The Cresta Bella neighborhood is located just west of I-10.
The Cresta Bella neighborhood is located just west of Interstate 10. Credit: Courtesy / Apple Maps

An Irving developer, whose proposed 350-unit apartment complex had caused outrage among neighbors in a Northwest San Antonio community, has withdrawn its request to rezone a tract of land.

After receiving multiple phone calls and emails from residents of the Cresta Bella neighborhood over the last few days, City Councilman Manny Pelaez (D8) attempted to soothe tensions and assuage the fears of about 40 residents who attended a meeting Monday night at Carnahan Elementary School.

But many residents of Cresta Bella, located along Interstate 10 north of The Rim and La Cantera, remained skeptical despite Pelaez announcing that Heatley Capital had pulled its rezoning request. Some called into question their communication with the councilman’s office as well as the objectivity of City staff and commissions that consider these and other development proposals.

The City’s Planning Commission on Jan. 9 reviewed Heatley Capital’s request to change the future land use of a 14-acre property on Cresta Bella Drive from rural estate tier to general urban tier.

The developer, through its local legal representatives from the law firm Kaufman and Killen, requested a continuance of the case, which drew criticism from several area neighbors at the Planning Commission meeting. Residents said the proposed apartment complex was too dense and would negatively affect traffic, drainage, and infrastructure in the community.

The Zoning Commission was scheduled to consider the rezoning request Tuesday. But Pelaez told the crowd at Monday’s meeting that the current proposal wasn’t going anywhere.

Pelaez said he and his staff found the proposed apartment project incompatible with the neighborhood, which already is home to two other complexes totaling 700 units. He also expressed concern that Heatley Capital had yet to reach any type of compromise with a growing opposition. The developer was not represented at Monday’s meeting.

“There’s nothing that gives me confidence that this would pass at City Hall, period, full stop,” Pelaez said.

Councilman Manny Pelaez (D8) speaks to Cresta Bella residents during a community meeting at Carnahan Elementary School. Credit: Edmond Ortiz for the Rivard Report

Pelaez spent much of the meeting explaining the City process a development proposal goes through, including how staff in the planning and zoning departments study each case before making recommendations to their respective advisory commissions.

A few people asserted that City staff at the Planning Commission meeting presented inaccurate information about the neighborhood and how it fit into the City’s land-use planning scheme. City staff had recommended approving the proposed land use change and rezoning.

Other residents said they felt Pelaez was more supportive of the developer’s interests than those of the neighborhood, and a few criticized the process that requires the City to inform only property owners within 200 feet of a proposed project site.

Homeowner Elyse Ault said she and her neighbors want to hear directly from the City about the proposal even though they do not live within the 200-foot radius.

“For all we know, if [the proposal] comes back next month, but there’s no sign telling us about it, I feel like it’s going to be our responsibility to check the [meeting] agenda each time to see if we’re on there,” Ault said.

The presence of three homeowners associations covering the neighborhood complicates communications about the proposed development, residents added.

“It’s why we put the onus not on City staff, but on developers [to inform the community],” Pelaez said.

Pelaez pledged to be in closer touch with residents if anything were to happen with this or other developable properties in the immediate area.

“It’s amazing how much power the Zoning Commission has over our City, that is scary,” homeowner Pam Fuller remarked. “Like [Pelaez’s aides] said: once something is zoned for apartments, it’s a done deal.”

Edmond Ortiz

Edmond Ortiz

Edmond Ortiz, a lifelong San Antonian, is a freelance reporter/editor who has worked with the San Antonio Express-News and Prime Time Newspapers.