By Justin Cox
Killeen Daily Herald
A year ago this month, a relatively small 1,300-acre parcel of land on the south side of Killeen finally accepted an annexation agreement with the City of Killeen. The city's borders had swollen quickly, and the little parcel and the 400 or so homes were encircled.
Residents of the round-shaped area, nicknamed the Doughnut Hole, have been fighting in the year since annexation to keep the rural lifestyle intact.
Hundreds of people, from an area that only boasts hundreds of people, have turned out to protest city expansion. And the face of that expansion was developer Bruce Whitis and his proposed 87-acre subdivision on Featherline Road adjacent to the Doughnut Hole.
But on Tuesday night, their fight came to an end as the Killeen City Council approved Whitis' proposal.
It wasn't failure, as the Killeen councilmen told two dozen residents at Tuesday night's council meeting.
Mayor Pro Tem Fred Latham said he has received more public comment about this issue than any other, echoing the same message from each councilman in turn.
"We drilled this thing for an hour and a half in the workshop," Latham said. "We have gotten many, many messages. We have heard what you have to say. This has not been an easy decision."
Councilman Scott Cosper said he saw the long-term benefits of annexation into a growing city when he was a young man.
"There is a greater public need, and the long-term results will prove it," Cosper said.
Mayor Tim Hancock told the council he believed the Doughnut Hole residents to be passionate, but also reasonable.
"What they are asking for is valid as far as safety is concerned," Hancock said. "It is in your purview to address those concerns."
The approval sets in motion a plan for 381 new homes.
After two motions failed to pass his proposal last summer, Whitis returned in November and resubmitted the project as R-1 instead of a Planned Unit Development, which basically decreased the density in the area to a standard 6,000 square feet of lot space.
Doughnut Hole residents still wanted the council to deny it, but with a weaker case and a handful of speakers instead of a roomful, their arguments failed to convince the council and it passed.
The first proposal was not recommended for approval by the planning and zoning commission and required a supermajority vote to pass ? it needed six of seven votes; it got five.
When the project was recommended by the planning and zoning commission with a change to R-1, it was accepted and received the necessary votes.
Councilman Juan Rivera indicated what could be the Doughnut Hole's biggest long-term impact.
"We need a different flavor for R-1, and I'm going to be looking into it so we can get it right."
Contact Justin Cox at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7568.