A property owner in the Government Hill neighborhood has agreed to a zoning compromise – nearly a year in the making – on a contested piece of property near Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston.
Residents living near the property originally wanted to keep the land zoned for residential use because nine homes currently stand there, but said they would compromise and agree to light commercial (C-1) zoning to avoid the possibility of a gas station being built on the nearly 2-acre plot.
The rezoning was seen by some neighbors as an encroachment of commercial interests into the historic neighborhood. The property is located at the northwest corner of North Walters Street and the Interstate 35 access road.
On Wednesday, an attorney for property owner Sara Martinez provided a written memo that stated she will be requesting the City Council’s support of C-1 zoning on Thursday. The agreement included the signatures of Martinez, Government Hill Alliance President Rose Hill, and Fernando Lozano, who owns a commercial property nearby.
It’s unclear if other neighbors will sign the letter of agreement, but those who live within 200 feet of Martinez’s property accept the compromise, said resident D’ette Cole.
“We see this as positive and yet are guarded, as several times before we’ve had convincing emails and [virtual] discussions with both [attorney] Matt Badders and [Councilwoman Jada Andrews-Sullivan] promising C-1 only [to have them] abandon those promises at the dais or in front of … zoning and planning [commissions],” Cole told the San Antonio Report.
Andrews-Sullivan (D2), whose district includes the Eastside neighborhood, was ready to approve C-2NA zoning for the site in September. That commercial zoning designation would have prohibited the sale of alcohol but allowed higher-intensity uses there. Ultimately, not enough of her colleagues on the dais agreed, so the council vote was delayed to allow more time for the property owners to negotiate with neighbors.
“[C-1] has never been off the table or rejected,” said Badders, Martinez’s attorney. “This is why we asked last month for an extension [of City Council’s vote] to Nov. 5, and we have clearly used the time that was granted to us productively. My client has found a way to make C-1 zoning work. … The neighborhood association wanted a win-win, so we have arrived at one.”
The Government Hill Alliance, which sided with property owners on previous zoning change requests, is not the only residents’ group in the gentrifying neighborhood and often conflicts with the Government Hill Community Association and Government Hill United.
Martinez is in her 70s, owns the northern 1.1 acres of the parcel, and no longer wants to be a residential landlord, Badders has said. Her tenants moved out this year.
In August, City Council granted higher-intensity commercial zoning (C-2) to the southern portion of the parcel (roughly 0.7 acres), owned by the Jackson Cloma Living Trust, which is managed by Frost Bank. That zoning came with the stipulation that any commercial business wouldn’t sell alcohol and that a gas station would not be built there.
Both property owners were working with Vaquero Ventures to broker a deal with a restaurant, convenience store, or other business to agree to a ground lease. Starbucks, one of the hundreds of companies Vaquero works with, has indicated that it won’t participate.
Asked if Vaquero Ventures is will still be involved in the parcel’s development, Badders declined to comment. A Vaquero executive did not immediately respond to an email Wednesday.
The C-1 zoning designation would limit buildings to 5,000 square feet. Examples of permitted uses include a grocery store, plant nursery, small restaurants or cafés, and some retail stores. Outdoor dining is permitted.
Neighbors were strongly opposed to a proposal made in January to build a gas station there. QuikTrip backed out of purchasing the property in February after the Zoning Commission rejected its rezoning request.