Concerns spark over zoning as Hill sworn in


Residents hoping to persuade the Leander City Council to vote down a proposal that would have seen substantial commercial and industrial growth in near Oak Grove Road and Heritage Grove Road left happy after newly-elected Mayor Troy Hill and the Leander Council unanimously denied the proposed zoning change.

About 150 residents attended the July 5 council meeting, lining up outside the entrance to Pat Bryson Municipal Hall and filling the venue to capacity. It was Hill’s first meeting at the center of the dais; he was sworn in during the meeting by State Rep. Tony Dale. 

“It’s a pretty special night obviously,” Hill beamed. “It’s been a long journey. There’s so many people to thank that I don’t even know where to start… My family has stuck by me the whole time and it wasn’t easy because, during an election, you’re gone a lot. I can’t tell you how proud I am of each one of you.”

After the official swearing-in, the Council heard 25 citizens speak during a public hearing regarding a zoning case to change the northeast corner of Oak Grove Road and Heritage Grove Road in Leander from single-family rural to heavy commercial and heavy industrial. The proposal was met with overwhelming outcry, with many concerned that the zoning change would transform their quiet suburban streets into a noisy and dangerous area. 

Before the public hearing was opened, Jud Stringer of Building Abatement Demolition Co., Inc., said that he wanted to withdraw the zoning request after hearing the worries of local citizens, many with young children.

“We’ve followed all the steps, we’ve done everything we thought we were supposed to do,” Stringer said to the Council. “The Friday before the last Thursday meeting, we met with some of the residents over at the property just to listen to their concerns. They had a lot of legitimate concerns… I’m kind of in agreement that there’s no way that you going to be able to be able to have a residential community like that and something else for heavy industrial when nobody knows what the future of that is.”

Reia Parks, a resident of 924 Hillrose Dr., said the Council would face heavy scrutiny with the passing of this decision, as the property plans included warehouses and storage units. Parks said a relative of hers living in Missouri had a development similar and that it generated obscene crime including prostitution, drug-dealing and butchering of cattle.

“My initial concerns and those of all these people here have been reduced considerably in Mr. Stringer’s small presentation,” Parks gestured. “However, I do still want to address something and circle back to something that I think can’t be stressed enough. And that is the future of this property… if this is ever allowed to happen, ever, Mr. Stringer or whoever, these folks in this room, we’re not going to be hunting Mr. Stringer down. We’re going to be looking at you and we’re going to be asking why. Why did this happen to us when you could have protected us with your vote. And that’s what we’re asking tonight. Finish this process, vote and protect us with your vote.”

The Council voted the zoning proposal down in a unanimous decision, with a motion by Council Member Andrea Navarrette and a second by Council Member Christine Sederquist.

“I sure do appreciate everyone coming out here,” said Council Member Marci Cannon. “I apologize to Mr. Stringer for the time and money used on this piece of property… We obviously want to welcome businesses into our city but we don’t want to encroach upon and harm our current residents.”

Council Member Michelle Stephenson was also unanimously selected to serve as Mayor Pro Tem, and former Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Seiler was honored by the council.