WAXAHACHIE — A civil discussion about a proposed infill housing development turned sideways when residents questioned Waxahachie Mayor Pro Tem Mark Singleton during the Monday session of the Waxahachie City Council. One such exchange culminated in Singleton offering to take the conversation "out in the hallway."
Questions from residents surrounded a possible conflict of interest that Singleton might have if Citizens National Bank were to finance the project. Singleton has served as the CNB bank president since 1994, which some in attendance thought would make it unethical for him to vote.
The proposed development is located on a two-acre piece of property in the 500 block of Royal St. The developer and builder, Brad Yates, is looking to build 21 homes on the land. This site was previously the home of Greenwood Nursery, which since has been demolished.
Resident Ernest Barker was one of the residents who addressed the council about concerns with the project. He asked Singleton if this project is being financed by CNB, to which Singleton replied, “I hope so.”
“Do you feel comfortable voting on this if your financing the project,” Barker asked. “Forgive me for not knowing, but you're pretty high up in the bank right? You're not a just guy. You’re the president. So don’t you know what your bank is investing in?”
Singleton replied to Barker's question by saying, “If your innuendo is that I am somehow compromising myself I would suggest that you and I have a conversation out in the hallway.”
Barker said that he was not trying to imply anything, but was looking for full disclosure on the matter because of the impact it has on the neighborhood.
“This is a very sensitive issue. The whole reason why I bring it up is because when we were here a few months ago there was quite a bit of testimony against this project. There were several people here that night that didn’t speak who were against that project. Despite all of the testimony, there was nobody in favor of it except the developer,” Barker said. “You still made a motion for it to pass and to me that says one of two things. I am just speculating here. Either you think that you know better for us than we do. That we are just a bunch of dumb people that live in our neighborhood, and you know better what is better for us in our neighborhood than we do. Or there is some gain here. I am just saying to remove any doubt I just ask you to recuse yourself from this if CNB is financing it. I just bring it up because I want everybody to know where the cards are.”
Singleton told Barker that his experience and integrity does not need to be brought into question.
“The piece that I am going to tell you is that, as an elected official, I was elected from the City of Waxahachie. I was voted in to represent the entire city," Singleton responded. "I will stand by that record till the test of time. You need to understand how the process works. We don’t represent districts. We're not Dallas nor are we Washington, DC. We are charged, and an oath was given, to support this city as a whole. A whole."
"This is a plan that we have been working on for over 20 years, and I am sorry that the neighborhood doesn’t see the whole picture or have the time to articulate what it has taken 20 dadgum years try and put together,” Singleton added. “It is about economic development, and it is about the city as a whole. I would love to take you to task, but a couple of council members would get very embarrassed if I did and (Police) Chief (Goolsby) might have to do his job on a council member. But if you call me a liar you and I are going to have some words."
Following Singleton’s remarks, Barker stated that he didn’t think that anyone was trying to call him a liar.
“I don’t know why you’re so upset. I just asked a couple of questions,” Barker said. “I am sorry it got you so upset.”
Singleton then replied to Barker stating, “If you challenge me one more time you and I are going to have some words.”
Monday marked the third time the proposed neighborhood has been brought before the council, and several residents voiced their objections, not to homes being built on the site, but to the number of house planned.
“I have lived here for 30 years, and I have nothing against Mr. Yates. I have nothing against any development that this gentleman has done in this town. Twenty-one home on a two-acre lot? This is my third time at the council since Oct. 17, and you have six lots here, and you are going for 21 homes. Now at P&Z, they say we are going to have a green space. How big of a green space is that going to be when you're putting 21 homes on two acres,” Resident Robert Roberson said. “We enjoy that neighborhood because it is quite and it is safe. I have nothing against eight homes or 10 homes coming in. Neither does anybody else. But let us keep the neighborhood a neighborhood.”
Other concerns voiced by the residents included the style of the development not fitting with the existing homes, more traffic generated on the streets and the loss of the fabric of the neighborhood.
There were, however, several residents who spoke in support of the proposed development and what it could bring to the city.
“I came to Waxahachie 14 years ago, and I have lived in several large houses around the city. I retired in 2009. I am a member of a group of people that I think is very common in Waxahachie that is people that are old who what to downsize. Downsizing can do a lot of things for people. It can free up a lot of equity to live on,” Resident Gerald Hodges said. “I ran into Brad, and he was telling me about this development that he was trying to promote on Royal Street. I looked at it and through it would be a wonderful thing for those that are looking to downsize too.
"All of us know what Brad has done for the community, and all of us know the quality of work that he does. All of knows when he takes on a project especially a restoration project it turns out beautifully for the city. I think that it is ludicrous to think that anything he puts his mind to in terms of quality is going to be a detriment.”
Hodges said this development is an opportunity for older adults who are downsizing from larger homes to be in a place where they can interact together and enjoy each other in a place that is more affordable.
Resident Melissa Lewis asked the council to consider approving this development to add yet another attraction to the city. She added that this type of development is what people are looking for and by not having the option those potential residents are looking at other cities like Midlothian and Corsicana.
Yates then addressed the council about the project and stated that some of the feedback he has received from customers is pertaining to the request for smaller lots. Instead, Yates said they are asking for smaller yards and a smaller footprint.
He also told the council that the homes he is looking to build on Royal Street are not a concept and noted he has built a few of these smaller homes in the city already. Yates then showed the council a photo of one home he has built on Williams Street as an example.
“This is something that the council can be proud of when it is finished,” Yates said.
During it meeting held March 14, the Planning and Zoning Commission voted to deny Yates’ application in a 4-3 vote. To overturn the recommendation a supermajority by the city council is required, which is four out of the five council members voting in favor.
A motion to approve the development was made by Council Member Chuck Beatty and seconded by Singleton. The item failed in a 3-2 vote with Council members David Hill and Mary Lou Shipley voting in opposition.
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