A future that includes a Panda Express and Starbucks on Loop 256 looks bleak after the Palestine Planning and Zoning Commission Thursday unanimously denied a request to rezone a residential area to commercial to accommodate national brands.
More than 50 residents attended the meeting in City Council chambers. They were divided over a bid to rezone three-and-a-half acres from the McFarlane subdivision, across from Walmart.
Developer SCC Investments of Fort Worth, Austin, and San Antonio want the re-zoning to accommodate three new businesses.
SCC founder and CEO Scott Deskins said he plans to lease the property to Panda Express; Starbucks; and Tidal Wave Auto Spa – although none of the companies have yet made firm commitments, he said.
Four homes on on the property would need to be razed to accommodate the three new businesses.
The owners of those four homes supported the rezoning. Other neighborhood residents, however, whose houses would not be bought, opposed it. They argued it would ruin the neighborhood's quality of life and undermine its safety.
The Department of Transportation will not allow an entrance to the property off Loop 256. Entrances and exits to the commercial outlets would be through Nannie Lane and Trail Hollow Lane – both residential neighborhoods.
Several city residents, including those whose homes were offered to be purchased by SCC; City Manager Leslie Cloer; City Finance Director Jim Mahoney; and Walmart General Manager Adam Harding spoke in favor of the rezoning.
“I know there's controversy, but I can tell you we need new business in the city,” Harding told commission members. “We lose so much business to Tyler. We have an opportunity here to make a change.
But Palestine Regional Medical Center CEO Roy Finch, a member of the Economic Development Commission, the Chamber of Commerce, and Rotary Club, said that, if the proposal passed, he would strongly consider moving out of the area.
“There are plenty of undeveloped lots around Loop 256 that are zoned commercially,” Finch, a Trail Hollow resident, said. “I do not know why the city would consider demolishing our neighborhood, putting young kids and grandkids in more danger.”
District 6 City Council-member Ann Connor and District 4 Councilman Joe Baxter also spoke against the proposal.
“I want to remind everyone that we are not going to ever compete with Tyler,” Connor said. “We need to be what we can be. We want growth, but controlled growth; growth that doesn't negatively affect our residents.”
The Planning and Zoning Commission is advisory only to city council. Members of city council will consider the commission's recommendation to deny the rezoning on Jan. 27 at 5:30 p.m.
To overturn the Planning and Zoning Commission, five of the seven council members would need to vote in favor of the rezoning.
If the rezoning doesn't happen, Cloer said, the city would ask the developers to consider alternative locations.
“I'm excited that name brands are interested in coming here,” she told the Herald-Press .