North Heights neighborhood split on rezoning, more community input wanted

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AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — In October, the Amarillo City Council voted to table the North Heights rezoning plan after another contentious public hearing.

Now, after years of work, the North Heights Advisory Association (NHAA) and the City of Amarillo are back to the drawing board and potentially more community solutions meetings to get feedback about what people who live and work there want.

The current president of the NHAA, Melodie Graves, said the rezoning would bring in more development.

“When you go to like, the Southside of town, you see that the housing goes heavy, commercial, light, industrial, and then residential, to kind of give us a buffer from the heavy commercial to the residential,” said Graves. “And that’s all we were trying to do.”

At the Oct. 12 council meeting, MyHighPlains.com saw more arguments on the proposed zoning.

“I do not appreciate anyone trying to enforce and reduce the rights that I have as a property owner in the rights that I purchased as a property owner,” said Gabe Irving, a property owner in North Heights.

During public comment, other residents said key stakeholders have not been involved in the process.

“North Heights Advisory Association, I’ve said this before as well. They do not have the depth in the North Heights community to speak for anyone,” said Timothy Gassaway, president of the Amarillo Area Black Chamber of Commerce, and neighborhood property owner. “And this is the problem with this process. You got the wrong people giving you data. So bad data gives you bad outcomes.”

Fransetta Crow, another homeowner in the neighborhood said, “They decided they were just going to trample over us and run over us and do what they want to do, and make decisions about our property without our input. And that is not fair. It’s not democratic.”

Former NHAA President, Mildred Darton, said since planning began, people stopped coming to meetings to give their input.

She said the neighborhood plans will work if given a chance because money is being spent outside of the neighborhood due to zoning.

“Rezoning is what we need to do, rezone to get businesses so that money in our community, at least some of it, will stay in our community,” said Darton.

Amarillo Council Member for Place 2 and Mayor Pro Tem, Freda Powell, said the North Heights community is split on rezoning, but a solution can be found.

“We need a little bit more education on rezoning because it is a complicated topic,” Powell said. “And then in the community itself, we need some sort of a community solutions meeting where we have, you know, the community come together and then share what their concerns are.”

Powell said the neighborhood was not zoned properly to begin.

“It’s been at a disadvantage and disinvestment. But the whole goal of the rezoning is so that we can have compatible land uses, they won’t be mixed,” said Powell.

Graves said the neighborhood has been neglected, saying, “North Heights has not been rezoned for more than 60 years. And so even with rezoning, we still don’t have the proper infrastructure. So there’s a lot of issues that need to be addressed.”

Now, the council is unsure how to move forward and wants more community input.

“I’m against or in opposition to rezoning anybody’s personal property against their will,” Place 1 Council Member Cole Stanley said at the meeting. “I feel like the right direction is…to look at enforcing existing, you know, policies and procedures, cleaning up the neighborhood, and trying to promote growth and business in that neighborhood through incentives.”

Powell said the goal is to protect property owners’ rights by rezoning.

“We’re not trying to take away their land, or you know, how their business is operating today,” Powell added. “We’re just trying to revitalize, you know, and update the neighborhood. And it’s more like redevelopment is what we’re trying to do, and you can’t do that overnight. Will it look like Southwest Amarillo? No.”

According to Powell, North Heights is not the only neighborhood dealing with zoning issues. When asked if there are any other neighborhoods with similar problems, she said the Barrio Neighborhood comes to mind.

Graves said she trusts that in time, Amarillo’s city leaders will prove they value North Heights.

“There’s a part of me that thinks this is just how what happens to North heights all the time. We don’t get definite solutions. We don’t get the answers. And we’re just kind of left behind everybody else,” said Graves. “And so, I’m praying that this time it’s different.”

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