor James Thompson called last week’s joint meeting between the City Council and the Planning & Zoning Commission a “first” but residents of historic Sugar Land say they’re more concerned with preserving history than making history. They’re upset over a plan that would put 625 apartments in the historic district as part of the Imperial Development project. Last week, the City Council and Commission held a joint meeting to discuss the plan after the Commission unanimously voted to recommend the apartments at their meeting on February 23.
Information on the city’s web site prior to the meeting stated that there would be no action taken, no opportunity for public comment and the applicant, Johnson Development, would not be allowed to speak. However residents of the historic district say Johnson did speak at the invitation of Mayor Thompson.
“I was disappointed and I viewed it as a slap in the face that the mayor invited Johnson to speak three or four times and we weren’t allowed to respond,” said Yocel Alonso, an attorney and resident of the historic district.
“We were frozen out,” said Leon Anhaiser, a former Imperial Sugar executive and resident of the historic district. “Johnson had free access to the podium without the citizens being able to say a word.”
The Fort Bend Star did attempt to contact Mayor Thompson and several council members by email and phone for reaction but were unable to reach them.
The Imperial Development plan calls for 300 apartments near Constellation Field in Phase 1 and the other 325 near the Char House as part of Phase 2. The Imperial Redevelopment Committee, of which Alonso and Anhaiser belong, say they would accept the Phase 2 apartments along Highway 6 rather than in or near the Char House but so far that idea has not taken hold among city officials.
“For 50 years we have fought apartments in Sugar Land,” said Anhaiser. We want to be part of a community that protects homeowners. This is contrary to what Sugar Land was built on.”
Yocel and Anhaiser say they plan to keep fighting along with the other 2,000 residents who live in the historic district and others who oppose the apartments. To date, three Homeowner’s Associations in the historic district have officially voted against the apartments, most recently the Venetian Estates HOA. Petitions are circulating and residents are being encouraged to continue emailing their council members and attend the next public hearing on the apartments which has not been scheduled yet. The bigger issue, though for those who oppose the apartments is getting at least four council members on their side.
“This is only round two,” said Alonso. “We only need 4 votes. If we get four votes, game over.”