STEPHEN HEMELT — Proposed apartment complex construction runs into opposition from Nederland residents

Published 12:04 am Sunday, March 19, 2023

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A Nederland property owner is facing community backlash to a proposed plan to create a four-unit apartment style complex within city limits.

According to city administrators, Richie Salenga purchased property 10 years ago at 2120 Helena Avenue, which shares a corner with 22nd Street.

After the purchase, he demolished a mobile home and cleared the lot. He also owns the land on the right and rear of the property, where apartments currently sit.

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A public hearing was held this week regarding a request to re-zone the property from (C-2) neighborhood retail to (R-3) multi-family medium density for the construction of apartments.

In January of 2010, the City of Nederland went through a process where the entire city was rezoned.

Following that process, there are no areas in Nederland except existing apartment complexes that are zoned R-3 for apartments. Now those seeking new apartment construction in the city must go through a formal request process, public hearing and secure a positive vote from the city council.

This week’s town hall was just a public hearing and did not include a formal vote.

The request now moves to the city’s planning and zoning commission for recommendation before returning to the Nederland City Council for a final vote, most likely in April or May.

During this week’s public hearing, no one spoke in favor of the request; however, a parade of local residents expressed their displeasure with the idea.

A Gary Avenue resident said the city has enough apartments and he hopes the consensus opinion among council members is the same.

A North 27th Street resident said it seems like city council members pick and choose who can build and who can’t.

“That’s not fair,” he said. “Either enforce (a no apartments ordinance) or get rid of it. That is the way I look at it.”

A North 26th Street resident said he was opposed to any new apartments, adding consistent code enforcement is needed for proper city management.

He acknowledged Salenga family members are good people and said he was “not dogging them at all.”

“Pretty soon there will be a human cry amongst some of the landowners to allow them to convert Section 8, and I’m not so sure we need Section 8 housing in Nederland,” he said.

A Detroit Avenue resident said Nederland is bursting at the seams, more apartments are not needed and the schools are not keeping up with the current demand.

A North 30th Street resident also said more apartments are not needed, adding grocery stores can’t keep their shelves stocked.

“The streets are busy all the time,” she said. “People aren’t driving carefully anymore. We need to just slow things down and adjust to what we already got in this town because we need to finish our schools, we need to get the roads repaired. We need to slow down.”

A Carriage Lane resident said apartments lead to residents without “grassroots” or “investment” in Nederland.

“We see a lot of transients walking through the streets, something I haven’t seen in the years I grew up here,” she said. “The city has changed. It is just different then it was before, and I think apartment dwelling invites people in and out, in and out, where single-homes people are grassrooted. They have an investment in the city. That is the way I look at it.”

Stephen Hemelt is the president of Port Arthur Newsmedia, which publishes, The Port Arthur News and Greater Port Arthur The Magazine. He can be reached at or 409-721-2445.