Castle Hills, Texas

Posted: May 14, 2015 in City Growth & Management

Welcome to a blog, “Castle Hills, Texas,” created as a place to post materials associated with the proposed rezoning of the property at 110 Hibiscus Lane in Castle Hills, Texas, 78213.

Citizen Input: Master Plan
During the August 11, 2015 meeting of the Castle Hills City Council (agenda: http://www.cityofcastlehills.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/August-11-2015-City-Council-Meeting-Agenda.pdf), the City Council deliberated these two agenda items:
IX. Discussion on procedure for appointment of Zoning Review Committee.
X. Consider and Act upon Appointing a Citizen’s Committee to include one or two Councilmembers, to review & update the City’s Comprehensive/Master Plan, and set date(s) for report(s) back to Council.

In discussion, the City Council agreed there was overlap between Item IX., the review of the zoning commission’s directions and authorities under Article VI. – Zoning Commission of the city’s Code of Ordinances (https://www.municode.com/library/tx/castle_hills/codes/code_of_ordinances?nodeId=COOR_CH50ZO_ARTVIZOCO) and possible review of Article VI. itself and Item X., a review of the City’s 1997 “Comprehensive Plan for the City of Castle Hills” (i.e., the “City’s Comprehensive/Master Plan,” online: https://castlehillstx.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/comprehensiveplan_june1997.pdf).

The City Council agreed 1) the overlap in the two items was adequate such that the tasks should be combined into a single review process, that 2) the City Council members would discuss among themselves possible nominations of city residents to serve on the resultant committee, and 3) Mayor Tim Howell and City Councilwoman Lesley Wenger would then consult each other to discuss how the resulting single review process should be structured and should move forward. Their proposed review process and appointments would then come before the City Council for consideration and action. On August 11, the City Council voted to approve a motion stating this.

Those familiar with the work of the Zoning Commission (http://www.cityofcastlehills.com/government/zoning-planning/) and the City’s Comprehensive/Master Plan, and aware also of the recent deliberations by the City Council and citizens in denying the rezoning of 101 Hibiscus Lane from A-Single Family Residential to I-Planned Unit Development (PUD), will understand that the coming single review committee empowered by the City Council will be a SINGULAR opportunity to to allow a structure within the Code of Ordinances for the implementation of Low Impact Development, Improvements in or Dismissal of Planned Unit Development as a Zoning Type in the City, Walkable Communities, or other updates in Castle Hills under the revisions to Zoning and the Master Plan.

Those interested in this topic should also be aware that
• on July 14, 2015, Zoning Commissioner and city resident Mike Flinn made comments before the Castle Hills’ City Council on the subject of implementing Low Impact Development. Low Impact Development (LID) is conceptually a companion piece to updates in Article VI. – Zoning Commission of the city’s Code of Ordinances which would allow Walkable Communities. Also, Commissioner Flinn’s comments represent further evidence of movement underway to recommend changes to city code, just as residents may seek zoning code changes to allow Walkable Communities. For those interested in Commissioner Flinn’s comments and proposal, I highly recommend reading his comments online here: https://castlehillstx.wordpress.com/options-for-growth-in-castle-hills-comments-by-mike-flinn/
For an excellent background on LID, visit the San Antonio River Authority’s website: https://www.sara-tx.org/lid-sustainability/
• another element which will be under consideration in this review process is the use in Castle Hills of Planned Unit Development as a zoning type. Without going into great detail here, walkable communities can be achieved through use of PUD as a zoning designation IN THE CASE that the proposed development incorporates appropriate mixed-use design features. One of the reasons that the proposed rezoning of 101 Hibiscus Lane as a PUD did fail was the extreme weakness of the existing PUD guidance in the city’s Code of Ordinances. That is, the existing restrictions and guidance in the code comprise two brief paragraphs (see DIVISION 13. – I PLANNED UNIT DEVELOPMENT (PUD): https://www.municode.com/library/tx/castle_hills/codes/code_of_ordinances?nodeId=COOR_CH50ZO_ARTIIDIRE_DIV13IPLUNDEPU) which give none of the extensive guidance regarding purpose and design found in modern PUD ordinance, such as the code provided by the City of Austin:
“This division provides the procedures and minimum requirements for a planned unit development (PUD) zoning district to implement the goals of preserving the natural environment, encouraging high quality development and innovative design, and ensuring adequate public facilities and services. The Council intends PUD district zoning to produce development that achieves these goals to a greater degree than and that is therefore superior to development under conventional zoning and subdivision regulations.” (See https://www.municode.com/library/tx/austin/codes/code_of_ordinances?nodeId=TIT25LADE_CH25-2ZO_SUBCHAPTER_BZOPRSPRECEDI_ART2SPRECEDI_DIV5PLUNDE)
For an excellent encapsulation of what PUD zoning can provide, see citizen Jackie Ackley’s letter to the Castle Hills City Council, dated July 4, 2015:
https://castlehillstx.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/070415_jackley2coch_requestdenial-101hibiscuslanerezoning.pdf

