City council vote quiets Babcock multi-family housing debate

Council votes against rezoning 6400 block of Babcock Road, Melissa Ann Street

SAN ANTONIO – A debate that pitted neighbor against developer on the city's Northwest Side came to an end Thursday with a 7 to 3 vote.

The issue at hand was whether to change the zoning that allows multi-family housing, like apartments, to allow lower-density housing, like single-family homes or duplexes, along the 6400 block of Babcock Road and intersecting Melissa Ann Street.

Ultimately, the majority of the council voted against changing the zoning.

The issue arose after District 8 City Councilman Ron Nirenberg's office began receiving calls from residents with questions about what was going to happen with the empty lots.

He also heard complaints of the properties being a nuisance.

"Things from dumping, vagrancy, target shooting, dirt bike racing," Nirenberg said.

The property was seized by the government and later sold to Beverly Hills, California, developer, Babcock Riverwalk, LLC.

Before the sale, Nirenberg asked city staff to assess whether the properties should be downzoned.

"If you drive along Prue Road or Babcock Road any time during rush hour, you know it's a parking lot," Nirenberg said. "The infrastructure has not kept pace with the development in that community."

Tracy Low, who has lived in the area for 16 years, says she's never seen the lots become a nuisance, but she knows too well about the traffic problems.

"Traffic is horrible already," she said. "With apartments coming in... You can see we already have lots of apartments and I think it would just be more congestion in the area and more of a headache for everyone."

Others disagree, like Ryan Sarzoza who works in a shopping center located at Babcock and Prue.

"Any apartments would probably be a nice little addition," he said. "You know, a lot more people within one building, definitely helps out small businesses in the area."

Several people shared their thoughts with the council, both for and against, ahead of Thursday's vote.

A representative of Babcock Riverwalk, LLC, said the property owner felt the process was unfair and violated "comprehensive planning principles."

He added that the property owner did not have a chance to address the council prior to Thursday.

The vote leaves the lots zoned for multi-family housing.

No word on when construction could begin.

About the Author: