The fight over whether an office building can be added to a small lot near Interstate 35 has polarized a neighborhood and resulted in the city taking action against a zoning commissioner.
The small lot on Stafford Street is currently approved for housing, but owner Heidi Mummau wants to build an office under the giant billboard towering above.
"I would like to have my office here,” Mummau said. “It would be a good, convenient location. It's close to our east side substation."
She went to her District 2 Zoning Commission member Dan Martinez to discuss the proposal but said he put up a roadblock and tried to get her to donate the property to the neighborhood association or a charity.
Mummau said her meeting with Martinez did not go well.
"Harassment, interrogation -- I mean, it's been really terrible, a really terrible process," Mummau said.
At the Zoning Commission hearing on this request, a commission member can be heard telling Martinez to back down.
"There's a lot of emotion wrapped up on this thing,” the commission member is heard to say on an audio tape. “And you know what? Our job is not to deal with emotions."
Mummau complained to the city and Martinez received a Letter of Admonition from the Ethics Review Board.
"There's never a dull moment on the Zoning Commission," Martinez said, referring the controversy.
He said he is simply looking out for neighbors in the area who do not want a business there.
Martinez said the billboard easement makes the property virtually unusable and that donating it makes sense.
He said he did listen when Mummau presented her case.
"Say that I met with her for two hours and I didn't listen to her side,” Martinez said. “Well, why would I be there in the first place?"
The Government Hill Neighborhood Association, where the property is located, would not answer questions about whether neighbors had submitted a petition against the zoning change.
The president did say the association is against the change.
Mummau will now take her request to City Council.
That zoning hearing is on Thursday’s council agenda.