Nearly three dozen Harker Heights residents attended Tuesday’s Harker Heights City Council to oppose a zoning change for a property on Knights Way, east of 2410 Community Park.
Raymond Hamden of Rahham, LLC, made an appeal to the council to grant his request to change a residential zoning designation to a local business zoning designation for property described as Fawn Valley located at 1702 E. Knights Way.
The property consists of about three acres of land, and a zoning change would allow Hamden to develop the property as a commercial venture at a later date.
According to Planning and Development Director Joseph Molis, the property is located within the Knights Way Overlay Development District that acts to enforce specific design standards that would improve the appearance of the area as well as alleviate potential conflicts with neighboring residential properties. “Any proposed commercial development would have to conform to those standards,” Molis said.
Before the proposal went before the council, it went through the process of a public hearing before the Planning and Zoning Commission, which voted 6-0 to recommend approval of the change with an added condition that an eight-foot masonry wall be constructed along Marble Trail.
It is standard procedure for the city to send out notices about proposed zoning changes within a 400-foot notification area.
In this case, 33 were sent to property owners. A total of 36 responses were received in opposition of the request. Seventeen responses against the zoning change were received from outside the 400-foot area. No responses were received in favor of the change.
Molis said, “Considering the Planning and Zoning Commission’s recommendation of approval with the additional requirement of an eight-foot masonry screening wall, accompanied by the input received from the public and others regarding this property, the staff could not confidently determine the best course of action in regards to the “highest and best use” of this property so we are turning to the council about to how to proceed.”
Mayor Spencer Smith reminded everyone that this agenda item was a public hearing and moved forward with receiving comments from citizens.
First to speak was the zoning change applicant, Raymond Hamden.
Hamden said, “I bought this land about five years ago and for whatever reason I thought it would be a no-brainer that it would become commercial — and based on the direction the city was going, I didn’t even question that in my mind and I’ll stick by it. I respect the concerns of this council and the citizens but there is no way I’ll get my money back with residential lots.”
Hamden’s plans are to build shopping centers and office buildings. “If a nice little diner like Papa’s wants to get in there, I would like to open it up for them, too.”
Mayor Pro Tem Michael Blomquist asked Hamden, “If the council comes back and says that the best use is residential, are you prepared to go forward with that and perhaps go with a conditional-use permit as suggested by Councilwoman (Jennifer) McCann?”
“I would not be prepared for a CUP,” Hamden said.
Comments from the 20 people who spoke during the public hearing included the topics of flooding, the need to widen FM 2410, traffic, the effectiveness of an eight-foot wall, the noise associated with the property becoming commercial and street lights.
Those who spoke also said the council should look at the future of what Harker Heights will become, safety, lowering of the speed limit, and keeping the property it residential because that provides seclusion.
Christopher Beck said that trees, not walls, provide privacy and keep the community quiet and safe.
“I imagined a car wash 30 feet from my front door with music blaring as they detailed their cars. Quite unappealing and I think most would agree,” said Tony Brink about businesses in his neighborhood.
After 2½ hours of listening to information about the request and a public hearing, Mayor Smith called for a motion on the item.
Mayor Prom Tem Blomquist responded by saying, “With all things taken into consideration from those who spoke, they don’t want a development like this in front of their subdivision. The council is pro-business and are sympathetic with Mr. Hamden, but I think this is not the best fit for this location at this time.
“I’m going to make a motion to disapprove the ordinance to change the zoning designation from residential (R-1) to a local business designation (B-3) at 1702 E. Knights Way.”
Councilwoman Jody Nicholas seconded the motion.
Before the vote, Councilwoman Jennifer McCann said, “I want to tell Mr. Hamden that there are other options when it comes to bringing back a different application request outside of the B-3. There are other zoning options that could create a happier medium, but he would have to apply in a different zone.”
Molis confirmed that if a person fails a zoning request, they have to wait 180 days to bring that very same request back to the city. If the applicant wanted to change to a different level of request, then the person can apply at the next available opportunity.
The council voted 3-1 to disapprove the request by Hamden, with Blomquist, McCann and Coucilmember Jackeline Soriano Fountain voting for disapproval, and Councilman Jody Nicholas voting for approval.
Councilmember John Reider had an excused absence and was not at the meeting.