Tyler officials delayed a decision on rezoning about 18 acres of property after residents of the Hollytree subdivision spoke out in opposition to the plan.
In the 6-0 vote to delay a decision for 30 days, the Planning and Zoning Commission essentially rejected advice from city of Tyler staff to approve the zoning change.
The issue at hand was the Genecov Group’s request to rezone three pieces of property totaling 18.2 acres east of Maple Lane, the north-south road built to connect Hollytree Drive with Cumberland Road.
The Genecov Group helped build Maple Lane in 2018 in order to facilitate future development of more than 400 acres it owns with Roosth Properties LLC. The companies did not announce specific plans for the property at the time but said it could have commercial, residential and retail uses.
The 18.2-acre site is currently zoned for agricultural use, according to documents presented at the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting. The Genecov Group is requesting to change the northwest corner of the land to planned mixed-use, the northeast corner of the land to planned multifamily, and the southern half of the land to commercial.
Kyle Kingma, the planning manager for the city, told the commission that the request should be approved. He said the Hollytree residents do not live within 200 feet of the properties in question, so they do not have legal sway over the zoning.
David Dobbs, a member of the Planning Commission, asked Kingma if it would make sense for the developer to meet with Hollytree residents given the number of people who live in the subdivision.
Kingma said: “We always encourage the applicant to talk to the neighbors, even if they’re not within the 200 feet.”
Pamela Phoenix, a member of the Planning Commission, asked Kingma what the Genecov Group would be seeking to build on the land.
Kingma said that if the proposed zoning changes are approved, the company would be allowed to build whatever is allowed under those zoning classifications.
Heather Nick, the managing director of planning and economic development for the city of Tyler, compared the proposed zoning to the way the city approved zoning for the Village at Cumberland Park based on broader concepts.
“In the beginning, they came up with a conceptual idea of the different areas that could be zoned,” she said. “So basically, ‘What are the uses?’ ‘How is the land going to be laid out?’ and then when they came in later they had more specific uses,” Nick said.
A standing-room-only crowd attended the meeting, including about a dozen who identified themselves as residents of Old Farm Road, the southern-most residential street in the Hollytree subdivision.
Mark Priestner, from the company Planning Concepts, represented the Genecov Group at the meeting. He addressed the Planning Commission first, saying he was aware of concerns from Hollytree residents and planned to meet with appropriate homeowners associations.
Priestner said some residents might be concerned because the multifamily zoning classification may imply that the property owner wants to build an apartment complexes, such as low-income housing. He said that is not what the owner envisions.
“This large tract (of land) has been looked at for a long time, and one of the goals that we had was to look at this tract and start looking at what would be appropriate land use,” Priestner said of the project. He said any multifamily homes envisioned would be more similar to duplexes than apartment buildings.
However, 10 in the crowd came to the microphone to speak against the project.
“I really want nothing more than to see Tyler develop, but I really feel like it’s time that big corporations and committees like the Planning and Zoning (Commission) and City Council work with Tyler citizens and not commercial real estate groups in making Tyler better,” said Janna McClure, who lives on Woodlands Drive.
“Instead of being a community partner, it is our understanding that Genecov chose to alert only the bare minimum as required under law,” McClure said. She said the company should meet with all residents in the subdivision because there are no homeowners associations representing residents of Dueling Oaks Drive or Old Farm Road.
McClure also criticized the Planning Commission’s independence because member Felicity Reedy, who was not present for Tuesday’s meeting, is listed as the vice president of finance for the Genecov Group on the company’s website.
The Tyler Morning Telegraph was unable to reach Reedy for comment. Kingma said during the meeting that she alerted staff that she would not be attending, and Nick said it’s common for members to recuse themselves from votes when any type of ethical issue comes along.
Additionally, Phoenix told McClure during the meeting that the Planning Commission “walks in the utmost integrity” and members value Reedy’s expertise.
“When we vote, we vote as individuals, based on the evidence that we received,” Phoenix said. “So that’s one of the things that you don’t have to worry about. We each respectively vote what our heart says to vote, so we’re not compromised in any fashion when it comes to that.”
Mandy Nelson, who lives on Old Farm Road, said she opposes the project because of a lack of information. She said the company should be required to submit a site plan of what will be developed.
“We’d like to know more about what’s planned and especially the planned multifamily before you make a decision on this,” Nelson said.
Eric Findlay, who lives on White Forest Drive, raised traffic safety concerns. He said the Maple Lane extension from Hollytree Drive has been convenient, but compared the shape of the new road to a NASCAR track.
“The concern about traffic and safety is not, I assure you ladies and gentlemen, knee-jerk,” Findlay said.
After comments from opponents finished, Priestner said the company would be willing to limit multifamily development to two stories high and 15 units per acre. He also said that the company chose each zoning classification so that if the property is ever sold, the development would be limited.
City Councilwoman Linda Sellers, who represents the neighborhood in question, attended the meeting and spoke with the residents of Hollytree afterward. She said in a statement to the Tyler Morning Telegraph that she had very little notice about the project.
“I found out about this project last Friday even though Mark Priestner stated in a public meeting that he has been working with city staff for two months,” Sellers said. “As the representative of District 1, I would have hoped Mark Priestner or city staff would have called me earlier.”
Sellers said she attended a meeting on Monday with Priestner and a representative from a homeowners association but would like there to be a meeting that all residents in the area can attend.
She said she would like the company to be required to submit a site plan, and for the multifamily development to be limited to two-story buildings with a specific number of units.
The Planning Commission will be able to consider the zoning request again at a future meeting meeting.
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