New Braunfels City Council meeting heats up over multifamily housing

A large group of New Braunfels residents expressed displeasure with City Council over the city's growth and several rezoning ordinances under consideration. (Warren Brown/Community Impact Newspaper)
A large group of New Braunfels residents expressed displeasure with City Council over the city's growth and several rezoning ordinances under consideration. (Warren Brown/Community Impact Newspaper)

A large group of New Braunfels residents expressed displeasure with City Council over the city's growth and several rezoning ordinances under consideration. (Warren Brown/Community Impact Newspaper)

New Braunfels City Council passed three of the four zoning ordinances up for consideration during a May 10 meeting, which was peppered with heated comments from residents about the city's growth and zoning practices.

Mayor Rusty Brockman had to bring the meeting to order during one instance, and District 4 Council Member Matthew Hoyt fired back at one outspoken attendee near the end of the meeting.

An additional rezoning related to 48 acres on FM 1102 was postponed until City Council's May 24 meeting.

Zoning for construction of a single home fails following resident complaints

The first zoning discussed was a 2.3-acre property located at 948 Broadway Drive between Rusk Street and Flushing.

Ashley Culpepper, who told City Council the property belongs to her father-in-law, said the zoning was requested so the property could be divided and a second house could be built.

The property's existing zoning was M-2, which is a heavy industrial district. Changes to M-2 zoning made by the previous City Council restrict residential construction.

The proposed rezoning was for MU-A, or a low-intensity mixed-use district. Among the allowed property uses of MU-A zoning is multifamily housing projects, which a group of residents decried throughout the meeting.

"Once we rezone it the owner can sell, do whatever he wants, walk away, he's done with New Braunfels," said Timothy Davis, who was a vocal critic of multifamily housing May 10. "A large group of us are very tired of this."

The ordinance, on its second and final reading, failed to receive a motion from City Council and was not rezoned. City Council previously voted unanimously in favor of the rezoning on its first reading April 26.

Residents opposing the project and multifamily housing cheered at their first and only victory of the night.

Multifamily housing zoning approved

According to a document submitted by a developer to the city, a proposed multifamily housing project at the northwest corner of the intersection of East Common Street and Old FM 306 would include an estimated 227 units.

City Council approved the rezoning on its second reading, along with a list of conditions the city can enforce due to it being approved under a special use permit, or SUP.

Some of the conditions included were increased stormwater storage capacity, a privacy wall and a three-story height restriction, which was further restricted to two stories when buildings are adjacent to single family homes.

Some of the conditions were concessions offered to community members by the developer, which were added to the SUP during City Council's vote.

David Morin of MNO Partners, which represented the project, detailed multiple outreach efforts aimed at winning over the project's neighboring homeowners.

"We came up with a plan and a design, and even a private agreement with that [property owners association] to do some do some things for them that would mitigate some of the impact of a project like this," Morin said. "Our opposition went from 30% of the property owners within the area to just less than 15%."

In a 5-2 vote, District 5 Council Member Jason Hurta and District 6 Council Member James Blakey went against the SUP. After a contemplative pause, Hoyt voted for the rezoning.

A group of meeting attendees angrily left the chamber after the vote, with one shouting on his way through the door that council members would be voted out of office.

Doctors' zoning bid for medical practice approved

A group of three doctors were under contract to purchase a roughly 4.3-acre plot of land at the intersection of Gruene Road and Ewelling Lane.

A Realtor representing the property's seller told City Council the doctors intended to construct a cardiology practice on the property.

The requested rezoning was from R-2 single and two-family district zoning to C-O commercial office district. One of the possible uses of land zoned C-O is multifamily developments, which again led to multiple public comments against the project, despite the announcement of its intended use.

City Council voted unanimously in favor of the rezoning on its second reading.

Tempers reach a boiling point

Some five hours into the contentious meeting, Davis made a comment that stunned the council chamber into silence.

"Fail to listen to us, fail to listen to the voice of the people that have clearly voiced they're against this—there's going to be retribution," Davis said during a public comment period.

Davis continued to rail against City Council about the zoning code, briefly pausing to accept a correction about zoning codes from Hoyt, who soon fired back after seemingly having run out of patience.

"I take calls 24/7. If you have any questions about zoning, call me [or] call the city during the day. They'll be happy to answer your questions about any zoning anywhere in the city," Hoyt said. "The staff works really hard to make sure that all this information is available, so that we don't have this that just happened."

Home receives SUP for expansion

A fourth rezoning was approved unanimously on its second reading in the consent agenda, and it also involved a SUP. It was for a homeowner wishing to build a sun porch addition onto their house, which is in an M-1 light industrial district.

The home, built in 1896, is legally nonconforming to city zoning due to its construction occurring before the implementation of zoning. As such, the property owner had to receive a SUP or code variance to enlarge the structure.
By Warren Brown
Warren joined Community Impact at the beginning of 2020 as the editor of its New Braunfels paper and now reports the news in San Marcos, Buda and Kyle. Warren previously wrote for the Dallas Observer and Fort Worth Weekly and he brings a passion for truth and equality to his reporting.


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