CITY OF TYLER | 115 ACRES
A key panel in the city of Tyler government has given preliminary approval to a zoning change on 115 acres, potentially opening up the property for development.
The Tyler Planning and Zoning Commission approved the zoning change in a 5-0 vote, with one member absent, and another who recused herself. The proposal now goes to City Council for a final decision.
Roosth Properties proposed the zoning change on roughly 115 acres between Old Jacksonville Highway and South Broadway Avenue, north of West Cumberland Road. Proposed uses include housing, offices and retail space.
For decades, the company owned more than 430 acres of property in the area with the Genecov Group, until the companies subdivided it in November. The Genecov Group received approval to rezone 294 acres in April and continues to seek changes on another 25 acres.
"The zoning we're requesting is the result of numerous meetings over a number of months with city staff," Steve Roosth, the president of Roosth Properties, told the Planning and Zoning Commission.
"The zoning request east of Cherryhill is consistent with what was recommended by you and subsequently approved by City Council for Genecov, although the narrative description for our zone tracts varies slightly," Roosth said.
The project includes zoning designations for commercial, office and mixed uses. There would be multifamily housing in a townhome style,
according to Mark Priestner, the planning consultant on the Roosth project. He said a previous plan for a traditional apartment complex has been removed.
About a dozen people, many from the Hollytree and Oak Hollow subdivisions, spoke against the proposal. Several said they were concerned about the properties being used for rentals.
"I understand that these people do need to develop it, and I don't have a problem with developing it," said Robert Wickham, who lives on Princedale Drive.
"But I do have a problem with apartment complexes and that type of—we've all lived in apartments at one time or another and we know what goes on in apartment complexes, so I do appreciate them removing that," Wickham said.
Mark Loughmiller, who represents the Bishops Gate community on the Oak Hollow Homeowners Association board, said the proposed density of the housing—15 units per acre—would make the housing too similar to rental apartments.
"Whether you call them apartments—I understand that distinction—they're still going to be three stories," Loughmiller said. "They're going to lend themselves to potentially to be just viewed as a rental complex, if you will, of townhomes."
"The Genecov Group has on its website, 42 townhomes on Roy Road, they're leasing them," he said. "There's nothing that prevents someone from putting in this very high density and leasing them out."
Another concern was whether development would increase traffic on Hollytree Drive. A year ago, Roosth Properties and Genecov Group built Maple Lane to connect Hollytree Drive with West Cumberland Road. Some say that has creased traffic.
Members of the Planning and Zoning Commission discussed with city staff how the concerned residents could follow up on their traffic concerns, or whether anything could be done about those in another setting.
Kyle Kingma, the city's planning manager, said speeding is handled by the Tyler Police Department, and the traffic engineering staff would be the ones to handle a request to reduce the speed limit.
John Hart, the president of the Hollytree Homeowners Association, said he has talked to the city about installing crosswalks and paths for golf carts on Hollytree Drive, but asked if the city would help offset the cost for the neighborhood.
"We have found that the cost of those are going to be somewhere between $50,000 and $100,000 per crosswalk and that is a lot to raise from a homeowners association or an organization like that," Hart said.
Hart said that estimate is based on how much it cost to put a crosswalk with traffic signals at a pedestrian crossing that would be similar to the one near the University of Texas at Tyler, on Old Omen Road.
The National Center for Safe Routes to School says basic crosswalks cost between $750 and $2,600. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that systems like the one by UT Tyler cost between $21,440 and $128,660, with an average cost of $57,680.
Priestner, the planning consultant, said he analyzed traffic and found that the Hollytree subdivision produces more traffic on Maple Lane, the road connecting it to West Cumberland, than there are people using it as a cut through.
"The reason people are using Maple is it's a shortcut out of Hollytree, not vice versa," he said.
The City Council will consider the issue on June 26.
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ENTERTAINMENT | TELEVISION
Amanda Anderson was a 19-year-old student at Tyler Junior College in 2010 when she was found dead by her younger brother in her family's home near New Chapel Hill. Anderson had been shot in the head four times and the Smith County Sheriff's Office began investigating her death.
Former Smith County Sheriff JB Smith, 76, and two former detectives Joe Rasco, 74, and Pamela Dunklin, 57, began interviewing friends, known criminals and every possible lead.
It was a detail spotted by forensics that led to the case's conclusion. Anderson's killer pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
The Anderson case is one of six cases that will be revisited on Investigation Discovery's new true crime show "Lone Star Justice" featuring Smith, Rasco and Dunklin.
"I think they wanted a Texas touch," Smith said. "I've been watching some of those shows and most are in Philadelphia and New York, but nothing from Texas."
Smith said the show got started when the team was contacted and interviewed by the creators of the show a couple years ago.
"I didn't think anything of it," Smith said. "They filmed us while we were talking. They told us they would call us back."
Smith said he forgot about it until they called back and told him how great of a team they were and that they would be doing the show.
Dunklin said the show's creators liked the way they (Smith, Rasco and Dunklin) communicated and decided to do the first episode to see how it would turn out.
"It took them about a year and a half to put it together," Dunklin said. "They filmed in Tyler and mostly in a studio in Dallas."
Rasco said it was an interesting process they went through to select them out of all the law enforcement in the country.
"They just like us," Smith said. "They like the professionalism Joe and Pam bring."
Dunklin said she was uneasy about it at first, but forgot the camera was there as the three talked about their work.
