On February 1, 2021, the Plano Planning and Zoning Board passed zoning case 2020-033 to rezone 5.3 acres located on the corner of Park Boulevard and K Avenue from Corridor Commercial to Planned Development-Corridor Commercial. Even though the new zoning says commercial, the only thing that is planned for this site is a five story low income apartment building with 1-3 bedroom units. A five story residential building that will sit right next to train tracks for the Parker Rail Station 100 feet away, diagonally across from a gun range, and next to a Rent A Tire and a pawn shop. The question this commentator has is, is this spot a good place for adults and children to live?
To answer this question I need to talk about this lot and the surrounding properties. This piece of land has been used as a typical commercial site since 1973. In 1998, one building of two on the property was demolished. In 2002, the City of Plano decided to buy the property for $1.7 million for redevelopment to reinforce transit use. In 2003, the second structure on the property was torn down, so now the lot is empty.
Seventeen years later, in 2020, the Plano Housing Authority approached the City Council to buy the property for $900,000, to be paid in $45,000 installments. If you do the math, that would have been a loss of $800,000. Thankfully, at a June 2020, City Council meeting, the PHA offer was rejected by a vote of 4-3. Council members Bao, Williams, Ricciardelli, and Smith were the majority in that vote.
Next, the City Council decided to see how much they could get for the lot on the open market. In the following months, they got four offers. The Plano Housing Authority then made a bid for $2 million with a $20,000 deposit. The full $2 million will also not be paid off for at least 26 months. Why, you may wonder? You see, the PHA has to file for a grant to actually get the money. Of course, that means they may not be approved for the grant, and won’t be able to buy the land.
A request to accept the Housing Authority’s offer was placed on the consent agenda for the October 26, 2020, City Council meeting. Thankfully, Councilman Williams pulled the request from the consent agenda. During the council’s discussion, Councilman Grady said that the City should take the offer, since it was the highest bid. Councilman Smith said, “The problem is we don’t have an able buyer.” Having a buyer who will not have the money for over a year, and may not ever get the money, is a valid concern. Councilwoman Bao agreed with Councilman Smith, and she did not think housing was the best use for the property. Councilwomen Prince and Tu, as well as the Mayor, did not have any concerns about the deal. Councilman Williams agreed with Smith and Bao. Lastly, Councilman Ricciardelli said that he was fine with the sale of the property to PHA, since they were not voting on what the property would be used for. In the end, the request to sell the property to PHA passed 5-3. Council members Bao, Williams, and Smith were the 3 who voted against.
Fast forward four months to the February 1, 2021, P&Z meeting, the PHA requested to rezone the property to build a five story low income apartment building. 80% of the units would be for low income individuals or families, and 20% would be rented at a fair market value. Board members Samara, Barbara, and Cary were the only ones to have concerns about the area the apartment building would be built, while members Downs, Stone, Horne, Walters, and Gibbons seemed fine with the idea of families living right in front of train tracks. These tracks have trains coming and going from 4:28 A.M. - 1:49 A.M. in 20 minute intervals, and 100 feet from the future apartment building site is the Parker Station where these trains will stop. People will be getting on and off those trains all day and into the wee hours of the morning. The closest train tracks to my home are 1.5 miles away, yet I can hear a moving train from my bedroom every once in a while. Image what a train would sound like right next to your bedroom window every 20 minutes. I can only guess that Downs, Stone, Horne, Walters, and Gibbons have never lived by train tracks, so they did not realize how crazy it is to put an apartment building right in front of them.
The other problem with putting housing on this lot, is it would be the only residential building on K Ave from Park Blvd to Parker Rd. The apartment building will also be the only five story building on the block, so aesthetically it will look out of place.
Now lets talk about what kind of businesses are on this block. Going north from the corner of Park and K Ave, the first thing we see is a Rent A Tire. The PHA will try to get a 99 year lease for this property, so they can take it down and put green space; however, if the owner does not agree to the deal, the Rent A Tire will stay. Directly across the street is a Shell gas station and Chiropractic office. Next to the property in question is a Pawn Shop. Across the street, and next to the Chiropractor, is a run down strip mall with various retail stores. Next to, and slightly behind the Pawn Shop, is a bowling ally, the only business on this street appropriate to have next to homes with children. Across from the bowling ally, and diagonally across from the future apartment building, is a Gun Care Shop and The Bullet Trap Gun Shop and Range. I have shopped and gone shooting at this range, and it is a nice place; however, homes should not be built within walking distance from the Bullet Trap, or any gun range for that matter. Now, I know most Texans love the second amendment and going to the shooting range, but that does not mean they want to live across from one. Continuing north, we have a Tint Windows Shop, an auto sound store, Window Treatment Center, a gym, Auto Electric Services, and a 1st Choice Auto repair shop. Across the street from those business, is an AAMCO. Next to that is a Cash Loans on Car Title place and Public Storage. Across from them are Texaco, U-Haul, and a Convenience Store. Next to those businesses is a large strip mall with retail stores and food pantry. Walk across K Ave, and we have a car wash, convenience store, and fast food restaurant. That is the future neighborhood for the families that will live in this new apartment building. Clearly, this is not a block that was designed for residential housing. This lot and area is obviously not suitable for a residential building. The building will look out of place and the area is unsuitable for adults and/or children to live in. So, to answer my original question, is this spot a place for adults and children to live? The answer is, heck no!
Now, some of you are most likely asking, where is PHA supposed to put low income housing? To answer that question, lets look at where Plano currently has low income housing.
I did a simple internet search and found a list of 13 low income apartment complexes and one house in Plano with availability. All of them on the list are in nice residential neighborhoods. None of them are right next to train tracks or a gun range. In fact, when I did a Google Maps search of all apartments in Plano, all of the complexes that came up are in or near residential neighborhoods. I could not find any apartments in an area like the K Ave block which the PHA wants to build their apartment building on. That is most likely because people don’t want to live in a commercial area next to train tracks, and near a gun range.
If PHA needs to build low income homes, I suggest building small houses next to Plano Center on Jupiter Road and Spring Creek. I suggest this area, because the city owns this land. The city also agreed to lease a part of this area to Radisson Hotels for free in 2018. You can read about this sweet heart deal in the article Corporate Welfare at its Finest at the following link.
If the City truly feels low income housing is so circuital, they should be more then happy to give a portion of empty land near the Plano Center to PHA for the same deal as Radisson. Then the PHA can use the $2 million to build nice homes for poor families.
Some other reasons I recommend this spot is the neighborhood is nice and the Oat Point Nature Preserve is there. Also, current area residents probably won’t mind having single family homes there. Another plus is the area has two bus stops for people who need public transportation; one on the corner of Spring Creek and Des Moines Drive, and the other on Jupiter by Collin College. Clearly, this location is a much better place for people to live than K Ave and East Park Blvd.
The only thing that is suitable for the K Ave property is a parking lot for the train station and businesses nearby. A parking lot would also fit the reason the city bought the land in the first place; to reinforce transit use.
The City Council is scheduled to vote on this zoning request on February 22, 2021. Please contact the City Council members and tell them K Ave and Park Blvd is not a suitable place for people with children, or without, to live. Tell them to vote ‘no’ on zoning case 2020-033.
This is Plano’s Political Pit bull signing off.