The Port Arthur News
Port Arthur residents opposed to construction of a housing development for the elderly are hoping the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustments and Appeals will overturn a previous City Council vote that paved the way for the $10 million facility.
On July 9, City Council voted 5-3 to allow a zoning change from two family residential to multiple family residential. The vote cleared the way for construction of the 128-unit Edison Square complex, to be built where the old Edison Middle School stood on 12th Street.
The Appeals board is scheduled to hear objections to the vote at 5:30 Thursday at City Hall.
“I am really looking forward to a big turnout, but am looking forward to justice,” Reginald Trainer, a neighbor who is leading objections to the proposed facility, said.
At issue were returned notices from neighbors living within 200 feet of the proposed site. Prior to any proposed zoning change, neighbors in the affected area are required to be notified of the proposed change in zoning designation. The opinions of those neighbors living within two miles of the proposed change are taken into account before the city’s Planning and Zoning Board makes its recommendation to City Council.
City Council is charged with either approving the change, or not approving it.
In the case of the proposed Edison site, Council approved the Planning and Zoning Board’s recommendation to approve the change.
Council members voting against the measure did so because of the number of neighbors protesting the proposed facility. After two public hearings on the proposed change, the matter had been tabled.
When it came back up for a vote a month later, Council opted to accept new information from nearby residents. Some of those residents had changed their stance and no longer opposed the facility, while other information was from new tenants who had not expressed their opinions previously, Trainer said.
If the new information had not been allowed, a supermajority vote among Council would have been required, and could have possibly changed the outcome.
Council at the time determined the city did not have a deadline in place for accepting resident opinions, but has since adopted one.
Trainer said he takes issue with the vote because the new information was accepted after the public hearings were concluded.
Those in opposition also question who sent the residents correspondence. Only the city’s planning and zoning department is allowed to do so, Trainer said.
If the Appeals Board finds negligence they have the power to overturn the vote. In that case, the process would start again, and Council would have to vote for a second time.
Thursday’s request to overturn the vote is not the first.
In October, Trainer and three other plaintiffs against construction of the housing development filed a lawsuit in the 122nd District Court seeking an injunction to stop construction.
Judge Donald Floyd ruled his court did not have jurisdiction since the group had not filed an appeal with the city.
Trainer said the plaintiffs would have filed an appeal at the local level if they had been told the remedy was available.
Floyd has said his court could make a ruling on the requested injunction if the plaintiffs found no relief at the local level.
“We are hoping to get it back to City Council because they did not do it right,” Trainer said.