The New Braunfels City Council Chamber was limited to standing room only Feb. 25 as residents gathered to voice concerns surrounding commercial rezoning requests in neighborhoods.
Dozens appeared to advocate against an item that, if approved, would allow the rezoning of two lots within the Country Meadows subdivision to neighborhood business and commercial office districts. After the council moved the item to the front of the agenda, a motion was passed to postpone it to City Council’s April 8 meeting at the request of the applicants.
More than 20 percent of residents in the community have formally objected to the item, which means it would require a supermajority vote from City Council to pass.
“It has been council’s policy that when an applicant [requests a postponement]that we grant the postponement and allow them to work with staff and the residents in the area about the zoning requests,” Mayor Barron Casteel said.
Council Member Justin Meadows proposed an informal public meeting in advance of the April 8 meeting where city staff would be available to answer technical questions surrounding the rezoning request.
Affected resident Sandy Watson addressed the council with a concern about being “pestered” by the owners of the properties in an effort to persuade neighbors to change their stances.
“My only concern is that we were—I hope it’s okay to say ‘bombarded’—with mailings and emails from the people who own the properties wanting to rezone,” she said. “I would hope that our objections are a matter of record and would be allowed to remain without us being pestered to change our objections.”
Several residents also approached the lectern pleading with City Council to deny the request for the rezoning of two lots at 415 and 435 S. Union Ave. to a commercial office district.
The homes are located across the street from the east side of Schiltterbahn water park, and the property owners hoped to capitalize on the city’s tourism industry by obtaining special-use permits that would allow them to legally operate vacation rentals. Per city regulations, short-term rental properties are prohibited in single-family neighborhoods.
“While the site is across the street from an intense seasonal commercial use, if approved [commercial office]zoning or any commercial zoning would really introduce commercial into a block that has remained an established, stable single-family area,” city Planning Director Chris Looney told the council, adding the staff and planning commission recommended denial of the request.
Before his application was officially denied, the owner of one of the properties, Rafael Marfil, said he believes the rezoning makes sense because of the city’s growth and the property’s close proximity to Schlitterbahn.
“I am pleading with the City Council to use logic here and to help us preserve the neighborhood and adapt to what’s going on and the wonderful changes in New Braunfels,” Marfil said.
Citing complaints such as noise, litter and safety, residents living in the neighborhood were pleased when the motion failed. A few of them told City Council that during the past year, the property owners had been operating a vacation rental property illegally.
“It’s just a precious area that we don’t want to give up now,” resident Violet Tanneberger said.
However, City Council did approve the first reading of an ordinance that will allow for the rezoning of two residential lots in New Braunfels to allow for a second location of Big League Car Wash. Owner Daniel McCutchen worked with several nearby residents to accommodate noise and other concerns, including adding a 10-foot sound barrier wall.