The Killeen City Council killed a controversial request to clear the way for a special-needs therapy center abutting a residential neighborhood after an emotional and lengthy public hearing Tuesday.
During a hearing on the first of two ordinances to change the city’s Future Land Use Map and zoning on a 3.74-acre rural parcel of land at the northern corner of Watercrest and Cody Poe roads, residents of the Lake Crest on the Hill neighborhood on Prestige Loop told the council the relocated Harker Heights center was unwanted due to its being out of character with the residential neighborhood and the possibility of increased traffic.
Lindsey Emmons, the owner of Stable Life Concepts in Harker Heights who requested to move her business to Killeen, said the center would be used for one-on-one therapy for special-needs children but could be expanded to adult patients and patients with chronic illnesses.
“Moving from Harker Heights would be beneficial for the clients that we have and our employees,” Emmons said.
Opponents to the request, including Blaine Smith, a Prestige Loop resident, said bringing a business so close to the neighborhood would damage quality of life and increase traffic and danger to neighborhood children.
“When I go out on my patio, it’s the first thing I’ll see out the back of my house,” Smith said. “When more traffic comes into that area, they’re going to use that loop as a detour.”
Current employees of Stable Life Concepts and parents of children at the center also addressed the council, highlighting the number of patients from military families and the convenience of a center so close to Fort Hood.
Elizabeth Brown-Miller, a Texas A&M University-Central Texas professor who also works at the center, said she hoped local residents would avoid “NIMBY-ism” or a “not in my backyard” mentality when considering the benefits the center would offer.
“We have a family-oriented business that treats our clients like family,” Brown said.
Ultimately, the council unanimously voted against the map adjustment due to traffic concerns tied to the new business, which at its peak would bring 100 to 110 new vehicles to the area at peak hours.
“I’m tremendously concerned about the traffic,” said Councilman Jim Kilpatrick, in whose district the business would reside. “I get two to five calls per week on traffic out there.”
After the council disapproved the map adjustment, Emmons withdrew the associated zoning change request to facilitate the move.
In other business at its regular meeting Tuesday, the council:
Voted unanimously to approve budget amendments to pay for unforeseen financial needs in the city’s street maintenance and streets divisions. Finance Director Jonathan Locke said $74,693 was needed for vehicle repairs due to multiple engine failures in street division vehicles. The proposed funds to cover the budget amendment would be redirected from salary lag in the Killeen Police Department fund in the 2017 budget.
Voted against raising a Killeen Arts Commission grant for the Vive Les Arts Societe from $45,000 to around $90,000 despite members of the VLA board addressing the council asking for more financial support. The VLA Theatre recently overhauled its board of directors after nearly closing its doors.