There is a standing-room-only crowd in attendance at Kerrville City Hall for a City Council meeting to hear a first-reading about the proposed Vintage Heights housing development on Texas 16, just south of Riverhill.
City staff, including Planning Director Drew Paxton, spoke about some of the specifics of the project. One of the biggest areas they discussed was eliminating streets that would connect into the proposed project to Riverhill Boulevard. City staff also explained that should the developer, Chuck Cammack, who owns the property, would receive 45% tax rebates on homes that were sold within the workforce housing pricing of $227,000 or less. That would be capped at $5 million in rebates.
The developer is bringing several major changes to the proposed development before the council. The following comments are not an exact transcript of the night's events, but designed to capture the opinions of those speaking to the Kerrville City Council. We will attempt to add context where we can.
Wendy Mendele, a former City Council member, who is also president of the Riverhill Homeowner's Association, is now discussing the Riverhill position on the proposed development.
She said a Riverhill committee had a wide range of positions about the development, but vowed to work with the city on the project.
Bill White, a Riverhill resident, says that he stands before the city council and that the Riverhill community is not against workforce housing. He dismissed the idea that residents were taking a "Not In My Backyard" position, but have legitimate concerns about the impact on property values and traffic.
There are 14 speakers scheduled for tonight's meeting. Here are some of the speakers:
- Speaker Kim Cochrane said D.R. Horton doesn't have a good reputation, there are tons of complaints. She said that more than 4,635 homes are scheduled for Kerrville. What's the hurry with this she said? I feel like we're overbuilding for Kerrville. People don't want to move here.
- Kerrville Area Chamber of Commerce President Walt Koenig said if one works in Kerrville, one should be able to live in Kerrville. These business need a continuous flow of qualified employees to continue our success. To achieve this we need started homes to accommodate starter homes for these workers. We have engagement from top-flight developers. The Board of Directors of the Kerrville Area Chamber of Commerce supports the workforce housing in Kerrville. We need to work together to win for the community.
- Speaker Robert Gohlke questions the quality of the D.R. Horton development. Said Sandra Bullock bought a house from D.R. Horton, and the home had to be torn down. "I sure wish we had some builders who could build here. Staying here people can be held accountable." Why do we have to re-zone it? I sure wish we can keep it R1 (zoning ordinance).
- Speaker Jerry Wolfe questioned the tax rebates and tax incentives to build houses. Every developer comes before you for money. He's asking for $10,000 per home for every home he's going to build. I don't recall ever getting tax incentives giving to a developer. I don't see why that is necessary in Kerrville. This is crony capitalism. It's time to put an end to this. I urge you to reconsider. (Applause from the audience)
- Speaker Ward Jones said one of the most important factors is a healthy middle class. He sat on the KEDC board. He supports the plan. This would give Kerrville the boost in workforce housing that the community needs. Those who would keep things as exactly as they are will see this community stagnate or decline due to a lack of a growing middle class. Approximately 50% of our workers come here from outside of Kerrville. Public-private partnerships have proven to be the most effective way to grow. I say build baby build, but do it within the guidelines. I urge you to vote yes on this proposal (Applause)
- Susan Deninger said the taxpayers will have to pick up what's left of the property if it fails. She said the homes will be purchased by HUD or other government programs. Also questions the intentions of D.R. Horton. Wants to know who will ensure the project is taken care of. "Who are you planning to put in this development?"
- Bruce Stracke said the layout and the use of the plat was one of the best he's seen since he's been in the community. There are number of ways that this plat has changed in the last three weeks that concern me. I'm very concerned in having stub streets not to connect to the neighborhoods. We have very long streets. That's a big change. We turned down a developer that had 1,000-foot long cul-de-sacs. The topography has really taken care of this of project. I think that commitment to open space is very important. It address issues in the 2050 plan. The maintenance of an 8-foot wooden privacy really concerns me. Our biggest need is from the median income down, but it doesn't really address the bottom half, and that's not addressed here. Says Riverhill Boulevard has been a problem for years, and the changes to this plan don't help the project. Stracke said he objects to the tax rebate.
- Tom Moser, a member of the Kerr County Commissioners Court, said there's been a lot of discussion about workforce housing. Riverhill Boulevard has been a problem. I hope this discussion will get that thoroughfare between 173 and 16 to be a catalyst. I can't speak for the commissioners court, but I think there could be some good catalyst for this.
- Alan (inaudible last name). Why don't we require the length between 173 and 16 be completed prior to this subdivision be completed. Said the completion of the new Peterson Middle School will impact traffic on Riverhill. Questions the quality of D.R. Horton, which draws a response from Judy Eychner, who said her children have lived in a D.R. Horton home for 16 years.
- Doug Holmes one significant omission from these deal points is to give us some space between existing Riverhill homes and the new development. D.R. Horton, a major corporate builder, whose revenue was $17 billion last year, cannot see a way clear to grant a 50-foot green zone between the proposed development and the existing homes. I feel strongly about it. There ability to purchase these homes for $200,000, the salaries of a lot of these folks are somewhere between $35,000 and $60,000. That's not enough income to justify loans for $200,000 homes. Tell me that my quality of life or value of my home will suffer if this project goes through.