"The amount of emotion it brought back was unexpected," Dunklin said.
Smith said he met Dunklin while she was working as a dispatcher for the sheriff's office.
He said she was handling two 911 calls at the time and doing all this other stuff that came along with that.
"I asked her right then if she was planning on going to patrol," Smith said.
Dunklin said she told the sheriff she most definitely was, but was a little busy at the moment.
"We moved her up," Smith said. "She was outstanding. She was precise and thorough about everything she was doing."
Rasco started working in the jail like most people do when they begin working at the sheriff's office.
"My chief deputy was going through applications and told me there was a retired Air Force colonel working in the jail," Smith said. "I called Joe over and asked him what he was doing."
Rasco told the sheriff he wanted to do two things when he retired: one was to drive an 18-wheeler and the other was to work in law enforcement.
"He was so quiet and you didn't even know he was there," Smith said. "Here's this former C-130 pilot who was very analytical, and a deep thinker who processed everything."
Dunklin said Rasco would have never told anyone about his past unless someone would have asked.
"He (Rasco) would have never expected anything," she said.
Rasco said the unique nature of the cases is what he believes generated the TV show.
"There were a lot of high profile Smith County cases during that time that made the national media," Dunklin said. "We happened to get attention for those."
Smith said he believes they got attention because they solved the cases and the people responsible went on to be prosecuted and sentenced to prison.
Rasco said no case is any more important than another one.
"You start out in property and work your way up the food chain," he said. "The pinnacle of law enforcement is homicide."
Dunklin and Rasco both said the show is not about them.
"One of the things we asked them to do was to not make the show just about law enforcement," Rasco said. "It's the bigger picture, the entire process, the court and the convictions."
Rasco also attributes the team's success to the good relationships the sheriff's office had with the Tyler Police Department, the U.S. Marshals Service and the FBI.
"Lone rangers don't solve crimes," Smith said.
It takes a village," Dunklin said. "It starts with the dispatchers and the 911 call. It takes a lot of people to work to put the puzzle together and many of those people don't get credit for assisting."
Rasco said the work doesn't stop when the case is handed over to the District Attorney's office.
"They (the DA's office) start their own investigation," Rasco said. "And when they're done they make a to-do list for the original investigator."
Rasco said good detectives are always thinking about court.
"I used to sit in the courtroom to learn how prosecutors try a case," Rasco said. "It made me a better detective."
Dunklin said viewers also can expect to see how some of longtime Smith County Sheriff's Office crime scene investigator Noel Martin's work helped them in their investigations.
Lone Star Justice is scheduled to run the following shows at 9 p.m. Central on Wednesday for six weeks on Investigation Discovery.
• "She Had Everything," June 5, recounts the 2010 murder of 19-year-old college student Amanda Anderson, whose body was found by her younger brother in her family home in Smith County.
• "Cold as Ice," June 12, shows how a woman pleaded with Rasco to reopen her aunt's 1982 murder case that had gone unsolved for 25 years.
• "Killing Fields," June 19, depicts the murder of Calvin Fields whose death was originally ruled a suicide.
• "This One's Yours," June 26, reenacts the death of Jeff Joplin, a well-liked and popular resident of Tyler who failed to show up for a scheduled family dinner.
• "Driven to Murder," July 3, recounts the 1999 murder of 18-year-old William Young II, whose case went unsolved for 13 years.
• "Long Arm of the Law," July 10, shows the case of two unrelated murders that are traced to siblings.
Visit investigationdiscovery.com/schedule for more details.
"It took them about a year and a half to put it together. They filmed in Tyler and mostly in a studio in Dallas."
— Pamela Dunklin
Smith County has hired a law firm to draw new election precincts in 2021, after the 2020 census results come in.
The Smith County Commissioners Court unanimously approved a contract with the Austin-based law firm Bickerstaff, Heath, Delgado, Acosta LLP at a regular meeting Tuesday.
The county redraws its election precincts every decade, after results from the U.S. Census are updated to determine if there are any changes in the population, according to Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran.
"The importance is easily understood in making sure that all of the people are represented equally in the way our governments are formed in this county, and that's what redistricting is about," he said.
"(It's) making sure that one district doesn't have a greater say than another district and by really a per-capita view, and also making sure that our minority groups are represented appropriately and that the government is representative of the people it represents," he said.
Depending on the census results, Moran said the precincts that could be redrawn include seats on the Commissioners Court, the five constable precincts, and the five justice of the peace precincts. Other local governments would need to go through a similar process.
"We want to get a head start and go ahead and retain the firm we know we want to use during redistricting so they can brecincts the process during the census process so we make sure that we do it accurately and we participate fully and we have an accurate count of who's in our county so that we can redistrict appropriately," Moran said.
The 2010 census counted 96,900 people in Tyler, and 209,725 in Smith County. Projections from the U.S. Census Bureau said that in 2018 there were 105,729 people in Tyler and 230,221 people in Smith County.
Countywide efforts have been underway for the past year to prepare for the 2020 census. Last year,
the Commissioners Court appointed members to the Complete Count Committee, a group of more than a dozen elected officials and community members seeking to maximize participation in the 2020 Census.
A regional transportation agency administered by the city of Tyler started the Complete Count Committee in partnership with the federal government. The agency said last year it also has an interest in an accurate census because the population numbers affect federal funding for road projects.
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