New Braunfels’ residents and councilmembers had a lot to say about a proposed manufactured home community Monday night.
Over an hour and a half of the city council meeting was dedicated to discussing a special use permit to build a 260 to 280-lot manufactured home “Yes! Community” on the south side of Orion Drive and east of the Union Pacific Rail Road before council approved the first reading with amendments 6-1.
City staff mailed out 11 notices to nearby properties about the proposed permit, and received two back in favor and five opposed, Chris Looney, the city’s planning director said.
With opposition representing more than 20% of the properties within 200 feet of the SUP, a city council majority was needed to approve it.
After about a dozen community members took to the podium to address council with their thoughts about affordable housing in New Braunfels, or about specific concerns regarding the proposed community, council passed the first reading of the ordinance for the permit.
Council’s decision came after staff recommended denial because it would introduce residential uses into a district that might conflict with other tracts that would develop commercial or manufacturing uses, Looney said.
The city has recently moved to protect industrial zoning in New Braunfels.
“When job creators are looking to come to cities to create new businesses … and they need to look for some industrial zoning and there isn’t that much of it, then what happens?” Looney told the Herald-Zeitung earlier this year.
In August, council approved the second reading of an ordinance amending city industrial zoning codes and redefining the separation of commercial development from residential areas.
However several people in favor of the special use permit argued the area has that conflict already because it has housing nearby.
“The cat’s already out of the bag with this area,” said D. Lee Edwards of D. Lee Edwards Realty. “This would be a perfect transition between regular housing and industrial; this SUP should be supported.”
Arguments against the special use permit included increased traffic on Orion Drive, larger attendance at nearby schools and strain on existing infrastructure.
“That road is terrible and traffic control in this area needs to be enforced better,” said Rex Mickey, a neighboring resident opposed. “Approving this now would be a mistake — yes we need affordable housing, I’m not against that, but this is ahead of its time in the available infrastructure out here.”
Others said the nearby railroad would be better suited for industrial use and will make traffic even worse if more residents move into the area.
“Labor Day weekend, that train sat there for four days and didn’t move,” Mickey said.
The proposed community
The company’s senior vice president David Whitworth said Yes! Communities would be willing to improve Orion Drive, add sidewalks, extend utilities such as water and sewage lines, and go above and beyond city requirements.
“We’ve been voted by our peers as the best maintained manufactured communities because our residents have to adhere to strict guidelines,” Whitworth said.
Homes would be required to be new models of manufactured homes, and while the homeowner may own their home, the land they place it on will be leased from Yes! Communities, Whitworth said.
“This allows us a level of control so that residents have to maintain their property to a high standard,” Whitworth said. “Our property managers drive through our communities and enforce these.”
Residents are required to pass a background check and submit their driving record, said Trent Wagstaff, division vice-president who oversees the communities in San Antonio and Schertz.
“You could argue our communities are safer than most regular neighborhoods that don’t require these checks,” Wagstaff said.
The proposed community would include a mix of single wide and doublewide homes, provide recreational facilities, a community pool, on-site storage areas for boats and RVs, have two entrances and a three-sided masonry fence, Whitworth said.
“We would provide a logical transition from stick built housing to industrial workforce housing,” Whitworth said.
Most manufactured homes purchased within Yes! Communities cost between $60,000 and $70,000 and take up about 4,000 to 5,000 square feet, and newer communities fill at a rate of about 50 residents per year, Whitworth said.
“Actually in San Antonio and Houston it’s even faster, so we’re hoping it’d be at full build-out at two years,” Whitworth said.
District 2 Councilmember Justin Meadows moved to approve the first reading with amendments ensuring the company will improve Orion Drive, extend utilities, add sidewalk and drainage and have a three-sided masonry fence.
“A concern for me is if not here, where? Where will we allow it?” Meadows asked. “It may or may not be a start.”
Councilmember Shane Hines, District 1, stated he was in favor of the permit and the company
“I’m always in favor of a private solution to a public problem, and that’s what this is,” Hines said.
The motion passed 6-1, and the SUP will go on to a second reading at the Oct. 14 regularly scheduled meeting.