ABILENE Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Three lots at the corner of Ash Street and North 10th have become the topic of a heated debate. Currently plotted as residential land, the new owner of the lots wants to have them rezoned as heavy commercial, but some residents of the Carver neighborhood hope to stop this change from happening.
“This neighborhood means a lot to me, but it means a lot to a lot more people,” says Carver resident Victoria Tebow.
Local business owner James Pitts owns the land connected to the contested lots. He has conducted his U-Haul franchise there for some time and wants to expand onto this newly purchased and connected land, but he must have it rezoned before he can legally store his vehicles there.
“He doesn’t intend to build any houses on them, and so he doesn’t intend to create any residential district on them,” said Pitts’s attorney Jenny Henley.
Henley presented a case based on Pitts’s upkeep of the land since he took it over as well as a similar case that took place in 2015, when three lots just north of Ash and North 10th were rezoned from residential to heavy commercial.
The planning and zoning board says this decision was made mainly because the lots surrounding it were commercial as well.
Though city staff says a 2011 city resolution known as the “Carver neighborhood plan” may have language advising against such action.
“The goal of that plan was to facilitate quality, neighborhood-compatible land use, and the objective of the plan was to rezone properties from heavy commercial to less intensive zoning districts,” says Abilene planning and development staffer Nick Watts.
The planning and zoning board raised concerns that this resolution was not brought up during the 2015 decision.
“There’s a struggle in me right now as to whether this is the appropriate change in zoning for these three lots against what the city has put in place with the resolution,” said planning and zoning board member Bill Noonan.
Concerned residents like Rosten Callarman stated their case against the rezoning, claiming that if approved, this would be one in a long line of slights against the neighborhood.
“It really just adds to the death by 1,000 cuts of the neighborhood that has been going on for decades,” Callarman said.
“We have non-residential encroaching from both the north and the south of the neighborhood, and if this keeps happening also from the east and west of the neighborhood, eventually we’re going to lose one of the primary historic neighborhoods of Abilene, and specifically, one of the primarily black neighborhoods,” Callarman added.
“But if you don’t approve it simply because there’s a recommendation of denial based on a 2011 standard, then you have property that’s going to continue to sit there,” Henley says.
The rezoning was recommended for approval to city council by a vote of 5-1. The issue will now go before council for final approval.