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Mayor sets out details of the DPS special-use permit

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The DPS Mega-Center at Evers and Huebner roads has been the most controversial development to come before City Council in my tenure as mayor.

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The overwhelming consensus from the adjoining neighborhoods was they did not want it there, primarily because of the anticipated traffic and flooding problems.

The following are the facts that the council had to grapple with in making the decision to approve this development:

The Evers and Huebner property has been zoned B-2 since 1968, and B-2 zoning is part of the city's Master Plan for this property. A government office, like the DPS facility, fits the B-2 criteria. Thus, there was no zoning change involved. Zoning cases are regulated by Texas law. The council is sworn to follow the law. Property owners have rights associated with the zoning on their property.

However, Leon Valley imposed a Special Use Permit (SUP) requirement on the developer before a building permit would be issued, because this development abuts a neighborhood (Canterfield). An SUP addresses the following issues: traffic circulation and impact, lighting, noise, parking, landscape, trash receptacles, 8-foot vision proof fence with landscape buffering and overlay design requirements. An SUP imposes certain limited conditions on approval; council cannot just deny the right to develop with the permitted zoning.

The Zoning Commission's recommendation to the council was to approve the SUP with the following conditions, (which are partly outside SUP powers): Hours, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.; driving test route that took testing drivers out of Leon Valley neighborhoods and traffic to be sufficiently addressed by the council.

April 3, the City Council conducted a three-hour public hearing on the SUP. At the end of the hearing, at which virtually all citizens spoke against the project, the developer's attorney stated that by their legal interpretation, this property does not “abut” the neighborhood and thus no SUP is required. Thus the developer contended that no city approval other than a building permit could be legally imposed. The council took no action on the SUP and instead requested the city attorney advise council of the legal implications. Council reset the case for May 1.

On April 17, City Council met after an executive session to discuss this legal challenge. The council directed the city manager with the help of the city attorney and staff to design a development agreement with the developer by May 1.

A development agreement is a way around the legal obstacles related to the consideration of an SUP at the proposed facility. This agreement is designed to address community concerns related to the project – traffic control measures, drainage, hours of operation, driver testing route, residential area buffer for noise, landscaping, sidewalks and energy efficiency measures. The State of Texas DPS facilities receive preference for traffic enhancements. Entering into a development agreement can more flexibly address the citizens' concerns, and gives DPS and the developer a chance to become good neighbors. We intend to use every tool available to protect the neighborhood from traffic and drainage problems.

Many citizens asked why the developer could not move the project to Bandera Road, specifically to the Fiesta Dodge site. When the developer was asked his position was on this, he simply said he could not move it. The developer, Alamo Park Properties LLC, bought the B-2 zoned acreage at Evers and Huebner road when he responded to a state proposal for DPS Mega Centers back in 2011. Five proposals to build this facility in Northwest Bexar County were received by DPS and Alamo Park Properties LLC was chosen by DPS. This is a private development, which will pay approximately $14,000 per year in city of Leon Valley ad valorem taxes. The developer will build and maintain the property for the next 10 years with a lease from DPS. The developer has two additional five-year lease options after the 10-year lease is up.

We hate to see so many citizens upset with this project. Many said the council was not reflecting the will of the citizens. In 2008, the City Council listened to the same citizens' complaints regarding a mixed-use development at this site. The council was able to deny this project, unlike the DPS project, because it was a request for a change in zoning.

Since 1968, several other developments on the same property were turned down at the demand of citizens. These requests also required a change in zoning from the Master Plan (B-2 to R-3).

Thank you for considering the evidence on this very difficult issue.

Chris Riley,  Mayor of Leon Valley