On April 24, City Council voted to zone the property at 17 Herff Road as MU-1. This is a much more restrictive zoning than the city staff recommendation and is major setback for the developer. The citizens spoke out and it made a difference! Our hard work is starting to pay off.
We are extremely grateful that Council members, Nina Woolard, Joe Anzollitto, and Charlie Boyd, stood with citizens in the face of enormous pressure. However, many still question why City staff identified this area as suitable for commercial at all. This site is surrounded on all sides by residential and city properties and is identified in the Master Plan as residential. So, where is this idea coming from that Herff and Old San Antonio Roads should be commercial?
A number of Boerne residents are starting to sense the City has adopted it's own private Master Plan, designed by a small number of people, and being pushed past the majority of the residents. Properties are repeatedly being zoned commercial in historically residential areas, with little public discussion, and out of step with our existing master plan.
This plan seems to call for all of Herff Road to become a bustling commercial and apartment district, instead of what we were told was going to be traffic relief from Esperanza congestion. Esperanza helped pay for that thoroughfare, and now they will be waiting at that light a long time, wondering if this is what they paid for.
When you combine a road (designed for traffic relief) AND a street (designed for commercial uses), you end up with something known infamously as a STROAD.
A stroad it is very poor at moving traffic and does not function well for commercial uses either. See this short video. It is worth a few minutes:
Zoning Herff and Old San Antonio Road as commercial does not make sense if they are intended to move traffic.
Why is our city staff pushing for a plan without first gaining public support? Groups like the Chamber of Commerce and the Boerne Kendall County Economic Development Corporation – the same group that brought you "Project Saturn" (the code name they used for Buc-ee's) – are expected to lobby to encourage development. But should this also be the job of city staff?
Throughout the debate around 17 Herff, city staff worked aggressively to promote their zoning recommendation and the developer's plan. They made numerous statements that appeared designed to paint their proposal in the most favorable light possible while neglecting to discuss any of the potential drawbacks.
During the first planning and zoning meeting on February 6th, Laura Talley, our city planner defended the zoning proposal by stating: “They need 250 apartments to make this work.” and “It is a mixture of the commercial and residential that makes the numbers work.” She also said: “We’ve gone back and forth about placement of an access road. We’re still talking about where that’s going to go.”
Why is the location of an access road being discussed before the location is even zoned? And why should it matter to P&Z if the developer needs the apartments to make a profit? Zoning decisions are supposed to be made for the best interest of the town, free from developer influence.
Shouldn't our city staff be working for the best interests of everyone in our town? Why wouldn't they provide unbiased and complete information instead of acting as salesmen for developers? How can we trust what the city staff say when they aren't impartial? And considering this alternative plan they have set into motion, where does the citizens' role in the new Master Plan fit in?
There seems to be enormous pressure on the City Council by the city staff to accept this alternative Master Plan as the inevitable future of Boerne. I say it is time to shine some light on this Plan, especially when it is obvious the public is not on board.
We need more transparency from our city government and elected officials.
Ambition is good, but blind ambition doesn't look where it is going.