Updated

Panel passes Bryan zoning

By ETHAN BUTTERFIELD

Eagle Staff Writer

The Bryan Planning & Zoning Commission on Thursday approved the city’s downtown zoning proposal, which would keep Twin City Mission and other area charities from expanding their facilities.

The commission’s 3-1 vote sends the plan, which has generated controversy because of its potential effect on the mission and other downtown charities, to the City Council for consideration.

Although the 40-year-old mission would not be allowed to expand under the zoning proposal, it would not be forced to move, downtown planner Beth Wilson said.

But the mission is facing a space crunch, executive director Doug Weedon said during Thursday evening’s 3 1/2-hour meeting, where commissioners heard support for and opposition to the zoning plan.

The mission has acquired a block of buildings on Bryan and Parker streets behind its current 6,000-square-foot facility on North Main Street. Officials have even drawn up preliminary plans for a 34,700-square-foot facility on that land, Weedon said.

“We have some tentative plans for a new shelter, which would expand our bed space for our men, women and have a whole new family division,” he said. “Right now we have to split the families. Now the women stay on the women’s side with the kids, and the men stay on the men’s side. It would also contain an expanded kitchen.”

Weedon said the mission is gearing up to start a capital campaign in the next year to raise $5 million for equipment and a new facility. He said he hopes to start applying for grants soon and is optimistic that the mission will raise the funds within a year of the campaign’s start.

The zoning plan divides downtown into three sections: north, south and civic — the area around City Hall at Texas Avenue and 29th Street.

The plan would eliminate charities as “permitted uses” in both the north and south sections. Twin City Mission is in the north area.

Bryan Mayor Jay Don Watson said the city is not against the mission and would like to find a good solution for all parties. He said he would support the city helping the mission find a new home outside of downtown to circumvent the current controversy.

“If the council and also the mission were agreeable to that type of solution, I think the city ought to use its resources to help locate this property,” Watson said. “Not saying that we’d buy it, but at least do what we can to help obtain it. Because the mission serves a purpose, and we need to provide that service to the citizens.”

Mission officials are not opposed to moving out of downtown, though they prefer the mission where it is, Weedon said. There is no deal on the table that could facilitate such a move, he said.

Planning & Zoning commissioners Art Hughes, Randy Haynes and Hubert Nelson supported the zoning plan Thursday night, while Richard Rosas voted against it. Commissioners and downtown property owners Mark Conlee and Marvin Walker withdrew from the discussion and vote, while Beverly Benson and chair Kim Casey abstained.

The zoning plan now goes to the City Council for two public hearings, which likely will be scheduled for August and possibly early September, Wilson said.

Weedon said he and mission supporters did not raise a big fuss Thursday because they are preparing to take their case to the City Council.

In January, the last time the plan was up for a vote, Weedon and other mission supporters appealed to the Planning & Zoning Commission. The commission responded by voting down the plan.

“Last time we did the appeal to the Planning & Zoning Commission, and certainly don’t want to undervalue them,” Weedon said. “But we’re looking at saving the thrust of it this time for the City Council, so maybe it won’t come back up again.”

• Ethan Butterfield’s e-mail address is ebutterfield@theeagle.com.

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