A possible zoning buffer around the Toyota plant has residents pushing back against the city

Residents say the proposed buffer would limit what they can do with their land

SAN ANTONIO – A divisive proposal has landowners near the San Antonio Toyota Manufacturing Plant fuming. The city wants to limit what can be built around the plant for health and safety reasons.

“Why don’t they (Toyota) focus on building Great cars and stop hindering our development? Toyota is driving in profits at the cost of landowners and developers,” said a man during a public comment.

Landowners near the South Side Toyota plant had a lot to say, at Tuesday’s city zoning commission meeting.

“This is a travesty conducted by the city of San Antonio in a back room with Toyota,” said another person during a public comment.

Their frustrations focus on a proposal for an Industrial Compatibility Overlay District. The city’s planning department wants to create a two-mile buffer zone around the Toyota facility to limit nearby commercial and residential development.

“The city planning department just needs to answer a lot of questions that went unanswered Tuesday,” said a landowner who asked to remain anonymous.

The landowner says he’s upset because the proposed buffer would limit what property owners can do with their land.

“It’s ridiculous I’m sick of what’s going on constantly; everybody is always trying to get their hand in my pocket, and I’m over here just trying to make a living,” said another person during a public comment.

According to the city’s presentation, 2,843 properties would be affected. The city’s goal is to protect public health and safety by minimizing potential negative impacts of operations from heavy industrial uses.

The landowners we spoke to are not buying.

“No traffic study, no environmental study, there is nothing; someone came with the number two (miles), and now they just want to impose this on all the landowners,” said Fermin Rajunov, a landowner.

For now, the zoning commission is holding off on its decision until July. The commission also strongly recommended that the planning department get more public input.

“I’m not real impressed with how little thought was put into reaching out, and there were a number of occasions when the community had questions on the process,” said a zoning commissioner, adding, “You should have every process that may be related to this particular rezoning and overlay district thought through and be prepared to answer questions by the time that public input meeting happens.”

KSAT tried speaking to the assistant planning director for the city but he declined an interview.

People at the zoning meeting say this proposal reminds them of the city’s 2003 project Starbright agreement, which helped bring Toyota to town and created a three-mile buffer around the plant.

Last December, Southside Affordable Development LLC filed a lawsuit against Toyota and the city calling the agreement unconstitutional and improper by giving Toyota power to weigh in on zoning decisions.

About the Authors

John Paul Barajas is a reporter at KSAT 12. Previously, he worked at KRGV 5 in the Rio Grande Valley. He has a degree from the University of Houston. In his free time, he likes to get a workout in, spend time on the water and check out good eats and drinks.

Alexis Montalbo is a photojournalist at KSAT 12.

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