San Antonio: Obstacles Persists on Sabot Development Housing Deal by Mission San Juan
Feature Photo: Southeast San Antonio near the San Antonio River at Loop 410. The land under contract is highlighted as yellow-green in the foreground. Image: Google Earth/VBX Graphic.
by Adolfo Pesquera
San Antonio (Bexar County) — An Austin developer’s efforts to build a luxury apartment community near Mission San Juan Capistrano on the city’s South Side has made some progress, despite neighborhood opposition, but remains stuck on the Zoning Commission’s docket.
VBX Construction Preview reported on Sept. 10 that a 23.32-acre site that included a portion of the colonial era San Juan Acequia was under consideration at the Planning Commission for a revision from Low Density Residential and Open Space to High Density Residential.
The Villa Coronado Neighborhood Association opposed the land use change and the case was continued to the Planning Commission’s Sept. 22 session to give the developer’s representatives more time to discuss the project. At the follow-up meeting, residents again opposed the project, however, the commissioners voted unanimously (11-0) to approve the land use change.
Planning Commissioner John Bustamante, explaining his support, said the property abutted Southeast Loop 410, which is a major arterial; Low Density Residential is not an appropriate land use next to an expressway.
Planning Commission Chair Connie Gonzalez observed that the project site is in close proximity to both the Brooks and Texas A&M University-San Antonio regional centers. City Council has recognized several regional centers across the city as vital economic engines. Priorities in support of these centers include an emphasis on higher density housing.
Because of the delay on a vote at the Planning Commission, the case was also delayed at the Zoning Commission, where there was a petition pending to down-zone the land from Industrial to MF-33 (multifamily at 33 units per acre).
Villa Coronado residents again opposed the project at the Oct. 5 Zoning Commission meeting. The maximum number of units possible on a tract of the size on record with MF-33 is 770 units, a number they kept pointing to as too much. They insisted the density be limited to 18 units per acre.
However, David Abrahams, agent of Sabot Development Ltd., had already corrected the record weeks earlier, noting that an updated survey found the tract was actually 20.4 acres, which limits development to a max of 673 units.
Abrahams told the Planning Commission that the survey revealed an unrecorded sale of the portion of the property on the west along the acequia to the National Parks Service. The land sold is from the center of the acequia to 30 feet east all along the western property line.
“And then there’s a setback from there where the developer will be able to build, and his intent is to build trails along there and make that flow into the National Park, essentially for residents,” Abrahams said.
The region in green is a historic district because of its proximity to Mission San Juan Capistrano. The proposed Sabot Development Ltd. project site is partially within the historic district. Image: Bexar County Appraisal District map.
Furthermore, the broker for the seller, Jose Gallegos, said the developer’s actual plans are to build a market rate garden style community of no more than 350 units.
Development Services Department Administrator Catherine Hernandez explained to the commission that the developer claimed the need for MF-33–even though the project size is 350 units–because the acequia’s presence creates a deeper setback and compresses the development into a smaller area.
“What they’re saying is they need that flexibility to take into account what may happen in the plat process,” Hernandez said.
John Bustamante, who also sits as chairman on the Zoning Commission, supported the rezoning. He could not convince a majority, however, to support MF-33.
Although the submission of a site plan is not required on a zoning case, a number of commissioners said that would be helpful. Bustamante suggested that a deed restriction between the purchaser and Villa Coronado could be arranged that limits the number of units to 350, however, such third-party agreements are beyond the purview of the commission.
Bustamante was able to defeat a motion to deny the request but could not get a majority in favor and had to settle for continuing the case to Nov. 2. He noted in closing that the externalities that concern some commissioners on the zoning panel can be addressed by the Historic and Design Review Commission and Development Services.
“But in the meantime, we have industrial zoning next to the acequia, and that is too great a risk for me,” Bustamante said.
Adolfo Pesquera (Reporter/Editor) is a veteran news journalist. He has worked for Hearst Corp., American Lawyer Media, News Corp and Freedom Communications. His work has been published in newspapers and magazines across the USA. He is a journalism graduate of UT-RGV. He writes, edits and creates digital pages for VBX.