Roving Reporter | "Climate Controlled Storage Frozen Out by Council" | Article and 9 Photos by Jeanette Larson

Climate Controlled Storage Frozen Out by Council: City Council Addresses Zoning Change Requests

Council votes. Pictured left to right: Rusty Day, J.D. Villa, Mayor CJ Wax, Pat Rios, and Barbara Gurtner

Adelaide Marlatt
The Rockport City Council met on Tuesday, May 23 to a room packed with people protesting zoning changes. Three zoning changes were the major action items on the agenda. One was passed without comment, one was tabled for more information, and one was defeated.

The first request (item #9 on the agenda) was to change zoning from single-family (R-1) to general business (B-1) on property along State Highway 35 Bypass and Corpus Christi Street. Kay Clark, who has spoken at other meetings, noted that the change is from the most restrictive to the least restricted. Clark is concerned about what will happen later, with further development, especially with no buffer zone between the property and residences. The state limits where an entrance to the affected property can be located, she said, and that can't be on the Bypass so would have to be on an already busy street. The Planning & Zoning Commission has recommended splitting the property and approving one parcel but not the other. There were a number of comments that expressed confusion about the P&Z recommendations and disagreement as to what the commission had actually decided. Because of this, the vote was tabled until a future meeting.

Signing in for Citizen's Comments

There were no objections to rezoning a parcel of land recently annexed into the city. That property at 1531 State Highway 188 will be rezoned from single family to general business and passed without dissent.

The big item of the evening was item #11, re-zoning eighteen acres along 1300 FM 3036 (north of Marion Drive) based on a Conditional Use Permit (CUP). About a dozen homeowners from the County Club spoke in opposition to the change. A petition had also been presented that would require a 75% majority vote by Council rather than a simple majority in order for the motion to pass.

Katrina Brown
Russ Roberts stated that residents have expressed their concerns at six or seven different meetings. The major concerns, reinforced by other speakers, are lower property values because of the storage center, lack of quiet enjoyment of property, no transition to buffer the area between business and residential areas, security, and drainage. John Hickcock stated that there was no evidence that the applicant would do anything to keep property values from going down. County Club had an appraiser give an opinion as to the future of property values for homes near a controlled storage unit. The appraiser indicated that property values will go down, not just in the area near the facility, but throughout the area. Other speakers addressed the CUP requirement that the use must be "necessary" and provided statistics from other controlled storage facilities in Rockport that indicate there is a surplus of storage units and more units are not necessary.

P&Z Commissioner Ruth Davis
responds to questions
Tina Atteberry was clearly emotional as she discussed past flooding on her property that, in her opinion, would be exacerbated by the proposed development. Atteberry stated that the developer has said that there is no flooding on the property. Russ Roberts mentioned that although the plan includes a 100' buffer on the Marion Street side, nothing is being proposed to help those along St. Peter Street. He postulated that Council has heard nothing from homeowners because they are primarily Vietnamese-Americans and therefore, they have not been "the squeaky wheel." Mayor Wax cautioned Roberts about using a "straw man" argument.

In response to these concerns, Council member Rusty Day noted that there is "no buffer requirement" and the project could go right up to the property lines. Realtor Mark Uhr promised that there won't be any clear cutting of trees and that flooding would be addressed in the plans. He also noted that no one from St. Peter Street had spoken up for or against the development. Roberts interjected that they had signed the petition requiring a super-majority vote by Council. Uhr further noted that in his discussions with other storage facility owners, little traffic comes through. It's "not a boat barn." He stated that he's been marketing the property for ten years and that it should have a business use. Uhr also noted that due to the expense of the property and the cost for the project, it might not move forward at all.

John Hickcock
Larry Pierce, whose project this would be, stated that water issues would be addressed and that the city requires all water to be held in retention until it is released. Therefore "flooding won't happen." Pierce also addressed security, stating that "without security there is no customer base." He has 35 years in the storage business and believes the need is there in Rockport for more. Rick Thompson, a Marion Drive resident, retorted that security means lights that are on all night coming over the backyard fences.

Tina Atteberry

Mark Uhr
Prior to the vote, Councilman Pat Rios asked if there was any way to compromise on the project. Councilman J.D. Villa asked if the County Club Homeowners Association had considered buying the land in order to control its use. The property is very expensive, said RCC HOA president, Adelaide Marlatt and that RCC HOA dues are $75 a year so could not cover that cost. Councilman Rusty Day responded that the land will go commercial at some point. Homeowners want nothing to go on the property "but don't want to buy it."

The vote was then taken as a recorded vote. Pat Rios and Rusty Day voted yes on the motion; Barbara Gurtner, J.D. Villa, and Mayor Wax voted no. For the motion to pass four of the five Council members would have needed to vote yes. Since this motion failed to pass, the issue is dead.


Jeanette Larson is a retired librarian and author. She and her husband, retired architect and artist Jim Larson, moved to Rockport several years ago for the birds, the beach, and the coastal community.

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