City Council members meet during a council meeting at City Hall in Tyler on May 16, 2018. (Chelsea Purgahn/Tyler Morning Telegraph)

Tyler residents who oppose a more than 300-acre development in the southern part of the city are planning to turn out at a City Council meeting Wednesday morning where the issue will be considered.

Robert Justis, who is an active part of a Facebook group on the subject and has organized an online petition, said he has heard commitments from about a dozen people to speak and hopes that many more come to the meeting in support.

Justis, 53, lives off Coldwater Drive in the Holly Park subdivision. He said he is concerned about the magnitude of the proposal, and how the increased apartment housing units would affect traffic, safety and the nearby school population.

"The apartments are unprecedented in the neighborhood," Justis said. "We have almost 1,400 acres developed in that contiguous area and we have almost zero apartments." He called the proposed apartments "out of character" for the neighborhood. 

The Genecov Group is seeking to rezone just under 319 acres that sit south of the Hollytree subdivision and north of West Cumberland Road, the road connecting South Broadway Avenue with Old Jacksonville Highway that the city finished building in 2016.

The proposed zoning changes would facilitate development of single-family homes, apartments, commercial and mixes of those on the same property. Collectively, it would be the largest development since the road was built, and would be nearly double the size of a failed zoning proposal near Bellwood Lake in 2018.

After telling the company to go back to the drawing board and work with local homeowners, Tyler’s Planning and Zoning Commission gave the project preliminary approval in a 4-2 vote on April 2. The City Council has the final say, and can choose Wednesday whether to approve, deny or delay a vote.

The Facebook group, Tyler Residents vs. Genecov Development, has more than 300 members. A petition on ipetition.com has garnered more than 400 digital signatures, and has been circulating on neighborhood message boards.

“Our minimum request would be a tabling for more time so that we could educate more of the community, so that all of the stakeholders, if you will … could come together and develop this so that everybody wins,” Justis said.

Since the Planning and Zoning vote April 2, the company has made additional changes to the zoning proposal to address concerns, according to Mark Priestner, of Planning Concepts, who is consulting for the Genecov Group.

The changes include decreasing the density of one of the parcels proposed for apartments, limiting the uses of another multifamily site to townhome-style development instead of apartments, and proposing oversize sidewalks on Hollytree Drive to promote pedestrian safety, among others.

“We are excited to see the vision for this development become a reality,” Ray McKinney, the president of the Genecov Group, said in a prepared statement Tuesday.

“The planning process started in 2015 when we hired engineers and planning professionals to develop a plan that not only addresses the residential needs of today, but is also flexible enough to adapt to the needs of the community in 10 to 15 years,” he said.

Julie Goodgame, a spokeswoman for the city, said city staff plan to make their comments on the issue during the City Council meeting. In a memo prepared for the City Council meeting, the city’s managing director of planning and economic development, Heather Nick, wrote that the project should be approved.

“Neighbors in opposition to the request cited concerns with the potential impact to property values, loss of trees, increased traffic in the area and multifamily development,” the memo says.

“While (one type of residential) zoning allows for attached units (townhomes), it is still single-family zoning as each unit will be on an individual lot,” the memo says. “(The zoning) also allows for a diversity of housing types for all stages of the life cycle.

“The (multifamily)zoning is located in areas that are either already zoned for multifamily use or nearby mixed-use centers,” the memo says. “Higher density housing near neighborhood-serving commercial areas can alleviate vehicle trips elsewhere on the street system and promote alternative modes of transportation.”

Nick wrote that the other city departments have reviewed the proposal and found the zoning request would have no significant impacts on the city’s services or facilities.

The meeting is at 9 a.m. Wednesday at Tyler City Hall, 212 N. Bonner Ave.

TWITTER and INSTAGRAM: @_erinmansfield

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Government Reporter

Erin came to Tyler from Vermont, where she worked for VTDigger.org and previously the Rutland Herald. She received her B.A. in Economics and Spanish from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where she also attended journalism school.

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