 

15-home gated community is rejected in Castle Hills Benjamin Olivo, San Antonio Express-News, July 30, 2015

JULY 30-31 UPDATE:
In a vote which surprised most if not all of the hundred-plus residents in attendance tonight at City Hall, the City Council unanimously disapproved the rezoning proposal for 101 Hibiscus Lane which was supported by the Zoning Commission on July 7th. This is an incredible victory, as well as a time to think of the next steps to take to strengthen our city.

This chapter is closed; the proposed PUD will not move forward. If 101 Hibiscus Lane is to be developed — and we all know it will be, at some point — the effort will have to start again from the beginning, very likely with a different developer with an altogether different vision.

Great and sincere thanks are due to each and every neighbor who played a part in supporting this cause. Although we owe our success to great teamwork, let me single out: Quentin Baker, for his synthesis of the citizens’ ideas into a focused, articulate and effective plan; Hank Goldstein for his refusal to believe it when the financial side just didn’t add up; David Lewis for his analysis of the developer’s finances proving the basis for the refutation of the developer’s vision; Steve Ackley for his engineering analysis on the storm water impacts; Jackie Ackley for her dedication to a vision that let her show us all what a PUD should be; and last but never least, Wayne Carter, who brought not just his experience gained with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but his organizational drive and leadership which I first saw many years ago when the Save Our Neighborhood Group, the SONGsters, formed to keep the Castle Hills First Baptist Church from swallowing up Winston Lane whole. As one who was there, that was a legendary and epic struggle that makes our effort on 101 Hibiscus Lane look like a romp thru the lawn sprinkler to cool off under the Texas sun. My hat will always be off to Terry and Wayne Carter for their story and the protection to our community which they have provided.

    Go to WOAI article.

JULY 24 UPDATE:
Our thanks to Zack Hedrick with WOAI-TV News 4 for his profile of the neighborhood in his report, “New Castle Hills Development Could Change Character of Neighborhood.” This was a News 4 San Antonio Top Story for July 24.

 

    Enlarge this image.

JULY 23 UPDATE:
Many thanks to the San Antonio Express-News for publication of an article, “Castle Hills plan raises concerns over density,” dated July 22, 2015, by Benjamin Olivo with photography by Tom Reel.

Resident Peter Bella was quoted in the article this way: “While the developer may have a plan that checks the boxes for what goes on inside the property line, the citizens are not confident that the city has adequately addressed the impact on the neighborhood outside the lines. The PUD is not an island. It’s not an isolated element outside the city. It’s across the street from me. That’s why we’re interested in slowing the process down.”

JULY 14 UPDATE:
Zoning Commissioner Mike Flinn made comments before the during the July 14, 2015 meeting of the City Council of the City of Castle Hills. In those comments he addressed the possible cost of mitigating the drainage problems and expressed concern with the “ad hoc” manner “in which the developmental opportunities are being considered.” We agree fully. He went on to advocate for “technical and management approaches that can be promoted through changes to city ordinances and tax incentives that would help mitigate concerns with respect to drainage, traffic congestion, view shed, and building density among other concerns.” We would ask the City Council and other Castle Hills Commissioners to consider his excellent recommendations.

