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Peñitas Planning and Zoning Commission rejects proposal for apartments on Main Street

The Peñitas Planning and Zoning Commission rejected a proposal to build apartments on Main Street during a contentious meeting last week.

More than 20 people who oppose the project showed up for a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting on Aug. 18. After a lengthy discussion, the commissioners voted 3-2 to reject the preliminary plat for the Main Estate Apartments subdivision, which is located near the intersection of Main Street and Maribel Street.

“You have people, in general — not all of them, but in general — people who are not establishing roots in the community. They’re going to be in and out. That’s a big concern,” said Jose Luis “J.L.” Garza, a retired principal who serves on the Planning and Zoning Commission. “The rest of the people in that area all have single-family dwellings. That means they’ve got roots, buried deep.”

Juan Jose Garcia, a local businessman, purchased the 5-acre property in February, according to deed records filed with the Hidalgo County Clerk’s Office. Garcia wants to build 18 four-unit apartment buildings, according to information provided to members of the Planning and Zoning Commission during the meeting.

Many people who live nearby, however, don’t want Garcia to build apartments.

More than 20 people attended the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting. Not a single person spoke in support of the project. Garcia didn’t show up.

Members of the Planning and Zoning Commission also had questions and concerns.

“What’s going to happen if they have teenagers and they’re running around? That area right there is mostly senior citizens that are retired. It’s a very quiet neighborhood. The same way to the south,” said Armando Garza, a former city councilman who serves on the Planning and Zoning Commission. “You start bringing in all these people. Yeah, sure, they’re going to be teachers. Not all of them are going to be teachers. And even if they’re teachers, they have a husband or a wife, and they have children. And if the children are going to be running around, then we’re going to have gangs and we’re going to have all these neighborhood break-ins.”

Mayor Ramiro Loya, who serves on the Planning and Zoning Commission, pushed back against criticism from the crowd.

“What I’m seeing here is that you don’t want the city to grow,” Loya said.

The crowd responded with a chorus of “No.”

Some people in the crowd apparently believed former Mayor Rodrigo “Rigo” Lopez had a stake in the project.

“Is the mayor the owner?” Loya said, referring to Lopez. “No, he’s not the owner.”

Many in the crowd remained skeptical.

“Let me tell you one thing,” Loya said. “If those apartments were being built next to my house, I would love it.”

The crowd responded with derision.

“Let me tell you why,” Loya said. “It would beautify the area.”

A woman told Loya that he just didn’t understand the situation.

“You don’t know the kids today,” the woman said. “I have two teenagers and a lot of kids now in high school are a lot of delinquents. You don’t know the type of people that are going to live there.”

“Delinquents are everywhere, ma’am,” Loya said.

“Exactly,” the woman said. “But why am I going to have them closer to me, then?”

City Councilman Jose Roel “J.R.” Flores, who presided over the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, attempted to reason with the crowd.

“You can’t control who’s going to buy the house next to you, you know. It’s as simple as that,” Flores said. “For all we know, it could be a sex-registered offender there. Or it could be a psycho, given all the things that we’re going through at this point.”

Armando Garza suggested that Peñitas review who moves in.

“That is not a legal, appropriate thing to question, whether somebody is living there as an owner or as a tenant, a renter, a visitor,” said attorney Frank Garza, who represents the city. “Those are not things that the city government has any legal right to go and interfere with.”

After a 40-minute discussion, the Planning and Zoning Commission voted.

Loya and Commissioner Jo Ann Zamora motioned to approve the preliminary plat. Jose Luis “J.L.” Garza and Amador Hernandez opposed the motion.

That left Armando Garza to break the tie. Before he could vote, though, Frank Garza suggested that Armando Garza abstain because he owned property close to the proposed development.

“I’m more than 200 feet away,” Armando Garza said.

Frank Garza also suggested that Armando Garza had another conflict of interest.

“As I understand, you took an interest in campaigning against this item before today’s meeting,” Frank Garza said.

Armando Garza denied that he campaigned against the item.

“I haven’t been campaigning,” Armando Garza said. “I don’t have time to be campaigning.”

Armando Garza said “guys” had given Frank Garza “bull crap” information.

“I don’t get ‘bull crap’ from ‘guys,’” Frank Garza said. “I’m talking to city staff, sir.”

Armando Garza dismissed the attorney’s concerns.

“I’m entitled to vote,” Armando Garza said. “And I vote ‘nay.’”

The Planning and Zoning Commission may review the final plat next month.

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