The three-and-a-half acre lot across from Walmart could soon welcome a Starbuck's, Panda Express, and Tidal Wave Auto Spa after city council members Monday approved d 6-1 changing the residential area to three commercial lots.
District 6 Council member Ann Connor was the lone dissenting vote.
“We're not going to fix all of Palestine's problems by putting people out of their neighborhood,” Connor said just prior to the vote. “We're putting the entire burden of past bad decisions on the backs of one neighborhood, and that's not fair.”
SCC offered some homeowners on Nannie and Trail Hollow Lanes above market value for their homes, contingent upon the city changing the zoning for that area.
Representatives from the company said they are in talks with Starbuck's Coffee, Panda Express, and Tidal Wave Auto Spa, although no contracts have been signed with any of the companies.
“If two of the three of them decide they don't want to come, then we'll rescind the offer, and the land remains residential,” J. Kelly Shaw of SCC Development said. “We're site speculators. We don't want land we have to figure out how to develop.”
The zoning change, proposed by SCC Investments of Houston, Austin and San Antonio was unanimously rejected by Palestine's Planning and Zoning Commission Jan. 9.
Although the commission is strictly an advisory board, state law still required the council to have 75 percent of the council vote in favor of the change in order to overturn the commission's recommendation. With seven members, including the mayor, Palestine City Council needed – and received – six votes.
“I urge my fellow council members to vote for water, vote for infrastructure, vote for jobs and the community,” District 5 Council member Dana Goolsby said prior to voting for the change. “I apologize to the people this will disappoint, but I don't apologize for putting the people of Palestine first.”
Nearly 100 residents packed council chambers Monday to hear the council's decision. For roughly three hours, more than 25 people took turns speaking, with equal parts eloquence and passion, either for or against the change.
Local business owner Neil Patel, who owns a home in the McFarlane subdivision, told the council he wanted to see the city thrive – but not at the cost of the neighborhood.
“As a business owner, I want nothing more than to see the city grow,” he said. “But, not at the expense of the city's residents.”
Walmart General Manager, and former council member Adam Harding said the opportunity offered by SCC was too good to pass up.
“We used to pay companies to look for sites for businesses like this,” he said. “These all are great companies. We have to support the growth of the city.”
District 3 Council member Vickey Chivers said no matter what the decision the council made, for some it would be unpopular.
“You can't make everyone happy all the time,” she said. “I want everyone to know, we heard you, we listened to you carefully; now, we'll have to make the tough decision.”