Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Seniors Still Welcome In Richardson

Evergreen Senior Living Community
Evergreen Senior Living

Monday night, Richardson's city council meeting offered a rare example of controversy on the council. Richardson residents expressed opposition to a proposed independent-living senior apartment complex on the corner of Renner and North Star in Richardson's panhandle. Proponents argued that the property is unmarketable for retail. The opponents don't want more apartments, even if the residents will be nice, law-abiding seniors who will be tending their community gardens and enjoying their knitting and crochet socials. The part of the meeting devoted to public comments took 41 minutes to accommodate all who wanted to speak to the issue. The council itself was split. Maybe this wasn't exactly fireworks in the council chambers, but it's what passes for fireworks in "R Town".

After the jump, the outcome.

The city council voted 7-0 in February to authorize the developer to apply to the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs for funding for a senior housing community. A sign was posted on the site at that time announcing the proposal. The developer held a public meeting. Only a few people showed up. Again in July, at a public hearing held during a council meeting, public interest was minimal. At that time, the council voted 4-2 to support the special permit (Mayor Slagel was absent). Monday night, no council members changed their votes. The council voted 5-2 to approve the permit and update the master land use plan.

There are valid arguments for and against the apartments. I think that, 20 or 30 years from now, the city may live to regret placing as many apartments in that area as there are already, even before this new development. On the other hand, those nearby apartments were approved and built. This will be only a minor addition to what's already on that corner. How long do you force a property owner to hang onto an unmarketable property, especially when the city itself is part of the reason it's unmarketable? The originally desired land use was for a grocery store, but Richardson's ban on beer and wine sales drove the supermarket chains to build elsewhere, reducing the attractiveness of this property today.

The neighbors who don't want the apartments organized too late. If they had organized a year ago, they might have been able to keep the senior apartments out. Or maybe not. Richardson's voters are generally complacent, usually a sign of satisfaction with how city business is being handled. Even in this case, only 16 people attended the city council meeting to go on record in opposition to the development and most of those chose not to speak. That's hardly proof that the neighborhood as a whole is opposed. In this case, the elected representatives listened, weighed all sides and used their best judgment. Representative democracy was served. And so were the residents of Richardson.

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