The City of Midlothian Planning and Zoning board isn’t too keen on the idea of a large apartment complex going in on Walter Stephenson Road, but they didn’t vote against it.

A crowd of approximately 87 people gathered at City Hall last week to protest the development of 22.38-acres located west of Walter Stephenson Road and south of Sierra Vista into a 300-plus unit apartment complex during a P&Z public hearing.

The P&Z Board listened as the developer pointed out the attributes of the development. P&Z also listened as homeowners in the area stepped to the microphone and passionately protested the development.

In the end the P&Z Board unanimously approved the zoning change from Single Family (SF-1) to a Planned Development (PD multi-family) and sent the zoning change on to the City Council who will hear the request on Oct. 9.

At the heart of the issue is the construction, by Jerry Wood of Dallas, doing business as Apartment Development Services Inc., of 336 apartment units that will rent from between $650 and $1,200 per month. Wood said he is planning to invest more than $25 million to bring the project in.

City Planning Manager Alberto Mares pointed out the 15-units per acre is actually less than the 24-units per acre the property is currently zoned for. Gonzales also pointed to the 22 additional improvements required by the city to rezone the property as a planned development. The PD improvements include a gated entry, screening of the perimeter of the complex, masonry facade construction and other city requirements.

Those gathered to take part in the planning and zoning public hearing were adamant they did not want the development.

“This development does not fit that neighborhood,” said Christopher Matthews, who lives in the area. “Having $200,000 homes next to $650 apartments doesn’t make sense.

“The prospect of crime, lower property values and traffic will not help that area,” Matthews added. “I want the city to think about what that neighborhood will look like 10 years down the road.”

Lupe Prewitt, of South Third Street, said her backyard backs up to the apartment complex.

“My two teenagers are my concern,” said Prewitt. “When they tell me $650 for a luxury apartment, something doesn’t make sense.

“What this will do to traffic in the area and what it will do to schools in that area — nobody really knows,” said Prewitt. “It won’t improve things and it won’t be good.”

City P&Z Chairman Larry Poole said the school district was consulted about this development as it is with most developments in the city.

“The Superintendent of MISD has said in a letter to me that the district has ‘no major issues with this development,’” said Poole. “The only thing they said was the front facade looks a little plain.”

With that, David Lopez, of 1414 Meadow Court shouted from the back of the room, “Vote no on the bond issue. If they don’t understand what this is going to do to the neighborhood and if they don’t know what this is going to do to the schools, there is no reason for us to vote for their bond issue.”

Poole urged the audience to be respectful and he would give everyone a chance to speak.

P&Z member Shawn Yarbrough said the property was zoned for apartments before most of those present bought their home.

“The problem with a lot of these cases is zoning is not made clear by the realtor, developer or contractor who built your house,” said Yarbrough. “The real estate agent or whoever didn’t explain what would be happening to surrounding property in the future.”

The cooling home mortgage market is expected to spark a demand in rental housing.

“Not everyone can afford to buy a house,” said Wood. “We fill a need for people who want housing.”

Portions of the property were zoned for apartments more than 20 years ago.

“The city can’t just go out and rezone property without the request of the landowner,” Poole explained. “This has been zoned for this type of housing and if we deny it, he (Wood) could come back and put in apartments at 24 units per acre and he would not have to provide any of the amenities the city is requiring with this PD.

“We would have the same kind of apartments we have on 14th Street,” said Poole. “For 16 years I lived across from the worst apartments in this city and as untasteful as apartments are to me, it is zoned for this.

“I would also like to add that in 1984, when this was zoned for apartments, it was out in the country,” Poole added. “There were very few houses in that neighborhood, there was no bypass in that area and it was the perfect spot for apartments.”

Many in the audience were under the impression that P&Z members were elected and vowed not to support them in the next election.

P&Z members are appointed by each Midlothian City Councilman and serve two-year terms. Appointments are made in July

The Planning and Zoning Commission considers all platting issues, provides guidance on long-range growth for the community, and serves as an advisory board to the City Council on ordinance amendments and zoning issues.

The Planning and Zoning Commission meets the third Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m., in the City Council Chambers, City Hall.