After heated exchanges between a developer and neighbors, the City’s Planning Commission voted 5-3 in favor of the developer’s plans to build a 288-unit apartment complex on 14 acres off Callaghan Road in the small Ingram Hills neighborhood.
A security officer was called in to monitor the situation when a shouting match took place between local developer Mike Hogan and a few frustrated neighbors, but no physical altercation occurred.
More than a dozen residents signed up to speak out against the Majestic Ranch project, which they said would bring too many people to the area, clog roads, and over-crowd already strained schools.
A few neighbors said they welcomed the density.
Hogan, president and founder of HomeSpring Realty Partners, said there is little else that could be done with the lot to turn a profit and cited the City’s recently-approved SA Tomorrow comprehensive plan that called for more affordable housing and density within Loop 410.
The “modern, high-quality” apartments featuring one-, two-, and three-bedroom units, a pool, a clubhouse, and other amenities would fulfill the city’s larger goals, Hogan said.
Most of the commissioners agreed, but expressed sympathy for the neighbors.
“We’re pitting the desires of some of the people in the surrounding community … to some of the goals of the City, which is more infill development and more opportunities for affordable housing,” said Commissioner Brad Carson. “This is not a problem that can be easily solved.”
Because the land has sat vacant for years, Carson voted in favor of the request to amend the Ingram Hills Neighborhood Plan to allow for high density residential instead of single-family and commercial development on the property. The Zoning Commission will take up its own amendments regarding the property next week, but staff said they will likely be postponed until the Nov. 15 meeting.
“It seems to me that (the neighborhood plan) ought to be upheld first,” said Commissioner Mary Rogers, who voted against the plan change. “I think the additional noise and traffic create a problem … it changes the entire environment of the neighborhood, and I sympathize with them.”
If City Council ultimately approves the land use plan and zoning amendments, Hogan will apply for $14 million in federal low-income housing tax credits and offer units to residents with incomes below 60% the area median income, which was about $27,800, according to the latest U.S. Census data.
Property owner George Block, who lives in Ingram Hills but will soon be moving downtown, said after the meeting that he purchased the land years ago to protect it from commercial or industrial uses.
“I bought it to protect the neighborhood,” Block said, “so that there would be people there, not used cars.”
Block still owns the land and the sale is pending Council’s approval of the developer’s requests.
“It’s a real investment in the neighborhood. It’s huge in an area that needs it and hasn’t had investment,” he said.
As noted by the San Antonio Express-News last week, Hogan has donated money to several City Council members and Mayor Ivy Taylor, including Councilman Cris Medina who represents the northeast District 7 that includes Ingram Hills.
Medina told the newspaper he is undecided on the project and campaign contributions have “zero influence” on how he votes.
Residents said there is already plenty of affordable housing in the neighborhood and single family homes would be more appropriate for the site.
“It is designed for single family residences facing the interior, to the neighborhood and then commercial on Callaghan,” Richard Menchaca, a longtime Ingram Hills resident said after the vote. “This is an affront to neighborhood plans when commissions or planning committees take it upon themselves to change things arbitrarily.”
The neighborhood welcomes low-income housing, Menchaca said. “But something so contrary to the flavor of the neighborhood is really at issue here.”
Two, large electricity lines that run along Callaghan Road and Zarzamora Creek make the property almost impossible to section off into smaller lots in a profitable way, Hogan said during his presentation to the commission. “I’m going to call it a creek right now but it’s really a drainage ditch.
“We’re going to make it look as nice as we can,” he added later.