The Port Arthur News
PORT NECHES —
The proposal to bring a waterfront restaurant to Port Neches is beginning to see some opposition as the final steps of the issue are brought to vote.
The late opposition came during a joint public hearing of Port Neches City Council and Port Neches Planning and Zoning Commission on Sept. 5 in which five people representing six pieces of property near the area submitted written protests against the issue.
The Planning and Zoning Commission will meet to discuss rezoning the 2.5 acres of land at 720 Lee St. from industrial-light to medium-business at 6:30 p.m. Monday at city hall, 1005 Merriman.
The P&Z board will make a recommendation regarding the rezoning of the land which will then be presented to City Council at the Sept. 19 meeting. Port Neches City Manager Andrè Wimer said council can choose to accept the recommendation or make a different decision.
The written protests to the rezoning will have some impact to the final decision though.
“When City Council votes on the rezoning request, as opposed to the vote simply requiring a 3/5 majority, it will require a 4/5 majority,” Wimer said.
The property, which is adjacent to Port Neches Riverfront Park, is currently zoned for industrial use. The zoning change will allow for a restaurant or other type commercial business to come in.
Before a zoning change occurs, the city must inform property owners within 200-feet of the property of the proposed change.
One resident, Everett Culver, submitted a list of concerns regarding proposed Wheel House restaurant. His concerns ranged from worries about noise and music, securing garbage and trash to deter nighttime animals and traffic issues.
Tim Blount told Council he is opposed to the issue because he feels there are a lot of unanswered questions and the public doesn’t know very much about the proposal.
Carl Carlson, co-chairman of the P&Z, had several questions for Council as the hearing was being adjourned; who approved transfer of ownership of the property and when will the public hear more about the proposal.
The City has been in discussion on the issue since May when Bert Lamson, owner of an architectural firm and one of nine local investors, approached Port Neches Riverfront Development Authority with the idea.
During the meeting Lamson brought a visual presentation showing the 3,500-square foot restaurant. The information was presented to City Council about a week later.
Then, in August after several months of negotiations and discussion which included input from citizens in attendance at the meetings, council approved terms and conditions as well as the purchase and sale agreement between the City of Port Neches, Port Neches Economic Development Corporation and Wheelhouse LLC, according to a story that ran in the Aug. 16 edition of the Port Arthur News.
The city then conveyed the property to the PNEDC as per government code then sold the 2.5 acres of land for $1. Should the group of investors not live up to the terms and conditions the property will revert back to the city.
The City of Port Neches owns 80 acres of land along the banks of the Neches River with the hopes of future development.
A master plan was unveiled in 2008 consisting of various components such as a marina, park and retail village. The issue fizzled as Hurricane Ike struck the area and a recession struck the country.
The city of Port Neches has pumped in more than $8 million in investments on the waterfront in acquiring properties suitable for development adjacent to the Port Neches Riverfront Park. The 80 acres were once two pieces of property that were home to an industrial facility and to a marine facility. Environmental remediation is complete.