By Philip Jankowski
Killeen Daily Herald
Killeen's newly elected city council showed its first signs of division Tuesday night in considering a rezoning request for a large residential and commercial development in south Killeen.
After much discussion, an initial motion to disapprove a rezoning request made by a development company owned by Gary Purser Jr. failed 3-4. The request was then approved in a 4-3 vote with no council members switching their votes.
The request from RSBP Developers, Inc. was one of two that came before the council in Tuesday's regular meeting. The one in question involved a 41.7-acre site on the east side of State Highway 195 just south of Stan Schlueter Loop.
Councilman Terry Clark led the bulk of the discussion against the request. Though several Purser-owned developments surrounding the proposed development were previously rezoned in line with what the company requested Tuesday, Clark said he felt the council could send developers a message with a vote against the zoning request.
"I think this is an opportunity to do something against the rank and file," Clark said.
Clark's main concern was with the request for a lax zoning request for the commercial portion of the development. His concern was eventually allayed with the approval of a more restrictive local business district zoning for about 6 acres of the development.
Clark also noted that construction already had begun on roads for the development, something he said was presumptuous.
Other council members voiced concerns that approving another large residential development would create a surplus in housing inventory that would adversely affect owners of existing homes.
Councilman Jonathan Okray said that flooding the market with new houses could create problems for soldiers if federal cuts to the military go through as proposed at the start of next year. Any repurposing of Fort Hood that leads to a reduction in troops could lead to saturation in the local housing market.
It would place soldiers in direct competition with home builders, he said. "Soldiers went bankrupt" when the 4th Infantry Division left Fort Hood, he said.
Councilwoman Elizabeth Blackstone also objected to the rezoning, noting that she had seen several undeveloped lots and unsold homes in neighboring subdivisions, most of which were also developed by Purser-owned ventures.
But Councilman Jose Segarra, a Realtor, said he had seen a recent rise in property values and believed that the houses were necessary.
Mayor Dan Corbin also spoke on the issue. Corbin, a lawyer, said he worried that any disapproval of a subdivision would create a precedent for future disapprovals of all proposed developments.
"I question that this is a moratorium on new building in the city of Killeen," he said.
Blackstone, Clark and Okray voted against the rezoning. Mayor Pro Tem Michael Lower, Segarra, Councilmen Wayne Gilmore and Jared Foster voted in favor.
Clark later made a motion to approve another, smaller rezoning request made by Purser's company that passed unanimously.
Clark said he made the motion in the spirit of showing that each zoning request has different merits for approval or disapproval.
In total, the council approved nine requests in a backlog of items that came before the Planning and Zoning Committee while the council had no quorum, clearing a backlog of pending requests.
Contact Philip Jankowski at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7553.