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Community responds to rezoning

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    Examiner photo by Connie Clements

The Navasota Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) held a Regular Meeting Thursday, Aug. 8, and voted 5-2 against a request to rezone an R-1B Residential District property in the Overlay District to B-1, General Business. The request was made by Jon and Janice Crouch, 1539 E. Washington for development of a Taco Bell Restaurant on the northwest corner of Washington Avenue at N. Post Oak. The Overlay District on the north side of Washington Avenue extends from Millican Street east to N. Post Oak, and on the south side from Nolan to S. Post Oak. It is a mix of residential and historic homes and permits specific types of businesses such as fine dining restaurants, bed-and-breakfast lodging and professional offices.

Representing the Tacala Austin Corporation/Taco Bell at the public hearing was Vice-President Dwayne Kostiha who said he’d looked at several other sites but described SH 6 at Washington Avenue as the “nerve center of Navasota,” and a location that “met most of the criteria that we’re looking for.”

Taco Bell’s site plan included retaining seven of the existing large trees, a six-foot privacy fence on the north and west sides, LED exterior lighting directed toward the restaurant property and a full masonry enclosure for a dumpster.

Kostiha continued, “We told (city) staff that we would be willing to request or plot for a monument sign only and would not be requesting a large pole sign even though some of the nearby businesses have them.”

He added that they complied with TxDOT’s request to move the Washington Avenue driveway farther west, away from the intersection at N. Post Oak.

Kostiha said the company’s investment would be “in excess of $1 million,” would provide employment for 25-30 people and increase the tax base for the city and school district. Since franchise agreements are for 25 years, he pointed out Taco Bell would be a water and gas customer for that duration.

Responding to commissioners’ questions, Kostiha acknowledged a traffic impact analysis had not been conducted but speculated Navasota would be an “average volume” store based on similar rural locations.

Resident response

Of the large contingent of community members in attendance, 10 gave testimony against rezoning and the construction of a Taco Bell at that location. Concerns of nearby residents included increased turnaround traffic on W. Post Oak, loitering, criminal activity and disruption of the quiet neighborhood of singles, families with children and retirees.

Additional criticisms included noise from the speakers, littering and exacerbation of drainage issues while other residents testified against rezoning to preserve Washington Avenue and its “charming” appearance.

Diane Ward whose property is next door expressed her concern that her only option for resale would be to a commercial developer.

Ward said, “No other homeowner is going to want to touch my home next to Taco Bell’s drive through window.”

She continued, “Because they sloped it toward my property, more so toward my bedroom window, I’m going to hear that noise all the time. The hours in College Station are 7 a.m. to 3 a.m.! I’m upset and I don’t want any part of this Taco Bell beside me, and I’ll fight hammer, tongue, tooth and nail to keep it from happening.”

N. Post Oak resident Justin Meyers expressed his dissatisfaction at the prospect of living behind Burger King and the possibility of another development.

Meyers asked, “How would your life change if you had two fast food restaurants 15 meters from your doorstep?”

Resident Kathleen Terrell warned of the “creeping commercialism” that would result from rezoning the property and Kelly Austin said, “One of the best parts of coming into Navasota is that you see these beautiful homes. You are not driving through fast food alley. That’s what keeps us uniquely Navasota.”

Navasota newcomer Michelle Boes was dismayed that with so few homes available in town, a “livable, valuable structure” could be torn down.

At the close of the public hearing, commissioner Dia Copeland reflected on the city’s Comprehensive Plan and said, “That Comprehensive Plan included the historic Overlay District to maintain the historic flavor of the City of Navasota and the quality of life of our community.”

According to Commissioner Sarah Korpita, the Comprehensive Plan’s future land use designated for that property is R-1B.

Commissioner Patty Tokoly said that Navasota is “coming into its own and booming,” and “the historic drive-up on Washington is a must to the feel that we’re creating.”

Commissioners James Harris and Carolyn Katkoski voted against denying the request without comment. Following that vote, all commissioners voted not to amend Chapter 14 Zoning as it relates to the Overlay District as would have been required had the zoning request passed.

Resident notification

under review

Commissioners also discussed revamping the notification process for variance, sign and zoning requests. Suggested was extending the 200 feet mandated by the Texas Local Government code to 500 feet because of Navasota’s large lots. In addition, Copeland recommended revising the notification letters she described as not resident friendly or not easily understood.

She said, “We’ve got to be servant leaders. We have to do that as representatives of the city and as representatives of the public.”

Other suggestions included posting signage on property where a change is requested, or a Notify Nav call.

City council liaison Josh Fultz said of the signage, “This is one of the things that we discussed at the last council meeting and we’re going to discuss again. It’s something we’re interested in as well.”

Before adjourning, commissioners approved the Minutes of the July 11 and July 25 meeting.

Commissioners present were Dia Copeland, James Harris, Carolyn Katkoski, Sarah Korpita, Chairman Randy Peters, Patty Tokoly and Dr. John Walla. Representing the City of Navasota were Community Development Director Lupe Diosdado, Community Relations Specialist Kris Gruver, and city council liaison Josh Fultz.