After hearing from a number of residents, the Longview City Council on Thursday approved a controversial planning application relating to a proposed sports complex and beer garden on Bill Owens Parkway.
During the citizen comment portion of Thursday’s meeting, 12 residents spoke about the planned development for 1022 Bill Owens. At least five other residents spoke during the public hearing portion of the planning application before the council voted.
Kenneth Shore, owner of ShoreCarter Resources, received the first approval from the city’s planning and zoning commission last month to convert about 11.5 acres from multi-family homes to general retail space.
Shore’s project drew backlash from local residents living near the property. The city on Tuesday received a petition signed by about 40 residents urging District 6 Councilman Steve Pirtle to say “no to residential retail.” The petition noted Shore’s application for a new zoning and special use permit for the development.
Local residents opposed to the project have raised concerns about noise and light pollution, as well as road safety.
Eddie Bartlett, who lives on Bill Owens Parkway, spoke about traffic concerns at the meeting on Thursday.
“Residents in the hardest-hit neighborhoods are likely to be[in the area of]Grayson, Stonewall, and Bill Owens,” Bartlett said. “We received no notification of construction and were unaware that we had to attend the previous planning and zoning meeting.
“We ran a petition through the neighborhood and an overwhelming majority, probably 95% of residents, didn’t know what was being built in the area, and most of the people we spoke to about as many opposed it,” he said said.
He also mentioned a double blind curve along the Bill Owens area where the complex is planned. Bartlett mentioned wrecks that had occurred in the area, including a home where residents had to install a boulder in the front yard after a car crashed into the home. He also mentioned the influx of traffic that he believed would occur and cause road congestion.
Vance Freeman was one of several residents living in the Huntington Park subdivision to speak during Thursday’s meeting. Huntington Park is behind the property on which the complex is planned.
Though most Huntington Park residents opposed the project, Freeman said he believes it is an “incredible opportunity.”
He said he started a law practice in Longview and, like many others, had trouble finding professionals to return.
“I appreciate all my neighbors here who have raised many concerns. Probably unlike some of my neighbors, I’ve had several face-to-face conversations with Kenneth Shore about this development, and it allayed any concerns I had,” Freeman said.
“I just think it would be an incredible opportunity for me to walk out my front door and walk down to that trail and have a glass of wine and watch my kids at the cornhole in a beautiful complex and I think that will drive the real estate values in.” in the surrounding neighborhood, so I’m very much in favor of that.”
Shore also spoke, explaining not only why the complex is needed, but also the precautions he would take for residents concerned about light and noise pollution, and more.
District 1 Councilman Tem Carpenter sought approval of the zoning application, which Pirtle supported, but not before commenting on his decision.
“This is an area that we need to develop. … It seems like in everything we’ve done in the last six years that I’ve been here, we’ve made three or four decisions that we’ve had a lot of controversy about, and they’ve all turned out to be really, really good decisions emerged that we met,” he said.
In another planning application, the council approved an application submitted by Nishil Patel for a specific use permit for a restaurant and private club at Chaparral Plaza at Johnston Street and Judson Road.
“The Chaparral Plaza used to be an epicenter of Longview” with a Brookshire’s, Luby’s and a high-end menswear store, Patel previously said. “It has become an eyesore over the last 30 to 40 years. We want to reposition it back to what it was, make it one of the nicer malls and more walkable.”
Nishil and his brother Vivek acquired approximately 30,000 square feet of the mall, including the building housing the Treasures retail store and fisherman’s market in the middle of the center, and a separate building at the far west end that previously housed a health club. They also own a car wash building in the parking lot.
The planned restaurant and private club are to be built on the site of the former gymnasium.
The property shares a back property line with Bramlette Elementary School, which meant the restaurant could not serve alcohol due to a city ordinance that does not allow the sale of alcoholic beverages within 300 feet of a school. Fisherman’s Market and Family Dollar sell alcohol but are old school as school used to be more than 300 feet away. Longview ISD acquired additional land in 2009 and converted Bramlette.
The motion to allow a derogation from the city ordinance to allow the sale of alcoholic beverages on site was passed without discussion.
And the council also approved a proposal submitted by Selwob Investments to convert approximately 6.6 acres on Eastman Road from single-family homes to general retail for a self-storage mini-warehouse.
According to city planner Angela Choy, 21 percent of reported lots within 200 feet of the site protested the motion, meaning a supermajority of the council was required for approval.
Choy also said a neighborhood meeting was held at the council chambers on May 2, where staff and the developer addressed concerns about buffering and traffic from local residents.
Based on the meeting, the developer agreed to a 40-foot buffer adjacent to neighboring homes and limited access to Rande Drive to emergency access only through a 6-foot high gate.