City grants variance on SISD gravel lot

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Sealy City Council members agreed last week to extend a variance to January 2020 allowing a gravel parking lot instead of asphalt or concrete on Highway 90 west of Tiger Stadium and east of Allen’s Creek.

Sealy ISD project manager Mike Zapalac attended the March 12 council meeting and afterward said he was pleased with the result and would deliver the information to the school board.

The original variance was authorized in 2017 to allow the gravel parking lot for overflow stadium parking, but the agreement was that it would expire in two years. Asphalt normally is required, explained Assistant City Manager Warren Escovy.

“We always require paving and we have not allowed anybody else to [use gravel],” Escovy said, adding that safety issues exist with a gravel lot. “They have done a good job of upkeep but our standards are to have paving.”

There was some confusion about when the two-year mark was initiated, and the school district had not budgeted for the paving this year, Zapalac said. It will cost about $325,000 to install asphalt.

“Our interpretation from the documents was it would be two years from the time it was constructed,” Zapalac said, explaining that under those parameters they assumed their deadline would be January 2020.

The school board’s fiscal year begins Sept. 1.

Councilman John Hinze said he was comfortable with the extension to January but expressed concern about setting a precedent if the school district is allowed to keep the lot gravel indefinitely.

“It could open the door to future variances,” he said. “I don’t mind extending it to January but after that I think we need to push forward with asphalting.”

Zapalac said he would take the matter before the school board.

“I’ll take a resolution before the board and we’ll make sure it’s fully funded next year,” he said.

Councilwoman Jennifer Sullivan’s motion was approved based on the condition that the school board pass a resolution and fund the project in order to start it by Jan. 31.

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