Please review both his comments and support material he has made public and which have been posted here:
Options for Growth in Castle Hills: Comments by Mike Flinn.

JULY 7 UPDATE:
In a genuine disappointment to the citizens who oppose the rezoning of 101 Hibiscus Lane into a 16 lot PUD, Zoning Commission Chairman Joe Izbrand lead the commission to approve the request for rezoning of the property by a 3-2 vote late Tuesday night, July 7, 2015.

Here’s how it happened.

Background:
As a foundation, there are two key areas of risk associated with the requested rezoning and resultant proposed development:
1) Risks to Citizens: both changes to quality of life in the neighborhood and creation of potential safety risks from the PUD development due to increased housing density, traffic and noise, as well as risks both to citizens’ property and public safety due to stormwater impacts downstream of the stormwater outfall point at Lot 1 in the PUD.
2) Risks to the City of Castle Hills: risk of city liability due to stormwater impacts downstream from the stormwater outfall point at Lot 1 in the PUD. That is, with the point discharge of stormwater runoff gathered in the PUD onto Hibiscus Lane, there is now an undetermined potential for damage to surface pavement and property flooding downstream from the PUD.

Why the focus on stormwater runoff?

The PUD development results in a) an increase in total stormwater volume due to the increased impervious cover (from ~10% to 67% according to the developer’s Project Land Summary) as proposed within the PUD walls, as well as b) the funneling or concentration of the stormwater exiting the PUD at an outfall labeled in Lot 1 of the Project Land Summary of the PUD. Instead of the current meander of rainwater across the property boundary, the wall and discharge area together would spill most of the stormwater falling within the PUD walls directly onto Hibiscus Lane.

Everyone at the Zoning Commission meeting on Tuesday night, including citizens, agreed that we need to know if stormwater runoff from the PUD would really create damage downstream.

Normally, the final stormwater management design is not even created for a PUD until the construction phase, simply because the design takes money that the developer doesn’t want to spend until the City approves the PUD rezoning.

Critically, approval of the rezoning to PUD zoning is the gateway to development… and is opposed by the Citizens.

That’s because getting the rezoning approved is like grabbing the golden ring. Once the property has been rezoned to a PUD, he’s got the green light to start construction, his path to making his money back. Getting the PUD zoning means the developer no longer has to go before the public to place his plans under public scrutiny. The only reason the public has input on this project is because this is a rezoning request, from single-family to PUD.

As it happened, in order to give away the PUD rezoning, Chairman Joe Izbrand turned a motion by Commissioner Jana Baker on its head.

Commissioner Baker made a motion to require a study for the potential downstream effects due to the PUD development. The City Attorney asked Commissioner Baker to specify “who would be paying” for an analysis by the City Engineer. Chairman Izbrand convinced a majority of the Zoning Commission that only the developer could pay for the study. And, as the City Manager acknowledged correctly, once the PUD rezoning was approved, then the developer would have to submit a final stormwater management design for scrutiny and approval by the City Engineer.

The Zoning Commission voted 3 to 2 to rezone the property from single-family residential to a PUD in order to have a stormwater study created by the developer for verification by the City Engineer. In other words, the Zoning Commission gifted the developer with the PUD rezoning, exactly the action opposed in the Citizen Petition.

Instead of first requiring a study to prove the merits of design with the PUD rezoning awarded DEPENDING on a safe design, the Zoning Commission instead gave away the PUD rezoning without any proof. Chairman Izbrand’s actions short-circuited the public decision-making and approval process, and ignored the citizen petition.

This vote required that the Zoning Commission ignored the wishes of the 95 citizens who had signed our petition and those who had told the commission DONT GIVE THEM THE PUD REZONING.

