During discussion, District B Council Member Jeffrey L. Boney, whose district encompasses the land, commented that the proposed child care and tutoring centers would be the least offensive uses for the land. However, he also heard a few mistakes indicated by the community, including that the home owners association should have purchased the land a few years ago, but did not, and that the property owners purchased the land as commercial when it was zoned by the city as residential.
The land was zoned single-family residential by the city in 2001, according to Planning and Development Commission documents. The property owners were seeking approval for the land to be rezoned as a PD Planned Development District to allow for the developments.
“From my vantage, there are no winners here,” Boney said. “… I am choosing to vote with the residents in this situation… however, something is going to be put there. I believe the owner deserves the right to do something with that property.”
The tract was purchased by Josefina Serrano and Ivy Kenneth Joy Miraflor in April 2018 to expand their child care business, Children’s Talent Academy, as well as provide a tutoring center and a multi-purpose room and cafe for the surrounding community, according to documents presented to council.
Serrano told Community Impact Newspaper she was very disappointed in the city council’s decision, especially after she and Miraflor had invested more $500,000 in the property since purchasing it.
"We went to all of their [HOA] meetings, but they could not afford to buy property," Cally Ross Serrano, Josefina Serrano's son, said. "Every time a potential project came up, they protested. We feel like they are keeping it empty by using someone else’s money."
Cally Ross Serrano has been a representative for the family at the city council meetings.
The land has changed hands six times since 2004, according to Fort Bend Central Appraisal District records. In 2018, the land was appraised as commercial property and valued at $258,970.
City council postponed a vote on Dec. 3 so the property owner and residents could find some common ground. A land-use workshop, which many council members and city employees attended, was held Dec. 10.
Residents nearby Vicksburg in the Village of Cumberland, Sedona Creek and Olympia Estates, were in opposition of the proposed plans, with several residents speaking to the council about not wanting any commercial development in their residential area. Supporters were interested in having a nearby child care facility.
"The majority of my community does not support this," Mary Lee Vandervoort said at the Dec. 3 city council meeting. Vandervoort has been president of the Vicksburg homeowner's association for the past 10 years and told council that rezoning would damage the community, bring additional traffic into the neighborhood, and aside from the child care facility, she did not think the property owners would be able to sustain continuous tenants.
Speaking on behalf of the property owners at the Dec. 17 meeting, Travis Huehlefeld, a real estate attorney with Wilson Cribbs and Goren, told council that the 5-acre tract had been sitting vacant for more than 20 years without being turned developed into homes.
“It was not going to be developed as a residential tract because it would price out any homemaker, so any use was going to be commercial,” he said. “We were one of the first people to jump in and do this. Our plan follows the comprehensive plan the city has to move it away from a bedroom community. This is a $4 million project that would bolster employment and tax revenue coming into the city.”
Though residents told council their homeowner's association should have purchased the land, after everything that has happened, Serrano is not interested in selling it to them.
“For me, if these people buy it, we will not sell this property,” she said. “I would rather find a big company to sell the property to. That is how I feel after what they did.”