Officials pave way for school building sale

HARLINGEN — The city is paving the way for the school district’s sale of its old administration building to a national convenience store chain.

This past week, city commissioners voted 4-1 to amend a city ordinance that prohibits underground fuel tanks within 500 feet of schools.

The 1979 ordinance was standing in the way of the Harlingen school district’s sale of the Gordon Nix Building on Ninth Street near the intersection of Tyler and Harrison avenues to Circle K stores as part of a $3 million project.

During the commission’s meeting, Commissioner Frank Puente argued the convenience store would generate high traffic in the area of St. Anthony School and Travis Elementary School.

“My main concern is the children of our community,” Puente, who cast the lone dissenting vote, said during Wednesday’s meeting before requesting the vote be postponed to give commissioners more time to review information.

Commissioner Richard Uribe also expressed concern the convenience store would add to traffic, requesting the city “alleviate” traffic along the street designated as a state highway.

However, Commissioner Victor Leal said St. Anthony School had presented the city with a letter of support for the project.

Meanwhile, Mayor Chris Boswell said he was concerned the commission’s debate created an appearance of “inconsistency” in the way the city does business.

“We should be consistent with businesses that come to Harlingen,” he said. “We shouldn’t treat businesses inconsistently. We should treat them the same.”

But Puente argued Stripes hadn’t built its convenience stores near schools as a result of the old ordinance.

During the meeting’s public comment period, Bill Morris, of the engineering firm Morris and Associates, described the underground fuel tanks as “state-of-the-art.”

“It meets or exceeds EPA standards,” he told commissioners. “I’m not aware of ever having a major issue with a fuel system.”

While the city’s Planning and Zoning board recommended the amendment’s approval, the Zoning Board of Adjustments denied a variance relating to underground fuel tanks’ distance requirements from the proposed convenience store and a school.

In an Aug. 5 meeting, commissioners postponed their vote to further research the proposal.

The school district is selling the Gordon Nix Building, which has stood vacant for five years after housing a 15,000-square-foot administration office, for $750,000, district spokesman Shane Strubhart said.

fdelvalle@valleystar.com

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