Council rejects 3 Port Arthur zoning proposals for housing. See why.

Published 12:18 am Saturday, December 26, 2020

Three days after coming up short in a runoff election, Raymond Scott Jr. said in parting words Tuesday he enjoyed the nine years he served on the Port Arthur City Council.

“I’ve always said, over and over, the seats up there are not our seats; it’s the citizens’ seats,” said Scott, who lost the at-large Position 8 race to the Rev. Donald Ray Frank Sr. on Dec. 19. “The citizens have spoken, and I know we all have seasons. We all have a due season. When one challenge is over, God will provide another challenge for you.”

Serving District 1 in his last regular meeting after nine years Tuesday, Scott followed through with citizens’ requests to deny a zoning change that would turn less than an acre of the Griffing Park neighborhood at the intersection of Twin City Highway and 25th Street from single-family to light commercial for the construction of an apartment complex.

Councilmembers including Scott voted 4-0 against the proposal following a public hearing.

Mayor Thurman Bartie, who is undergoing treatment for COVID-19 at a Friendswood hospital, and outgoing at-large Position 8 Councilwoman Kaprina Frank were absent.

District 2 Councilman Cal Jones abstained his vote but did not explain why.

“We have heard from the citizens,” said Scott, who along with Kaprina Frank are term-limited at their positions. “I feel the citizens spoke, and I will support the citizens.”

Houston developer Mike Adams said the complex would have provided housing for veterans, but members of the Griffing Park neighborhood expressed concerns that the complex would decrease property value and increase traffic at an already busy intersection.

Steven Vu Trieu and Thai Sophia applied for the zoning amendment.

During the hearing, Michelle Bruno said she opposed multi-family housing at the location because an Exxon station is at the intersection.

“That alone causes traffic that is not needed in our bedroom community,” Bruno said. “There are plenty other sites in Port Arthur that can be commercial. I will support them wholeheartedly to go into, but not in Griffing Park. We need to keep Griffing Park as a single-family dwelling.”

Said Dr. Kate Carabelle: I am 100 percent onboard with veterans housing, but there are plenty other places in Port Arthur for that.”

Lucille Armintor said the location is “very dangerous” because no sidewalks exist there.

“I live 2½ blocks from the area,” Armintor said. “If it were children that lived there, they would not have easy access to and from school.”

The Port Arthur Planning and Zoning Commission recommended by a 3-0 vote to the council to fail the measure.

All five councilmembers present voted against rezoning nearly 9 acres of land on Texas 73 next to Jade Avenue from light commercial to agricultural for the building of a recreational vehicle park. Port Acres Elementary School is located in the area.

Port Arthur Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Mark Porterie spoke to council against the establishment of an RV park near the school.

“I cannot imagine having that new school, Port Acres Elementary, adjacent to an RV park,” Porterie said, citing safety reasons. “I don’t understand that and I don’t agree with that. I am not in opposition to the location of an RV park somewhere else within our city, but not on the side of an elementary pre-K-5 school, where students are walking, where parents are dropping their kids off.

“We have to think about Port Arthur in a way where our kids can dream, where our students can reach higher than an RV park. If it were homes, yes, but an RV park? Not at all.”

Susan Rising and Jonathan Morfin applied for the rezoning to develop the RV resort. Morfin said residents in the area wanted “something new and different,” adding new workers for industrial projects would have resided at the park and spent their money at nearby businesses.

A zoning change from industry to planned development district for approximately 59 acres off FM 365 was also denied by a 4-1 vote.

Houston developer Jim Nance said a “first-class RV community” that would not be a combination of trailers and RVs would have served arriving workers for the industrial projects.

The Planning and Zoning Commission recommended unanimously both proposed RV parks be approved.

Mary E. Young Properties was granted by unanimous vote a zoning boundary extension for commercial excavation to 234 acres of property located northwest of FM 365 between West Port Arthur Road and U.S. 69.

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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