CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A proposed Flour Bluff development that would build 615 apartments and additional commercial space does not have the support of the Navy.
At Wednesday's Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, Naval Air Station-Corpus Christi Community Planning Liaison Officer Ben Polak gave several reasons why the Navy does not support the rezoning of approximately 40 acres at 1402 Flour Bluff Drive.
It's the first rezone the navy has opposed since the Corpus Christi Independent School District's original plan for a new Mary Carroll High School, one commissioner says.
The Flour Bluff Drive property is currently zoned as a residential estate property, or "RE." The proposal would change the land to "RM-2" and "CG-2" allowing for multi-family homes and commercial development.
Polak's main concern is the property sits adjacent to an accident potential zone. Similar reasoning led the Navy to oppose the original location for the new Mary Carroll High School.
"While the property is technically not within the APZ layer, which stands for accident potential zone," said Andrew Dimas, a developmental services employee with the city. "At its closest point, it is roughly 60 feet away from the line, so the APZ is a guideline that we use in zoning cases whether they are in APZ, accident potential zone, or outside it."
The property is owned by several members of the Smith family. Burton Smith says that while the developer does want to use a portion of the land for apartments, it has been willing to reduce the number of apartments to help address concerns shared by the Navy.
Smith adds that many Naval Air Stations have dense AICUZ zones, including one in Fort Worth.
"I think the restrictions that the navy would like are pretty unreasonable compared to the other air stations," he said. "The feeling from the seller is that this land should be developed reasonably. With the Navy getting away from on-base housing."
The Navy's Joint Land Use Study was adopted by Corpus Christi in 2013. They agreed to use it and the Air Installation Compatibility Use Zone (AICUZ) as recommendations when rezoning.
"Depending on the number of aircraft, the APZ will extend beyond where it is normally located," said Polak. "Not only are we concerned about the noise levels to the residents that are going to have to hear T6's coming back from Waldron, also the possibility of having another Oceana where you have an F18 crash into an apartment building and kill multiple people."
"Based on the information submitted to us in the application, the staff is recommending denial for two main reasons," said Dimas. "One is the inconsistency with the Future Land Use map, Flour Bluff Area Development Plan, and Plan CC (Corpus Christi) meeting. Future Land Use Map calls that the future land use area should remain low-density residential, which is the most current adopted map."
"Secondly, the proximity to the AICUZ," Dimas added. "In reading the original application submitted to us it did state within the land use statement, which is mentioned in my staff report, construction between 500 and 600 apartment units, which is well above something that the Navy or the city would be comfortable with and that close to the accident potential zones."
Despite the caution from Polak, the commission voted to pass the zoning change's alternative plan. It would rezone the property into separate districts.
"Philosophically, either you are in the accident potential zone or you're not," says Daniel Dibble, a member of the commission. "And, I mean, I get it at 60 feet, but then next time staff says, 'Well, it's within 500 feet of the accident potential zone so we're going to recommend denial.' I mean, I think those lines were drawn for a reason and I'm pretty sure that yes, there are no lines in the sky, but I would imagine the further you get from the centerline the less likelihood there's going to be an accident. At least for me, I've got a problem with the staff recommending a denial when it's outside the zone."
"Even under this alternative proposal it is still generating 615 dwelling units total," Dimas said. "So, even if you step down your RM2 to RM1 and have split zoning among four or five different districts, you're still generating at maximum buildout 615 dwelling units."
New maps for Waldron and Cabaniss fields are expected to be released by the Navy, Polak told the commission last night. He added that any recommendation made by the Navy is just that, a recommendation.
"Without the city's commitment to try to look at what our new AICUZ say and try to rezone different parcels we really could have such a big huge problem of incompatible development," said Polak. "And I know there's a lot of things out there that people will look at and go, 'Wow, we're trying to get rid of an apartment here.' But, there's a hotel right in front of it. A lot of that stuff was done right before the adoption of the Joint Land Use Study and the coordination and the relationship between the city and the Navy."
The zoning change now goes to the City Council, where it must receive a majority vote and have two readings before it is passed.
Smith says that the development could benefit the city's relationship with NAS-CC and put it in a better position, should it face a Base Realignment and Closure.
"Two-bedroom apartments that fit military personnel are probably a plus for the city, the base, and the community," Smith said.
Smith's brother is Councilman Greg Smith. He says he will recuse himself from the vote because the land belongs to his family.