The City of San Antonio’s Zoning Commission voted 8-1 Tuesday against a request for a zoning change in Government Hill that would allow a gas station to be built.
Commissioners who voted against the property’s zoning change from residential to commercial said the gas station would be “too close” to a large area of single-family homes.
“For me this is simple … I don’t think [this type of commercial zoning] should be coming into this residential neighborhood,” said Commissioner Francine Romero (D8) after listening to neighbors testify, overwhelmingly in opposition, for more than an hour before the vote.
The Zoning Commission is made up of citizens appointed by City Council members and the mayor.
Commissioner Antwon Toson (D2), who represents the East Side, where the Government Hill neighborhood is located, was not present at the meeting but told his colleagues that he was inclined to deny the request.
A parallel request to change the area’s land use plan will be heard by the Planning Commission on Wednesday. That citizen commission will also provide a recommendation to City Council, which is slated to take the final vote on the zoning and plan amendment on Feb. 20.
Councilwoman Jada Andrews-Sullivan (D2), who represents the East Side, told the Rivard Report on Wednesday afternoon that she will not support the zoning change.
“The people have been heard and their voices matter,” she said via text.
Residents – some who would live less than 200 feet away from the gas station – said they were concerned it would decrease the value of their homes while increasing crime.
“Let’s keep these [streets as] family streets,” said Caleb James, who recently purchased a home nearby.
Truitt Priddy, QuikTrip’s real estate manager for the region, told the commission that the company’s safety and security measures are top-of-the-line and the store would be an asset to the community. Five percent of store profits are donated to area nonprofits, he said, and each store on average employs about 20 people.
“We’re going to be a great neighbor,” Priddy said. “Eighty percent of gas stations in [San Antonio] are within 500 feet of [properties zoned] residential.”
The two-acre property in question, the northwest corner at the intersection of North Walters Street and the Interstate 35 access road, is the only corner along all of I-35 that has residential use next to a primary arterial street, Priddy said. Fort Sam Houston’s main entrance is just a few blocks north on North Walters Street.
There are several large gas stations nearby, he said, but none that provide the service and cleanliness that a QuikTrip provides. The Oklahoma-based company has opened a dozen stores in San Antonio and plans to open a total of 100 between San Antonio and Austin over the next several years.
If the zoning change is approved by City Council, QuikTrip will finalize its purchase of the properties currently owned by Government Hill resident Sara Martinez and the Jackson Cloma Living Trust, which is managed by Frost Bank. The nine homes on the property would be demolished and salvaged for materials, but QuikTrip and Martinez have agreed to monetarily assist current residents in finding other places to rent or buy.
But according to the City’s housing policy framework adopted in 2018, San Antonio should be preserving its affordable housing stock, said Wendell Davis, a city planning consultant hired by the neighbors.
“If this zoning is approved it’ll set precedent for the nearby lots … injecting a highway business into a neighborhood,” Davis said.
A request to change a smaller lot from single-family to commercial across Edgar Avenue from the proposed QuikTrip was considered by City Council last week, but that vote was delayed until Feb. 20.
Commissioner Patricia Gibbons (D9), who cast the lone vote in favor of the change, said the neighborhood should welcome QuikTrip.
“I’ve gone in the neighborhood and I don’t feel safe,” Gibbons told the residents from the dais. “I look at some of your houses and I don’t really feel very safe over there – so I don’t go over there very often.”
If QuikTrip is approved by City Council, she would at least have one safe place to stop, she said.
Her comments received an audible, collective gasp of offense from the residents.
Other commissioners lauded the community outreach and work that QuikTrip has put into its proposal but remained concerned that this is the wrong location for a large gas station. The store would have eight pumps for a total of 16 pumping positions.
“QuikTrip has gone above and beyond. The site plan responded to [neighborhood concerns],” said Commissioner Robert Sipes (D7), noting that the company proposed adding sidewalks to adjacent streets and building an eight-foot masonry wall around the store. “It’s just too big for this area.”