After facing opposition from area residents, the Zoning Commission, and the Eastside City Council member, Oklahoma-based QuikTrip Corp. has backed out of its plans to open a gas station and convenience store in San Antonio’s Government Hill neighborhood. However, a residential-to-commercial zoning request from another business owner just one block away was granted by City Council on Thursday, stoking neighbors’ fears of encroaching commercial development into the near Eastside neighborhood.
QuikTrip withdrew its request late last month, an attorney representing the company confirmed.
“Unfortunately, everyone lost,” said financial advisor Carlos Resendez, who represents the property owner whom QuikTrip was going to buy the land from if the zoning request was granted. The property owner and QuikTrip had agreed to help the tenants – who currently live in the nine homes located there – find new homes to rent or purchase.
“The tenants lost an opportunity to relocate and some lost an opportunity to be a first-time homebuyer,” Resendez said. “The neighborhood lost [and] gone is the opportunity to develop the neighborhood to attract viable businesses to serve the community.”
Neighbors said the gas station would lower their property values, attract crime, and have a negative impact on the area’s health and safety.
Many of the same neighbors showed up to City Council chambers on Thursday to oppose a zoning request from realtor and historic home redeveloper Fernando Lozano, who successfully rezoned a home to become a showroom and office for his business, Pecan Tree Realty.
“No one is shedding tears that QuikTrip [officials] changed their mind,” said Matthew Badders, an attorney representing Lozano, but this request is for a less-intensive use compared to a gas station.
The home at 2551 N. Interstate 35 will essentially remain the same, but is now zoned as “neighborhood commercial,” which is the same zoning often used for small offices, animal and pet services, antique stores, bakeries, music stores, convenience stores, and restaurants.
Requests like this “threaten to deplete essential housing stock” in San Antonio, said D’ette Cole, who lives two blocks away from Lozano’s property. “Cultural preservation is what is at stake here … [we’re] chipping away of the character and health of our neighborhood.”
The Zoning Commission and neighbors suggested that the property owner compromise by keeping the current zoning, but adding a conditional use that would allow the real estate office to open. That way, if the property is sold, or if they want to change the use of the building, the owner will have to go through a public process again.
Councilwoman Ana Sandoval (D7) asked City staff if it was possible for the business to operate how it wants – including hours it can be open – through a conditional use request.
“Yes … but that would require a site plan,” said Melissa Ramirez, assistant director of the City’s Development Services Department. Lozano would have to file an entirely new request.
Council’s vote was already delayed from its January meeting, as Councilwoman Jada Andrews-Sullivan (D2), who represents the East Side, called for the neighborhood and property owner to “unify” and come to a compromise. The Government Hill Alliance voted to support the project. Meanwhile, the Government Hill Community Association was opposed.
“I look at Mr. Lozano and I see someone who did not have that fear to go into a neighborhood and say I want to do something different,” Andrews-Sullivan said.
As of 4 p.m. on Wednesday, 10 out of the 13 responses submitted to the City from property owners within 200 feet of the property were supportive of the zoning change. A 14th response recorded by the city from a property owner outside 200 feet was against the change.
That count was challenged by residents in opposition, but Andrews-Sullivan said, since the alliance and association can’t agree on the case, she will follow what the immediate neighbors want. She made the motion to approve the request and Councilman John Courage (D10) cast the lone vote against it.
“I watched over the years as little by little [a street near where I grew up] became more and more commercial and more and more of my neighbors across the street ended up moving out because they were backed up to commercial property,” Courage said. “It changed the whole integrity of the neighborhood.”
The construction of Interstate 35 already disrupted the neighborhood decades ago, he said, and commercial zoning only increases that.
“Don’t start taking houses – it makes it easier for the next one to become neighborhood commercial,” Courage said.