Mayor Bill Blackburn announces the council will take a short break with six speakers remaining.
- Cindy Anderson says we do appreciate the concessions by the developer. This is the wrong location for this property. This is a spectacular piece of the Texas Hill Country. He envisioned building country estates on home on 10 acres or more. A development that would do justice for that property. To build Vintage Heights as proposed will require bulldozing most of the trees. The Kerrville 2050 plan identifies reasonably priced housing. Lately we've been bombarded with workforce housing. We've got to hurry and I fear that you are being pressured to approve this measure at all costs. Let's not rush to a solution that we will all regret. I urge you to consider other projects. Please vote no to Vintage Heights. This is the wrong
- George Baroody, a former city councilmember, just to be clear you're not exactly meeting a need in the comprehensive. I think it's ignoring that our rate of population growth has been slowing, our growth has been slowing. Baroody points out the discrepancies in the city's claim about median salaries in Kerrville. We aren't again meeting the need of the workforce that's here. Focus on the people that is here. Why are we incentivizing houses that are worth less? Where is the servicing fire station for this area? This is asking for the taxpayers to gate a community — Riverhill in this. Why in this location? Leave the zoning. Vote this down. (Applause).
- KISD Superintendent Mark Foust said he says that our teachers need affordable housing. Our starting pay is $47,000 per year for teachers. We were able to raise our salaries, but after 10 years you will making over $50,000. No one goes into public education is not to get rich. I had a teacher come to me and say and said I'm not sure we can stay. They said they don't think they can stay because of housing. I'm begging them to stay because they are assets to the community. I came here three years ago and it took us nine months to find a place. Housing is an issue. On behalf of our amazing and incredible staff we want to have the best and the brightest staff. We want to recruit and retain the best and the brightest.
- Ken Feldman (inaudible). I can remember when this town was the crown jewel of the Hill Country. All we think about is more and more. I wish we would make things better. You don't take care of what we already have.
The council will now make comments.
Place 1 Council member Gary Cochrane passes on comments.
Place 2 Council member Kim Clarkson said this has been a remarkable month for her, and has heard from a lot of people. You've shared in the room the things that I've heard. She said she appreciates all of the comments she's heard from those who oppose and approve of the project. Just watching this process unfold, seeing some of the things addressed. We've had a lot of opinions. This is not HUD housing, this is workforce housing. This is for people in our community that need to place community. I've heard this is going to bring low people into our community. All that being said, I'm going to look further at different traffic concerns. I want some assurances about the traffic from the construction and the additional traffic load. On the concern about the incentives, which has been a recent concern, and I'm listening to that and here is where I am: I considered the concessions, approximate $3 million for the desire and needs of the community. I would said the city is receiving 55% in taxes that the city is not receiving right now. We will also receive revenue from water and sewer. We have a desperate need for these houses. I want to be assured that what we may end up going forward with is not going to take money out of your pockets. I want to thank everyone for sharing. I hope all of us can come together for the good of the community.
Place 3 Council member Judy Eychner said this is a big deal and said she appreciates Riverhill. I've visited the D.R. Horton homes in San Antonio. I did not find those homes falling down. I think we'd have a fantastic looking subdivision. She says the topography and open space will make this a better project than those D.R. Horton projects in San Antonio. This is not low-income housing. We need to not call it low income because it's not. There's no HUD or Section 8. That's not what this housing is like. I'd like to say that the two subdivisions we're looking at — Riverhill, that subdivision is not going to lose what its got. This is an entirely different subdivision, and they're not going to go down. This subdivision is giving us something entirely different. It's not going to effect Riverhill values. I appreciate our owners and what he's come back. If you look at what he's offering in these communities — underground utilities. I thank all of you for what you're doing. I hope we all remain friends.
Place 4 Council member Delayne Sigerman said the owner listened, and we took notes and came back to the city manager. I think the development agreement is very thorough. Is it perfect? I don't think anything perfect. She said she's talked to many employers and they said the housing issue is a major one for their employees. I hope we can work together. Let's get it done.
Mayor Bill Blackburn said he's listened to a lot of people in Riverhill. Said he got 37 emails, I've only answered a few folks. This morning I walked the whole distance of Riverhill. There were a lot of trucks and cars and we're going to have problems with traffic. It's there. If I had a good career, I'd want security and I don't want that devalued. Mentions Chip and Jo and then asks the developer to get some shiplap in the homes. He said the city didn't bring this plan in. Is R2 better for everyone? They still have R1 (which would allow higher density). So, is this perfect? No. I wish it were. I personally think we need to move forward on the R2.
City attorney Mike Hayes said the deal points and the zoning piece is a separate process. That should be clear to the public, he said.
Clarkson asks we're going to vote to authorize the city manager to deal with the developer on the deal points. Hayes said they are independent decisions. The zoning is a first reading, a second reading on the zoning in two weeks.
Motion to execute on the deal points. Cochrane makes a motion. Sigerman seconds. Passes 5-0.
Now the council will hold a public hearing on the zoning change for the Vintage Heights zoning from R1 to R2. There are nine speakers who signed up to speak on the zoning change.