How a P&Z meeting showed the tricky fight over Kerrville's growth

The Sept. 2 meeting proved to be a challenge as neighbors wrestled with the reality of new homes in their backyard.

If Thursday night's Planning and Zoning Commission meeting indicates the tone of future growth, the city of Kerrville may be in for some very sharp growing pains in the years to come.

In one of the busiest agendas for P&Z in months, the commission considered plat proposals and an annexation that would add 288 homes to the city. It was a challenging meeting because three of the four projects before the commission faced significant neighborhood opposition.

Kerrville has not seen large-scale housing development for years. Since the 2008 recession, Kerrville's home building was at its lowest point since World War II, but now it's beginning to roar back to life.


And the market demands inventory. While most of these projects are by small and local builders, they will add inventory to a market that is rapidly consuming homes as soon as they go up for sale.

However, the challenge Kerrville leaders face is when homeowners realize projects are developing next door and then discover there's little to stop them.

The rule in Texas, anchored in the state's cherished value of property rights, is that if a developer meets the guidelines set by the city's subdivision and zoning rules, they must be approved. Issues about density and aesthetics are irrelevant if the developer meets those guidelines.

"I have yet to meet anyone who says they're excited you're bringing that project next to my house," said commercial real estate broker Bruce Stracke after the meeting. "Most of the projects we're working on are all residential. They're residential because we needed the housing before covid, and now we need it more than ever. COVID has spurred it because people are looking for a small town."

Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Mike Sigerman facilitated one of the more complex meetings about future development for Kerrville — the first of many.

The legislature has also made it easier for developers to earn approvals by giving municipal planning departments a 30-day deadline to approve projects. Miss that deadline? Well, that means the project is approved.

On Thursday, P&Z considered preliminary plats for:

  • A 203-acre property west of Texas 16, just north of Camp Meeting Road, featuring 133 single-family homes, 23 large estate homes and a commercial center that fronts Medina Highway.
  • A 14-acre parcel would add 43 homes in the Blue Bell Estates neighborhood, just south of Holdsworth Drive.
  • An 8.5-acre parcel would add 45 homes on Weston Loop, as part of the Weston Homeplace development.
  • Finally, the commission considered annexing a 16-acre parcel of land to clear the way for 44 homes along and west of Coronado Drive — in north Kerrville.

The discussion about the Blue Bell Estates proved to be contentious, with speakers from the neighborhood protesting the lot sizes. Many of the north Kerrville neighborhood residents said they believed the land was restricted to larger lots and homes.

Commissioner David Jones asks a question of engineer Mike Wellborn about one of the projects before the planning and zoning commission on Sept. 2, 2021.

However, Planning Department Director Drew Paxton said the original plats had expired, clearing the way for new property owners to re-plat on smaller lot sizes.

There were those in the audience who were incredulous that the commission could do nothing to stop the re-platting for the smaller lots. Most of the lots would be less than 10,000 square feet. The lot sizes troubled some on the five-member commission.

"I would like to vote not on this," said commission chairman Michael Sigerman. "But I don't have the right to vote on what I think is right. (The project) meets all of the requirements. We have a responsibility to approve it if it meets the requirements."

One of the residents said the proposed housing ran counter to Kerrville's 2050 plan — the city's long-term strategic plan on managing the community's growth. In that plan, the language promises to protect neighborhoods.

Paxton explained that if the project meets the zoning requirements, it had to be approved. Eventually, the commission unanimously approved the new plats.

If there was one victory on the night, it was scored by the mother-son duo of Axel and Jennyth Peterson, who helped forge a delay on annexation of 16 acres just north of Mountain Laurel View in the Glen Village.

Axel Peterson addresses Kerrville's planning and zoning commission about his concerns with a proposed annexation and a housing development behind his Kerrville home.

Axel Peterson, 12, addressed the commission first, outlining his concerns about how the current property causes flooding into the backs of 24 homes of Mountain Laurel. He also warned of the destruction of habitat for deer and other animals on the vacant property, once primed to be a significant housing development before the 2008 recession.

Jennyth Peterson said she gathered 24 signatures from neighbors with concerns about flooding and how a new development would handle the stormwater flow.

After about 30 minutes of discussion, Paxton and the commissioners forged a temporary solution on the annexation — a 30-day delay. They asked project engineer Mike Wellborn to review the project with neighbors, to address their concerns further and come back to the commission for preliminary approval on the annexation.

Engineer Mike Wellborn points to a screen to explain drainage issues at a planned development near Coronado Drive in Kerrville.

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