Missouri City business owners are looking for a new place to open their child care center after Missouri City City Council voted in December not to rezone their land for commercial use from residential.
This puts Cally Ross Serrano, his mother, Josefina Serrano, and Ivy Kenneth Joy Miraflor in an odd position: They own land they cannot build on.
Their 5-acre tract of land at Vicksburg Boulevard and Truesdale Drive is zoned by the city for single-family residential use but is labeled by the Fort Bend Central Appraisal District as commercial property, according to its records. In order to build the child care center, the city needed to approve a change to a Planned Development District.
“Right now, we are talking with lawyers to see what we can do about the decision,” Cally Ross Serrano said.
The Fort Bend Central Appraisal District valued the land in 2018 at $258,970, however, Josefina Serrano and Ivy Kenneth Joy Miraflor purchased the land for $500,000 in April as a way to expand their child care business, Children’s Talent Academy, as well as provide a tutoring center and a multipurpose room and cafe for the surrounding communities, Serrano said.
However, nearby neighbors in the Vicksburg—Village of Cumberland, Sedona Creek and Olympia Estates subdivisions opposed the proposed plans, with dozens of residents submitting protest letters to City Council voicing concerns, among them not wanting commercial development in a residential area.
When property owners and neighbors could not agree on land use, District B Council Member Jeffrey L. Boney, whose district the land is in, and other city officials led a three-hour land-use workshop Dec. 10 in an effort to bring everyone together. Ultimately, it did not work, Boney said.
“From my vantage, there are no winners here,” Boney said just before City Council voted Dec. 17. “… I am choosing to vote with the residents … however, something is going to be put there. I believe the owner deserves the right to do something with that property.”
John Davis, vice president of Olympia Estates Community Association Inc., attended the workshop and said he thought each group agreed the cafe and multipurpose room would be removed from the plans because the neighbors felt they were not needed and would attract loiterers. He said he was disappointed to see those concepts still on the plans City Council was going to vote on at the Dec. 17 meeting.
Davis lives across the street from the vacant lot and can see it from his backyard. He said he wished Boney’s workshop had taken place earlier in the process and was surprised when City Council voted it down.
He said the Olympia Estates and Vicksburg homeowners associations felt they were not kept in the loop, and therefore were unable to answer residents’ questions, Davis said.
“It felt like the property owners were saying, ‘This is what we are doing, and you have to live with it,’” he said. “Had that meeting come before they took their plans to the planning and zoning commission, the outcome might have been totally different. We are not opposed to something being done there, but we need to make sure it is the best use for the land and acceptable to folks that live around it.”
Meanwhile, Josefina Serrano and Miraflor paid $10,000 in commercial property taxes for 2018, Cally Ross Serrano said.
He said he continues to maintain the property, but that is becoming difficult as people are dumping trash on it. He said he recently found a 5-gallon jug of used oil, beer bottles, trash and tree limbs. As a result of breaking lawnmower blades while hitting unseen trash, he said he paid about $2,500 to fix the lawnmower at least three times.
It is frustrating, Serrano said, because the neighbors do not want to purchase the property, yet they are dictating what his family can build on it and continue to complain if it is not mowed.
Stuck with land they cannot build on, the Serranos and Miraflor are looking for alternatives. In consultation with their builder, they were told a developer would not likely purchase the land because it is expensive however, they could try to make a profit by building townhomes on that land since it is still zoned single-family.
However, Davis said if the Serranos and Miraflor wanted to try again, the homeowners associations would sit down with them if they could manage resident communications, he said.
“If they wanted to resurrect the project and engage with the neighborhood, there are some folks willing to listen,” Davis said. “We just want to be part of the process.”