Palo Alto Groves subdivision still in limbo - Brownsville Herald: Local News

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Palo Alto Groves subdivision still in limbo

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Posted: Wednesday, February 13, 2019 9:30 pm

A request from the city of Brownsville’s Planning and Development Services Department to rezone 350 acres from residential/light industrial to heavy industrial has been denied by the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission.

The 4-2 vote took place after a public hearing at the commission’s regular meeting on Feb. 7. The acreage in question is owned by the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation, and lies within an area of more than 1,000 acres that GBIC wants to turn into an industrial park. The area is bounded by Old Alice Road on the west, Paredes Line Road on the east, S.H. 550/F.M. 511 on the north and a Union Pacific railroad switch yard to the south.

GBIC rather than the city brought the same rezoning request to the commission twice last year but withdrew it both times at the urging of the Community Development Corporation of Brownsville, which was and remains in negotiations with GBIC over 200 acres that CDCB owns and GBIC wants to buy for its industrial park.

Last year CDCB was close to breaking ground at the site for a mixed-income residential subdivision, Palo Alto Groves, when GBIC persuaded the city commission to table a rezoning request from CDCB to start the project. CDCB’s 200 acres is separated by GBIC’s acreage by a 100-foot-wide drainage canal.

CDCB Executive Director Nick Mitchell-Bennett said no contract has been signed between the two parties for GBIC to acquire the 200 acres, though CDCB has agreed in principal to sell the property if certain conditions are met.

CDCB will only sell the property if — in addition to GBIC paying the asking price — the city makes available 200 acres somewhere else for the subdivision, and approves a Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) to make the new homes affordable for low- and moderate-income families, he said.

Mitchell-Bennett said the city has yet to take up the matter of a TIRZ or alternate site for a subdivision. His pitch to planning and zoning commissioners on Feb. 7 was that GBIC’s land should not be rezoned, since it would effectively kill CDCB’s chances of building Palo Alto Groves — a shovel-ready project with a plat already approved by the commission — on the 200 acres it already owns.

GBIC Executive Director Mario Lozoya argued that the city needs a large industrial park in order to lure major industrial operations, and that GBIC’s own Brownsville Industrial Plan, released in 2011, calls for an industrial corridor there.

Constanza Miner, director of the city’s Planning and Development Services Department, asked commissioners to be objective and realize that approving the rezoning would help bring the corridor in line with the city’s strategic plans.

However, a majority of commissioners took issue with the prospect of rezoning GBIC’s property to heavy industrial after recently giving CDCB its blessing for a subdivision next door. Commission Secretary Derek Benavides was among them.

“We decided that didn’t make sense,” he said. “How would we approve heavy industrial right after we’d just approved all this acreage to go residential?”

Lozoya said the commission’s decision would not affect GBIC’s pursuit of an industrial park in the area and that GBIC would try again to get the property rezoned.

Mitchell-Bennett said he was surprised the commission denied the rezoning request, though Palo Alto Groves remains in limbo pending some sort of final resolution.

“I think CDCB and GBIC could do a really, really nice project right there together,” he said. “I think there are some options. I think that it does not need to be all or nothing. ... If you take the either/or off the table and go with both/and, I think something really cool could happen.”

sclark@brownsvilleherald.com

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