Scott Ball / Rivard Report
The City's Zoning Commission voted 4-3 on Tuesday against a request that would change the zoning of a Southtown industrial site to residential use, citing concerns over growing density in the area.
Developer Oden Hughes applied for the change in order to develop a four- to five-story, 400-unit multifamily apartment complex at 400 Probandt St., currently the site of the BFI-Acco Recycling Center. In denying the request, zoning commissioners voted against a staff recommendation to approve the change and against approval of the change by the Lone Star Neighborhood Association.
"I know this isn't going to be popular, but I can't support this," said Commission Chair Francine Romero. "I'm not going to support 400 units without knowing more about it, without more discussion about it."
Romero said that she had spoken to Southtown residents who expressed concern over the impact of growing density in the area. She said the growth seemed to occur without discussion or consideration of potential impact on nearby residents' quality of life.
Ashley Farrimond, an attorney representing Oden Hughes, briefed the commissioners on conceptual plans for the complex. She addressed concerns that the site would lack green space and create additional parking problems along Probandt Street.
Farrimond pointed out that the conceptual plans for the apartment complex called for two outdoor spaces surrounded by the complex, each with a pool. She also said a parking garage would accommodate all guests and tenants so there would not be additional parking along Probandt Street.
"We believe that this [infill development] zoning is consistent with other multifamily projects in the area," Farrimond said during the meeting. "It's also ... consistent with the Lone Star community plan."
She declined to comment after the meeting.
Susan Powers, president of the Lone Star Neighborhood Association, told the Rivard Report on Monday that while parking had become an issue in the area, she liked the idea of the site changing from industrial to residential. Powers did not attend the meeting, and no citizen spoke either in favor of or opposition to the proposal.
"I just think they need to provide enough parking for the residents and their guests," Powers said. "We just have way too much on-street parking now."
Commissioners Glenda Gayle McDaniel, Joe Nix, and Suren Kamath voted to approve the change. Commissioners Oscar Rosalez, Robert Sipes, Patricia Gibbons, and Romero voted against it.
In April, Zoning Commissioners voted against changing zoning for a South Flores Street industrial site to mixed use, which would have allowed for the development of an apartment complex with as many as 975 units. More than 15 residents spoke against the proposal, expressing concerns over parking, density, and the height associated with the proposed project.
The 11-member Zoning Commission will reconsider the proposal for 400 Probandt St. on June 5. Commission approval is gained only if six members vote in favor of a change. On Tuesday, four members were absent, including Commissioner Ricardo Briones who represents District 5, where the property is located. City Council is the final authority on zoning cases and has indicated it will take up the South Flores Street case at a future meeting.