Scott Ball / Rivard Report
City Council on Thursday unanimously approved a proposed rezoning that will accommodate construction of three new single-family homes on a single lot in Dignowity Hill.
Abel and Gabriela Morin originally requested adjusting the Infill Development Rezoning (IDZ) on their vacant residential lot at 321 N. Hackberry St. to allow construction of four homes. The previous rezoning permitted some commercial usage on the lot.
The initial proposal sparked some contention in Dignowity Hill, an Eastside neighborhood that has been a hotbed of infill redevelopment in recent years.
Christian Pesce spoke at an April 2 Zoning Commission meeting on behalf of the Neighborhood Development Advisory Committee of the Dignowity Hill Neighborhood Association (DHNA). He said the association supported the original four-house proposal.
But residents such as Joseph Garcia, Liz Franklin, and Crystal Lira expressed opposition to the project. They expressed worries that that four structures would be too dense for the property and that the structures would be too high and out of character with the surrounding neighborhood.
Nearly 30 property owners based immediately around 321 N. Hackberry expressed opposition to the four-home proposal, according to City staff.
The Zoning Commission recommended approval by a 6-4 vote April 2. City zoning staff also recommended approval.
But the local developer, Pryme Homes, after talking with DHNA and many of the concerned neighbors, arrived at a compromise with the project’s critics that included downsizing the project to three homes and ensuring the house fronting North Hackberry would be no higher than the home immediately next door. The developer also agreed to keep the two other houses at two stories.
Joseph Garcia appeared before Council on Thursday, saying he and fellow project critics are more accepting of three homes as long as Pryme Homes keeps its end of the bargain.
Garcia, however, said he and many homeowners that were supposed to receive the City’s notice about the proposed rezoning were not notified.
Garcia added that this and other redevelopments around Dignowity Hill, a historic district, deserve full discussion from community members, especially with such development increasing property values around the neighborhood.
“We are investors. We are the ones who built Dignowity Hill,” he said.
Garcia said developers coming to Eastside communities such as Dignowity Hill must be upfront and fully transparent with neighbors about their plans from the start.
“How are we to work with – and more importantly, trust – these people who come to our streets?” he added.
Cullen Jones, DHNA board secretary, told the Council that the association supports the downsized proposal. He said he was happy that Pryme Homes was willing enough to hear out concerned neighbors and make a few concessions.
Jones added that in many instances where a proposed development sparks controversy, the developer and opponents fail to communicate directly with each other.
“To have a compromise at the heart of conversation was so much more productive than the either/or argument that we often find ourselves in,” Jones said of the talks between Pryme Homes and neighbors.
Councilman Art Hall (D2) said the many residents who opposed the four-house proposal were “loud and clear.” He thanked neighbors and the developer for talking out their differences.
“To come to this agreement from that level of opposition is significant,” Hall added.