Photo shows crowded council chamber discussing Sedona Lakes proposal.

Sedona Lakes copes with expansion

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Manvel city council saw a crowded chamber this week as numerous residents of Sedona Lakes signed up to voice opposition to a proposed expansion of their community in the city’s north-west Extra Territorial Jurisdiction (ETJ).

Members heard citizen comments for more than one hour as residents explained their opposition which was based on a plan submitted by the community’s developer at a previous meeting. The original proposal called for an apartment project in the property along 288 that was initially planned for a commercial reserve. It also requested approval to offer a smaller lot size for single family homes. The developer made the case that efforts to find a viable commercial venture have proven unsuccessful and that the current housing market shows a demand for smaller lot sizes and lower priced homes. He explained a desire to want a fair playing field with the neighboring Pomona development across 288 which has been authorized to construct apartments as well as offering a collection of smaller lot sizes of 50 and 55 feet in width.

After numerous discussions with city staff and receiving a full inbox from disgruntled residents, the community’s developer, Buck Driggers, realized the futility of gaining city council approval on the initial proposal and agreed to a last-minute change that ruled out any likelihood of an apartment complex being constructed within the community. The revised plan would provide smaller lot sizes only on the southern end of the development which would be naturally separated by Mustang Bayou.

Unfortunately for Mr. Driggers the residents who showed up to voice their displeasure were unaware of the concessions he made to appease resident’s concerns. For his part, Driggers told the crowd and council that “I hear you, I understand and take to heart what you guys are saying. Each and every one of you.”

Cheers were received when he informed them that the apartments had been taken off the table and that he is no longer asking for reduced lot sizes north of Mustang Bayou. “There is not going to be anything north of the creek that we are asking for that is less than a 60 foot lot, which is the smallest out there right now.” He went on to explain that it is a struggle to find a way to make things work in the Phase 4 area which is approximately 140 acres just south of the bayou. He said the smaller lots “maybe allows us to make Phase 4 work.” He described it as sitting deep in the floodplain and would require lots of fill and considerable cost to make it profitable to develop. Earning approval from the crowd, Mayor Martin suggested the acreage be donated to the city for use as a park.

Residents voiced a unified anxiety of declining property values, increased traffic, higher crime rates, and “a different quality of people.” Most said they bought in the development based on an approved plan that would help it maintain a standing as an upscale community. Common solutions expressed included developing the south Phase 4 as an over-55 community with smaller lot homes such as patio homes that would appeal to older buyers while maintaining the quality of resident desired. Numerous speakers suggested naming the Phase 4 portion something altogether different than Sedona Lakes. Driggers was amenable to both ideas.

Council members were besieged with emails from residents strongly opposed to the plan and seemed poised to reject the proposal. Driggers reminded them that he “pulled everything off the table that we did not think would be approved. The only thing we are asking for is south of Mustang Bayou.” He submitted that the opposition was based on the original idea and suggested that most in attendance probably would be more supportive if they took into account the revised proposal. Unfortunately for him though, Mayor Martin held to rules and did not allow other citizen comments beyond what was expressed earlier. Driggers showed frustration when some on council suggested tabling the matter so that additional discussion could be had perhaps resulting in a greater consensus. As she is wont to do, member Melody Hanson calmed the discussion in tactfully expressing her feeling, which was shared by others on council, that some residents did not know about the plan until as late as yesterday. She said she would “not rush this, it is an important change for the community and we need to have adequate time to discuss it and notify other residents who may not have been able to come tonight.” Driggers responded that he “is not trying to push something that is going to be something different than what I just looked them in the eye and told them. So if I need to go off-site and tell them again, I will be happy to do it, but I don’t know what difference it is going to make.”

Council did effectively table the matter but agreed to have it the primary topic at the next council workshop scheduled one hour before the regular scheduled council meeting on Monday, April 27. All interested parties are encouraged to attend the affair.

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