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A more than seven-month-long fight over the future of a neighborhood block in Government Hill will continue for at least one more month as San Antonio City Council voted to delay its vote on whether to change the property’s zoning from residential to commercial.
Councilwoman Jada Andrews-Sullivan (D2), whose district includes the Eastside neighborhood, was ready to approve the property owner’s request for commercial zoning that prohibited the sale of alcohol.
However, her colleagues on the digital dais said they’d like to see a better compromise arise out of the situation after hearing strong opposition from dozens of area residents.
Andrews-Sullivan’s motion to approve failed with seven “yes” votes, two “no” votes, and two abstentions. This particular zoning change required nine votes to pass because more than 20 percent of neighbors who live within 200 feet of the property were in opposition.
The councilwoman agreed to host more meetings between the residents, who have said they would compromise with a “C-1” commercial designation but were opposed to “C-2.” Previously, they were opposed to anything commercial. The rezoning is seen by some as an encroachment of commercial interests in their historic neighborhood.
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The property owner, Sara Martinez, wants C-2 zoning to maximize the price of a possible commercial ground lease in partnership with an adjacent property owner, her attorney Matthew Badders has said. The higher the zoning, the higher the price a property owner can get because more uses are allowed on the land.
That parcel, just south of Martinez’s, is owned by the Cloma Jackson Living Trust (managed by Frost Bank). It received approval of C-2 zoning from City Council last month.
Andrews-Sullivan had previously told neighbors that she would push for C-1, according to a recorded videoconference meeting played ahead of Thursday’s vote. The recording was from a meeting with neighbors including D’ette Cole, who lives directly north of Martinez’s property.
The councilwoman said she had changed her mind after meeting with more stakeholders.
“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds can’t change anything,” she said.
She found C-1 to be too restrictive for an area that should be able to attract a higher use and serve the population at nearby Fort Sam Houston.
She admitted that while she had met with several groups separately, she never met them all at the same time to discuss a path forward.
The coronavirus pandemic has made these community conversations even more difficult to find consensus on, said Councilwoman Ana Sandoval (D7), who abstained from voting on approval.
“I’ve seen [Andrews-Sullivan] work, and I know that she is trying her very best,” Sandoval said, adding that more time is needed.
It’s somewhat rare for Council members to side against a colleague on a zoning case. There’s generally an understanding that a district’s representative knows the ins and outs of a case best.
In this case, both Sandoval and Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) have received emails from concerned constituents, they said.
Treviño and Councilman John Courage (D9) voted against the zoning change. Councilman Clayton Perry (D10) joined Sandoval in abstention. The Council then voted unanimously in favor of delay.
It’s not the first time a zoning vote in this area has been delayed. In January, Andrews-Sullivan delayed a vote for a residential property nearby and called for the neighborhood and property owner to “unify” and come to a compromise.
Neighbors were strongly opposed to an earlier proposal to build a gas station on Martinez’ and Frost Bank lot in January. QuikTrip backed out of purchasing the property in February after the Zoning Commission rejected its request.
Now, the property owners are working with Vaquero Ventures to broker a deal with a restaurant, shopping center, or other business to agree to a ground lease, Badders said. Starbucks, one of the hundreds of companies Vaquero works with, has indicated that it won’t participate.
Council is slated to consider the case again during its Oct. 1 meeting.
Corrections: This article has been updated to clarify Council’s previous delay vote and correct the date for the next Council vote.