Technicality delays zone change

A technicality thwarted an effort to change a residential subdivision into a light industrial zone at Monday’s Mission City Council meeting.

Attorney Mario Rodriguez, representing several residents of the Melba Carter Subdivision, which is east of Conway Avenue and north of Trinity Road, told the council during a public hearing that the notice sent to residents did not match the item that was presented to and approved by the planning and zoning commission. The notice sent to residents was missing a line in the legal description of the property.

City-of-Mission-logoAfter meeting in closed session with the council, City Attorney David Guerra asked the city not to take any action because of the “discrepancy in the property description.

“Therefore, you’re going to have to start at the beginning through P&Z and start over,” Guerra said. “The effect of that is it is not rezoned at this time.”

Planning Director Danny Tijerina and City Manager Martin Garza both emphasized that the Future Land Use map calls for the entire area to be zoned light industrial.

Nobody is forcing residents to sell their land, Garza said, adding the property will be worth more in future generations if someone wants to sell it. He also debunked an argument by the residents that their property taxes would increase. Garza said when appraising property, the county appraisal district looks at what the property currently is used for, “not necessarily its zoning.”

“They’re in a very unique situation,” Garza said. “What the city feels is it’ll be harder for families to continue a residential area that we know is getting invaded by industrial and commercial.

“We feel that in the longer run, it affects those families, so we wanted to be able to address that now.”

In July, the council rejected an item to rezone a lot within Melba Carter Subdivision to commercial despite protests from Mayor Norberto “Beto” Salinas. The zone change would have allowed for a commercial business to set up a site for storage units, commercial trucks and trailers.

Because more than 20 percent of the property owners in the area opposed the zone change, the city council needed four votes to approve it. However, it failed to get the necessary votes with Councilman Armando O’Caña and Jessica Ortega-Ochoa opposing the motion.

At the time, Salinas rallied for the zone change, emphasizing the new business would have meant 20 new jobs in Mission. He added that the area never should have been residential. City administrators have pointed out not only is the industrial park next door, but the sewer department is across the street and plans are on the way to expand the city’s sanitation department nearby.

In an Aug. 27 planning and zoning commission meeting, members approved a city-initiated move to turn the entire neighborhood, including the lots proposed in July, into light industrial. According to the minutes of the planning and zoning meeting, out of 65 lots, 34 are houses, 16 are commercial and 12 are vacant.

When or if the zone change is approved, residents will be able to remain in their houses as long as they want, but to build a new house or expand, a homeowner in the zone would have to go through the city to request a variance from the city’s zoning ordinance.

Planning and zoning recommended the light industrial zone change in a 4-2 vote with commission members Abiel Flores and Mario Garza casting dissenting votes. At that meeting, only two residents were on record as opposing the zone change.

Flores said he’d rather the city go through the eminent domain process because then it would need to prove that there is substantial public interest in the move, according to minutes of the meeting. 

Rodriguez questioned the timing of the new movement to zone the entire community as light industrial, and he pointed out the Melba Carter Subdivision is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Mission.

“Now it almost seems like a round of retaliation,” Rodriguez said. “They come back and they start an effort to rezone everyone’s lot, not just one lot. Something seems really unfair.

“We understand progress is important and there’s growth concerns, but we really believe it needs to happen on a lot-by-lot basis, and not just summarily wipe out an entire neighborhood.”

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