The Rockport City Council, at its regular meeting Tuesday, Aug. 27, denied without prejudice the first reading of an ordinance for a requested Planned Unit Development (PUD) located at 3250-3330 Highway 35 Bypass (42.54 acres of land out of an 84.118 acre tract, out of the George K. Taggart III Trustee, 1,108.79 acre tract) to develop the property as a mixed-use subdivision consisting of single-family residential and commercial parcels.
The property is currently zoned R-1 (1st Single Family Dwelling District) and B-1 (General Business District).
At an Aug. 13 public hearing three people asked questions about the development and aired concerns about drainage issues that could arise if the property was developed as planned.
The Rockport Planning & Zoning Commission (P&Z), at its meeting Aug. 19, which lasted about two hours, heard additional concerns from Rockport County Club (RCC) property owners. Drainage issues, as well as other concerns were aired at that time.
At that P&Z meeting, The Oaks, LLC’s Paul Lippke, the developer of the project, outlined engineering plans, and answered questions regarding drainage, etc. He said a comprehensive drainage plan was completed and is consistent with the city’s master plan.
It was also revealed the drainage plan was completed prior to Hurricane Harvey.
Lippke said there is no need to do another study.
“We give water a place to go,” he said.
Lippke said the developer is trying to deliver homes in the low $200,000 range, and in order to do that a number of exceptions were required, thus the PUD request.
One RCC resident noted the lot sizes in the new PUD would be half the size of regular lots in the RCC subdivision, and one-third the size of lots in RCC Estates.
He said all that extra concrete on smaller lots will “exacerbate drainage problems” in the area.
He encouraged the developer to conduct additional studies, saying, “Something that looks good for the city (today), costs a lot down the road.”
A number of other RCC property owners shared stories about flooding issues in that subdivision, as well as personal drainage issues at their properties after heavy rains.
One of the developer’s plans is to install a pump to move water from a large detention pond.
One RCC resident said, “You can pump water anywhere you want, but if the water is high (tides and/or groundwater levels) it isn’t going anywhere.”
Adelaide Marlatt asked the P&Z to recommend denial, not because she didn’t want to see the property developed, but rather due to its density, and the amount of concrete coverage.
“It will not drain,” she said.
Dan Pugh suggested the main reason the developer is seeking a PUD is to get 45 foot wide lots, as opposed to the city required 40 foot minimum.
“I suggest making some of the lots open areas,” he said.
Jennifer Shaw said the city can’t approve a PUD is it harms neighbors “in any way.”
Another RCC resident said adding a detention pond on the property is not the answer.
“I can only imagine what that pond will do for mosquitoes,” he said.
Jim Guidry (RCC Group LLC), the owner of the property, who lives in RCC Estates, acknowledged there are drainage issues in and around RCC, but added, “I’ve dealt with this issue myself. This development will help drainage (in the area).”
He also noted the P&Z has the obligation to approve a developer’s plans if they meet requirements.
RCC resident and local realtor Karen Mella, who also lives in RCC, said, “If this development will help alleviate the drainage problem it could be a win/win (situation).
“I appeal to you that we need affordable housing. We’re not getting the help promised by the federal government (after Harvey).”
The council followed the P&Z and city staff recommendation and denied the request as presented.
The reasons presented for the denial included the developer’s request for narrower lots, narrower street rights of way, a reduction in front yard setbacks, installing temporary sanitary sewer lift stations instead of the required master plan sanitary sewer lift station to be built upon initial development, and the use of a pump to move water, as opposed to city standards that stormwater detention basin discharge systems must be free flowing.
Public Works Director Mike Donoho said the staff recommended denial because the development, as designed, is not good for the health, safety and welfare of the community.
RCC resident Ralph Chiuminatta said he is glad to see city officials appeal to common sense.
“There are extenuating circumstances on this project and future projects in this area,” he said.
“The developer proposes raising land to make the property drain toward Pearl Street to the ditch and holding ponds to be pumped out.
“Raising the property on the east side (bordering RCC) doesn’t solve (the drainage) problem.”
Mayor Pro-tem J.D. Villa said, “One of these days that big green space is going to be something, but I take the staff (and P&Z’s) recommendation.”
He made the motion to deny the PUD request without prejudice. It was seconded by Mayor Pat Rios and approved unanimously. Councilwoman Barbara Gurtner did not attend the meeting.