The Marble Falls City Council voted to approve a conditional-use permit allowing for a 7-11 convenience store and gas station at the southeast corner of U.S. 281 and Seventh Street despite residents’ concerns that the project would have a negative impact on the adjacent historic district.
Councilors approved measures clearing the way for the development during their regular meeting Tuesday, Nov. 17. The vote was 5-2, with councilors Reed Norman and Rene Rosales dissenting.
The conditional-use permit was required because part of the property exists in Neighborhood Commercial zoning, which would prevent the construction of a gas station. A majority of the property is zoned for General Commercial, where the gas station is allowed by rights.
“I have a direct line of vision to where this convenience store and gas station will be,” said Caryl Calsyn, whose Seventh Street house has a historical marker. “The property goes from 281 to Avenue G. That’s the beginning of the historic district in Marble Falls.
“It’s not a good introduction to a good historical district,” she added.
Bill Bray, an advisor to the project’s developer, defended the plan before the council.
“The bottom line is simply this: Is Avenue G better off or worse off with this project? Of course, my view is one view, but when you look at the traffic situation, it’s better for sure,” Bray said. “There’s a building that’s sitting on lots 6, 7, 8 that hasn’t been lived in and is uninhabitable for the past 10 years. It’s no asset to the community. So, when it’s demolished and replaced with part of this project, it’s going to be an improvement to the neighborhood area over the area.”
Bray indicated that the developer had accepted many city staff-recommended conditions in its planning of the project, including a masonry wall at the property line fronting Avenue G, the planting of coverage trees, and the installation of a 5-foot public sidewalk around the project and along Avenue G.
Seven members of the public spoke against the proposed project, citing traffic, noise, parking, and the impact on the historic district as reasons they did not want the convenience store and fuel station next to the neighborhood.
“I truly support economic development in my hometown, but only development that is appropriate in appropriate places,” said MaxAnne Copeland Jones, who lives in a 1910 historic home in the neighborhood. “A 24-hour convenience store/gas station is not appropriate development near a neighborhood, especially not adjacent to a historical neighborhood and in the middle of town.”
Some council members voiced concern that their hands were tied on the issue and that if they did not approve the ordinance providing conditional use, the developer would proceed to build on the General Commercial portion of the site regardless and without taking staff-recommended conditions.
“I live in the neighborhood, and I feel like the rest of you, for the most part, are not really excited about the project, but — and this is a big but — understanding the way our laws work, right now, we have a proposal before us that allows us to give some guidance and allows us to require certain things of the project that are not necessarily required by law,” Mayor Pro-Tem Richard Westerman said. “If we were to vote this down, the project could still be built, and it would not have any of the modifications that could help buffer the neighborhood.”
The council broke into executive session twice during the discussion of the three ordinances applicable to the project in order to confer with the city attorney.
“These kinds of issues, whether deep-seated or not, put council members in an uncomfortable position,” Councilor Dave Rhodes said. “We’re stuck in the middle between what may be community desires and, let’s just call it, the law. We’re sworn to uphold the rules of the game.”