Prior to the start of the July 7 meeting of the Zoning Commission, Peter Bella presented hardcopies of the petitions signed by citizens in opposition to the proposed PUD rezoning. There are two lists available for download, current as of July 7, 2015:
A Petition with the signatures of Citizens who are Property Owners with Property lying within 500 feet of 101 Hibiscus Lane.
A Petition with the signatures of Citizens who live beyond 500 feet of 101 Hibiscus Lane.


JUNE 2 UPDATE: During the June 2, 2015 meeting, the Zoning Commission of the City of Castle Hills postponed the agenda item for consideration and recommendation of rezoning of 101 Hibiscus Lane until the July 7th meeting of the Commission at 7 PM in City Chambers. The June 2, 2015 meeting of the Zoning Commission was the first venue for formal consideration by the City of Castle Hills on the request for rezoning of 101 Hibiscus Lane. Please see the page Communications: Citizens and the City of Castle Hills for more details.

The City of Castle Hills surface-mailed notification of the June 2 Zoning Commission Hearing to owners of some 47 addresses of properties within 500 feet of the property line at 101 Hibiscus Lane. As noted below, if 20 percent of those notified present a written protest to the City, a favorable vote of three-fourths of all of the members of the city council is required to overturn the citizens’ petition. The nearby neighbors continue to circulate a petition stating, “We the undersigned residents of Castle Hills request the Zoning Commission deny the request for the rezoning of the property 101 Hibiscus, Lot 1, 1A, 4A, 4B, Block 4, Castle Hills Addition, from District “A” Lot (single family) into a sixteen lot District “I” (Planned Unit Development), as harmful to the residents’ health and safety, and peaceful domestic use our homes.” As of June 2, almost half of the 47 affected citizens have signed the petition and the list of other citizens of the City of Castle Hills who have signed in opposition continues to grow.

Please join us for the Fourth Citizen Meeting which will be open to the public, and during which we will discuss progress made and next steps. The meeting will be held, as were the three earlier meetings, at Brookdale Castle Hills. No RSVP; see you there!

I hope that this blog will engender public discussion through the Nextdoor site for citizens of the City of Castle Hills on this topic; posting discussion on Nextdoor will allow the conversation to take place in an established public setting that is restricted to citizens of the City of Castle Hills.


The first formal step is the consideration of the petition for rezoning before the Zoning Commission on June 2. See the “Zoning Commission Notification: Petition from Jim Cook” page for more information on the request for rezoning to be taken up during the hearing. Of note: According to Sec. 50-621 of the Code of Ordinances, “In case of a written protest against any change in zoning, signed by the owners of 20 percent or more either the area of the lots or land included in such proposed change or of the lots or land immediately adjoining the same and extending 200 feet therefrom, such amendment shall not become effective except by the favorable vote of three-fourths of all of the members of the city council.”. The City of Castle Hills has made it city policy to notify all those owning property within 500 feet of the property in question (for which property rezoning is sought). After I filled out an open records request at City Hall on May 14, 2015 requesting the list, Mr. Exzentrius Sturdivant, City Secretary with the City of Castle Hills, emailed to me a list of residents who have been notified by the city of the June 2 Zoning Commission Hearing.


While we’re all feeling out way through this, a common theme in my discussion with neighbors is disapproval of the housing density created in the case sixteen homes are sold. Another common thread is an understanding that change will come. Many of the neighbors with whom I’ve had discussions so far believe that the City would intend to grow their tax base and increase their revenue; increasing the number of residences achieves that. For myself, I know that, on a much larger scale, greater infill and densification is necessary to avoid more of the sprawl that is responsible for the poor growth patterns in the suburbs which mar the region. Both feelings exist; neither trumps the other outright.

My personal interest is having an informed discussion among the citizens who are most likely to be affected: the citizens of the City of Castle Hills. That’s why I am posting the materials in the “Downloads” column of this blog, and is why I’m creating the blog altogether.

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Comments
  1. Douglas A. Gregory says:

    You have a date but the time and place for the meeting?

    Like

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