• September 22, 2014

Spirit of NIMBY alive, well in area

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Posted: Saturday, June 16, 2012 5:00 am | Updated: 9:23 am, Wed Aug 15, 2012.

The spirit of NIMBY has been alive and well in the local area as of late.

NIMBY - or "not in my back yard" - is famous for rearing its head whenever an unwanted development is proposed in close proximity to a given neighborhood or subdivision.

In the first incidence, more than a dozen Harker Heights residents showed up at a May 30 planning meeting to protest the requested rezoning of about 7 acres of land for a 115-unit town home development.

Though the proposed gated town home community on Verna Lee Boulevard was touted as high-end, the development would have abutted single-family homes in the established Country Trails subdivision - and many of those residents were none too happy about the prospect of additional traffic and noise.

The planning and zoning commission ultimately denied the rezoning request, with the commission's vice president noting that the proposed development was not consistent with the city's land-use plan.

A few days later, the project's developers withdrew their rezoning request from consideration by the city council.

NIMBY showed up again last week, as several concerned residents went before the Harker Heights City Council, concerned about the possible construction of a gas station near their homes in the Thoroughbred Estates subdivision.

Admittedly, it's an odd situation. The entire neighborhood is zoned for single-family residential homes - except for one lot at Man O' War Drive and Old Nolanville Road that is zoned B-4, which would allow for businesses such as a gas station or convenience store.

Rumors that a gas station was in the offing gained momentum as workers cleared the site recently.

However, the land's owner, who lives in Austin, has not requested a building permit of any kind. The only permit he obtained was one to clear the property.

Still, some of the neighborhood's residents are upset over the prospect of a gas station in their midst, citing noise, safety, drainage and traffic as their main concerns. As a result, they want the zoning changed.

But unlike the Verna Lee rezoning request, there is little the city can do in this case.

Unless the lot's owner requests a zoning change from B-4 to residential, the city is powerless to force the issue. As City Councilman Pat Christ told one concerned resident, the city could be sued if it was found to be in violation of the state's property laws.

This is not an eminent-domain issue. Unlike last year, when the city forced the sale of a piece of property in order to complete a municipal water project, there is no overriding public interest at stake here. It's simply a case of incongruent zoning that could impact a residential neighborhood.

Ironically, the entire neighborhood originally was zoned B-4, but beginning in 1992, property in the subdivision was rezoned to R-1, single-family residential.

Except for one lot - Lot 46.

Several residents say they wouldn't have bought homes in the area if they had known a commercially zoned property was adjacent to theirs.

The concerned residents' best hope is that the lot's owner will request a change to residential zoning and sell the land to a home builder. At present, the land isn't worth much - the county tax appraisal district recently listed the lot's value at $650. How the land is developed will ultimately determine to what extent that value increases over time.

For now, though, it's a waiting game. Neighborhood residents will just have to see what - if anything - develops on the lot.

The two Harker Heights zoning issues are good examples of how residents often speak out when an unwanted development threatens to impinge on their neighborhoods.

This reaction was on full display a few years ago when residents in southern Killeen vigorously protested the planned development of a high-density garden home project, which ultimately won council approval after changes to the zoning ordinance.

Still, it's not a given that residents will protest every time.

Last week, the Copperas Cove City Council approved a 62-acre, 229-lot subdivision off Courtney Lane. In this case, it was two council members who were worried about the development causing an increase in traffic. Eventually, the project is expected to encompass 224 acres and 790 homes.

Yet, surprisingly, no local residents spoke up against the development.

But it likely won't be too long before NIMBY is heard again - at a city council, school board or county commissioners meeting near you.

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