Attorney: PN Zoning Board stands by their decision

Published 8:25 pm Wednesday, December 9, 2015

PORT NECHES — The Port Neches Zoning Board of Adjustment is standing behind their decision to grant variances to a developer who is proposing to build an apartment complex in the city.

Jane Leger, the attorney representing the zoning board in a lawsuit filed by the City of Port Neches to reverse the decision, issued a statement on Wednesday.

“The board stands by their decision as in the public’s best interest. The board thought it best to allow a property owner, who already had the legal right to build apartments on his land, to build luxury apartments rather than the bare minimum set out in the (city’s) ordinance,” Leger said. “The board thinks it’s a sad state of affairs in Port Neches when the city council hauls volunteer citizens into court rather than work in unison to resolve issues with the property owner’s plans as it has in the past. The board came to their decision after almost two months of deliberation and careful consideration of concern’s expressed by the public.”

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Leger points out that the city building inspector as well as the fire chief was in support of the issue.

Port Neches Fire Chief Steve Curran, in a letter dated Oct. 13 to the building board of adjustment and appeals, recommended the project move forward from a fire fighting point of view after reviewing the variance requests. The proposal includes multiple buildings with multiple units under one roof. Three story apartments are accessible by the fire department’s “105-foot aerial quint.”

“The ability of the Port Neches Fire Department to respond to a multi-story structure is substantial. First, the proposed development will be sprinkled, which is 97 percent effective in extinguishment. Second, the city of Port Neches has interlocal agreements with the cities of Nederland and Groves for automatic response to structure fires,” Curran said in the letter. “Third, there is a mutual aid system in place in South East Texas through the Sabine-Neches Chief’s Association that will respond equipment from the cities of Port Arthur and Beaumont if additional help is needed. There are multiple pumpers available locally and three aerial trucks in Nederland, Port Neches and Port Arthur.”

The Zoning Board of Adjustment of the City of Port Neches met on Nov. 9 and approved variances to go above the two-story height requirement, to place more than 12 attached dwellings units under one roof and go beyond the acreage density.

The proposed apartments will be “luxury” and the gated complex will feature laundry, pool, work-out room, event center, access gate and brick columns.

The zoning board learned the mayor and city council filed a writ of certiorari on Nov. 19 regarding the zoning board’s approval of three variances related to the construction of an apartment complex at 3031 Eighth St. The apartments will be a mix of two and three story structures with 140 units that comes with an investment of $8 million. Jeff Ahktar of Amron Housing Group, proposed the project.

The legal document states “the board were illegal in that each variance exceeds the limits placed on the construction of multifamily housing units” by city code.

Legal fees for the city versus zoning board lawsuit are not yet known, Port Neches City Manager Andrè Wimer said.

“At this point there is no estimate,” Wimer said. “This is dependent on a variety of factors and some of those factors have yet to be determined.”

Either way the city is paying for both sides of the issue.

“City Council authorized the Zoning Board of Adjustment be provided with legal council,” he said.

The city’s budget has an allocation for legal fees, he added.

The zoning board consists of five members and four alternates. Boyd Parks, a board member, resigned when he learned the city filed suit to reverse the board’s decision. During a recent zoning board meeting Gary Stretcher was named vice-chairperson.


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