The Port Arthur News
PORT NECHES —
The rezoning of 2.5 acres of land earmarked for the Neches River Wheel House restaurant in Port Neches was approved with a 4 to 1 vote on Thursday.
Longtime councilmember Roy Hollier cast the dissenting vote.
“I still think there are too many loose ends,” Hollier said after the meeting. “I’m not for giving away land for $1.”
In August, the city conveyed the property to the Port Neches Economic Development Corporation as per government code then sold the 2.5 acres of land for $1 to the investment group. The land is appraised at about $550,000.
Hollier said he is not against the restaurant and worries about such things as the safety of skate boarders who use the nearby parking lot and traffic issues.
“But to me, they just haven’t answered all my questions,” he added saying that he doesn’t feel his questions are answered to the fullest. He also did not like the fact that Lance Bradley, who is part of a group of investors behind the Wheel House, is also on the city’s Riverfront Development Authority and acts as counsel for the city.
All of the seats in council chambers were filled and a few people stood in the back of the room. No one in the audience spoke during the discussion and subsequent vote on the rezoning topic. On Wednesday, Port Neches resident Alicia Ramsey spoke with the Port Arthur News regarding her opposition to the proposed restaurant. Ramsey is one of about six residents who live within 20 feet of the site who are opposed to the issue.
Ramsey made an open records request to the city for correspondence regarding the Wheel House and has been sorting through nearly 1,000 pages of information including e-mails. She believes there may be a conflict of interest and said she has notified the FBI and the Attorney General’s Office.
The idea of a waterfront restaurant was brought to the Riverfront Development Authority in May by Bert Lamson, one of the investors. From there, the issue went to city council, the planing and zoning commission and the city’s economic development corporation.