Port Arthur townhomes request met with opposition in front of city council

Published 12:22 am Wednesday, August 16, 2023

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A request for a zoning change in order to construct 30 luxury, two-story rental townhomes in the city was met by resistance from neighbors in the immediate area of the proposed project.

Those in opposition during Tuesday’s Port Arthur City Council public hearing cited issues ranging from flooding and crime to loss of privacy and a decrease in home values.

Homes in the area of the proposed townhomes are valued from around $350,000 to more than $400,000 range.

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Developer Mohammed Issa is looking to amend the zoning of property south of Laura Lane and west of 90th Street from agriculture zones to high density residential, formerly called multi-family. The city’s Planning and Zoning Board previously voted 3-2 in favor of allowing the zoning change. Now the issue is in front of city council members.

Jesus Torres, who lives in the 200 feet area around the proposed development, is in favor of Port Arthur growing but not in favor of destroying neighborhoods.

Duplexes bring temporary residents, Torres said, such as workers who come in for six months to a year and leave.

“We want permanent residents, not temporary,” he said.

Another issue is a two-story townhome would offer a view into the homes of the residents of Laura Lane, impacting their privacy, he said.

Kenneth Miller, also a resident of Laura Lane, said he is opposed to the zoning change and proposed construction. He cited traffic and safety issues and the lowering of property values.

Miller also worries about the number of vehicles that would be added to the area’s roadway; 30 duplexes would bring in 60 additional families, which could add 120 additional vehicles to the neighborhood. There is no shoulder or sidewalk on the 90th Street side, which would cause a safety issue and hamper the freedom to walk, Miller said.

Shirley Loges has lived on Laura Lane for 15 years and worries the duplexes won’t house just one family per unit, saying she can show council members house after house where four generations of people live with multiple cars parked in the driveway and the street.

Currently there are motorists going around the Best Buy area cutting through neighborhoods so as not to deal with the traffic on FM 365, she said.

She said she sat for 10 minutes waiting to drive from El Paso Street and counted at least 40 cars, sometimes more. And she’s almost been T-boned several times by careless drivers.

Since development of other nearby areas and the addition of apartment complexes, she has seen infrastructure issues such as sewage problems, she said.

Dr. Roselyn Queen, who is a member of the P&Z board, said she is one of the two board members who voted in opposition of the zoning change.

“I believe in my heart, council should vote this zoning change down,” Queen said.

According to Issa, the market valued rental housing units will be from $1,800 to $2,000 and will not have low-income housing. It will be a gated community and will have a detention pond to help with drainage.

The entrance for the development, if approved, will be on 95th Street, and there will be zero tolerance for problems with the tenants.

As for crime and break-ins, those happen everywhere. They can happen in Beverly Hills, the east end and the west end, Issa said.

Councilman Donald Frank asked Issa of the square footage of the luxury apartments, to which Issa said 1,500 square feet.

“That doesn’t sound luxury to me,” Frank said.

Issa retorted, that when you add the two 1,500 square feet units together, that makes 3,000 square feet and that includes balconies in the front and backyards.

“No one is building an apartment at 2,000 square feet. I’m being realistic,” Issa said, adding luxury can be added by the trees and vegetation of the property, the street, the gate.

Council did not take action on the zoning request Tuesday. A proposed ordinance concerning the zoning change will be on the Aug. 29 agenda.