By Karen Daniels
For a recap, at last week’s Planning & Zoning Commission meeting, it was voted not to recommend the zoning change for an additional 35 homes in the Promenade subdivision from Primary Corridor to Single Family Residence. But they still had a chance to go before Stafford’s City Council and try again.
Before the public hearing was opened, the City’s new Building Director and Zoning Administrator, Chris Riggs, reminded Mayor Scarcella and Councilmembers about the necessary installation of a 50 foot barrier behind the proposed new homes for “buffering requirements.” This began a 30 minute discussion over who pays, where it goes, and the differences between retail and light industrial. The Mayor put his cards on the table: he’s against the zoning change. “We are trying to preserve this city. This will not enhance, but have serious negative effects.” He said that Stafford’s general obligation debt would be gone in 2014, and adding more homes wasn’t how this feat was accomplished.
The public hearing was opened, and of the 12 individuals that spoke, those for and against were evenly split. Each side did a fairly good job of getting the word out. Several residents mentioned that Stafford was really in need of a grocery store, but grocery chains have decided against Stafford because there aren’t enough “roof tops.” Proponents for the SFR change stated that SMSD school district would benefit from new homes and there are already enough vacant commercial properties in Stafford. When the public hearing was closed the Mayor responded that: he’s currently working with Congressman Al Green about a future grocery store; SMSD attendance reached it’s highest numbers this year; and every city has vacant commercial property.
For three hours this agenda item was discussed, though much of it was by City Attorney, Art Pertile, who patiently corrected everyone on what the ordinance says, what the limitations are, and what can and can’t be mentioned (like the price of the homes). Little by little, the packed audience left and went home. Councilmember Ken Matthew said he was in favor of the homes, but opposed to the awkward “L” shape of the property. A vote was taken to deny the P&Z recommendation, which passed 4/3. A new motion was made to change the awkward “L” shape, which in doing so would eliminate approximately 1/3 of the land, roughly eleven homes. This vote had to be taken twice due to the confusing phrasing of the new motion, but it passed 4/3. Residents considered the addition of 24 new homes to their subdivision a “victory.” When home builder, Carl Stephens, was asked how he felt about the ruling, he said, “I have more lots coming out, than I did going in.”