Developer wants to know why condo project is on hold

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What is it going to take to get the Sealy City Council to approve the development of a condominium project on the south side of town?

That was a question raised by three people who addressed the council at its June 4 meeting during the public comment period. The council’s rules prohibit the mayor and council members from responding to anything that is not on the agenda, so they remained quiet while a frustrated developer wanted to know why another housing project got green-lit while his remains mired in red tape.

“All we’re asking for is fair treatment on what we’re trying to do,” said Barry Lynn, developer of the Evelyn Court Condominiums proposed to be built on Schmidt Road.

He, his real estate agent, Michelle Zwicky, and Sealy Chamber of Commerce President Vince Wollney, all asked why the project was not getting approved despite Lynn going over and above to accommodate concerns of neighbors. Zwicky explained that the project was first proposed as apartments consisting of six four-plexes.

“Our developer voluntarily changed the whole project to a condo project so the people who buy in are now owners,” she said.

In addition, Lynn has reduced the number of four-plexes from six to four and has added an additional five feet of easement. Zwicky estimated that the changes have cost Lynn $600,000.

Most recently, neighbors in the area have expressed concern about parking along Schmidt Road and nearby Acres Lane and Svinky Road because they are too narrow.

“We’ve done everything we can to make this a family-friendly project,” Lynn said. “We’ve done everything we can to assuage the fears of the neighbors.”

Lynn said he initiated the project because Sealy lacks housing, especially affordable housing, and rental space. Wollney reiterated that concern.

“This project offers affordable housing,” he said, noting that homeownership is down 4% in Sealy but rentals are up 5%.

Lynn said the condos will sell for $135,000 to $140,000. He said he did not understand why his project isn’t getting permitted when the Harvest Moon project is moving forward and they both started at the same time.

“They got their permit and ours is still stuck somewhere,” Zwicky said.

Lynn said if there is anything left he needs to do to get a permit, he needs someone from the city to let him know.

“No way would I allow anything … to hurt the neighborhood,” he said.

After hearing the public comments, the city council got down to business. The council discussed placing control of the Sealy Main Street Program under the Sealy Economic Development Commission.

“The Main Street board would answer to the economic development commission,” City manager Lloyd Merrell said.

The city attorney said he would have to check the bylaws to see if the rules permitted such a transfer, but there was little concern about it from the council.

EDC Director Robert Worley spoke in favor of the move.

“Thirty percent of the 90 Main Street programs in the state are under EDC’s,” he said.

The council will consider it again when the attorney has had time to review the bylaws.

The council discussed the Downtown Revitalization Program, which would improve sidewalks and other parts of the downtown area.

“I think it’s going to be well received … I think it’s going to look better,” Merrell said.

The council did become divided when it came to naming new members to the Sealy EDC board. Specifically, Jennifer Sullivan felt that Merrell shouldn’t serve on the board if there are members of the public willing to serve. Chris Noack said having the city manager serve did not provide enough checks and balances to the system. Dee Anne Lerma said she felt Merrell had a vested interest in the city and would work for what’s best of the community.

“I have no issues with it. I think Lloyd would be the perfect candidate,” said Adam Burttschell.

Mayor Janice Whitehead touted Merrell’s background and experience, saying he would do a great job.

When asked, Merrell mentioned his education and experience.

“I think I’m as qualified as anybody to be on the board,” he said.

Sullivan said she could agree to have him on the board, but not as a voting member.

The council voted individually on three members to the EDC board, unanimously approving Bradley Miller but splitting on Merrell and Russ Rainwater, who were both approved. Noak and Sandra Vrablec opposed Rainwater and Noack, Larry Koy, and Sullivan opposed Merrell.

The council was also split on closing the city on July 5 as a city holiday. Lerma, Noack, and Vrablec opposed it, but the motion passed.

The city council voted to change its fee schedule based on action taken in the state Legislature.

According to City Attorney Tim Kirwin, the city will need to assess fees based on square footage rather than assessed value.

“I have no idea why the Legislature felt it needed to mess with the fee schedule, but it did,” he said.

The council held three executive sessions to consult with the attorney. In the first session, they discussed the lawsuit by Town Park Center but took no action.

Following the executive sessions, the council voted to authorize city staff to continue working on transferring the administration of the Sika 380 agreement to Sealy EDC. They also approved the first reading of the ordinance amending Chapter 28 of the Code of Ordinances, which governs the development rules, regulations and standards in the City Code of Ordinances.

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