Two separate zoning requests in rapidly changing urban core neighborhoods in San Antonio were delayed for two very different reasons Thursday during City Council’s afternoon meeting.
Council agreed with a developer to delay consideration of a zoning change that would allow for an apartment complex of up to 39 units in the Lavaca neighborhood south of downtown San Antonio after objections from the Lavaca Neighborhood Association. And the concerns of a handful of neighbors in the Government Hill neighborhood put a real estate agent’s plan to turn his rehabbed historic home into an office on hold.
Patrick Christensen, an attorney representing the apartment complex developer, said a request for zoning that would have allowed eight of the units to be used as short-term rentals (STR) will be withdrawn. A variance request to allow for the sale of alcohol on the premises also will be removed, Christensen said.
The developer, Aspire Multifamily, is working with City staff on other clarifications on the City’s Unified Development Code, he said. City Council is now slated to consider the change during its Feb. 20 meeting.
The current STR ordinance would allow for four STR units for this particular project and the developer would have to go through an appeals process to get more.
The Lavaca Neighborhood Association said the developer should follow the process established by ordinance.
The association is not supportive of the project at this time, said President Cherise Rohr-Allegrini, but membership will review it again at its meeting next week.
The neighborhood still has concerns surrounding the high number of units compared with the largely single-family area, that the “high intensity infill” zoning could lead to unpredictable development, and the possibility that the properties could be sold once they are zoned for higher intensity uses.
“We also recognize the need to compromise,” Allegrini said, noting that they’d be willing to agree to 35 units if the zoning were adjusted to “mid-intensity infill” and six off-street parking spaces were added.
City staff and the Zoning Commission recommend approval of the zoning change. The City’s Historic and Design Review Commission granted its final approval of the project’s design in December. The City sent out 38 notices to property owners within 200 feet of the development. These notices allow recipients to let the City know if they favor or oppose the change; none came back in favor, five came back as opposed.
The proposed project, at the northeast corner of South St. Mary’s and Jacobs streets, involves preserving historic facades, building behind them, and erecting two new buildings.
In the second zoning case, a property owner in Government Hill wants to convert a recently renovated historic house into an office for his real estate company, but he faces opposition by some neighbors who don’t want commercial uses to change the fabric of the neighborhood.
Council voted to delay his request – also until Feb. 20.
Fernando Lozano, who specializes in buying, rehabilitating, and selling older homes, purchased the property at 2551 N. Interstate 35 more than a year ago to rehab and resell.
The City sent 22 notices to property owners within 200 feet of Lozano’s property. Nine were returned to the City indicating they were in favor of the rezoning and four were opposed. The Government Hill Alliance voted to support the project.
In November, the Zoning Commission recommended denial of Lozano’s request and suggested adding a conditional use to the current residential zoning instead. That would allow the office to function there as an exception.
Lozano realized that it could function well as an office for Pecan Tree Realty and as a showroom to demonstrate the company’s skills in redeveloping distressed homes, said Matthew Badders, an attorney representing Lozano.
“We’re not seeking to put anything up, we’re not seeking to tear anything down,” Badders told City Council, “we just want to change the use.”
But several neighbors said rezoning the property to commercial would open up the area to even more intense commercial use. A QuikTrip gas station and convenience store is proposed for the property adjacent to Lozano’s property on the highway’s access road.
Steve Versteeg, who lives one block away on Reno Street and directly behind the proposed gas station, said conditional-use zoning is more appropriate.
“If you don’t need to change the [residential] zoning, then why change the zoning?” Versteeg asked rhetorically.
But conditional-use zoning would not allow the business to operate after 5 p.m., when many clients are available to meet after work, Badders said.
Councilwoman Jada Andrews-Sullivan (D2) successfully requested that the case be delayed. She urged the developer and neighbors to work together to find a compromise.