City Council OK's RV Park for Tulia, Texas
John Herring called the wind energy industry "Tulia's last chance," and the Swisher County, Texas, farmer is trying to do his part to help develop it.
Thanks to the action of the Tulia City Council on Tuesday night (March 8), he'll get his shot, the Plainview Daily Herald reported.
"I'm glad we're finally making progress toward something positive for Tulia," Herring said. "I think it will be a win-win for everybody."
Herring is one of the owners of now vacant land on the north edge of town where a 54-unit RV park has been proposed in response to an expected need related to coming wind energy development in this city of 5,000 located 30 miles south of Amarillo in the Texas Panhandle.
However, a specific use permit request for the RV park created quite a stir, mostly among property owners near the proposed site between El Paso and Floyd and between Eighth and Ninth streets. A couple of dozen people showed up at Tuesday's council meeting to voice their opinions, and both supporters and opponents took turns speaking during the almost three-hour discussion and eventual permit adoption.
"When we bought the property (earlier this year) we thought all we had to do was get some zoning changes, some permits, some financing and go forward," Herring said, adding that he had no idea the issue would "open a can of worms.
"It's been quite a delay."
The RV park project first gained approval from the economic development corporation, but the special use permit request was denied Feb. 8 by the planning and zoning commission on a 3-2 vote. However, Herring and the other land owners — his wife Jeannett along with plumber Jimmy Joe Johnson and his wife Debbie — appealed to the city council, which four weeks ago unanimously upheld the appeal and unanimously approved the permit.
That vote, however, was voided after required public notice of the meeting was not made, which resulted in the matter coming before the council again Tuesday.
Most of the opposition centers around concerns over devalued property, increased traffic and safety issues by residents in the neighborhood, which was affected by a tornado in April 2007 and includes nice homes, the school administration building and Highland Elementary School, and a rundown trailer park.
After fears were voiced about the RV park turning into another ill-kept trailer park, including by Celeste Howard who grew up in the neighborhood and spoke about the negative "long-term effects of temporary housing," Mayor Pat George pointed out differences between self-contained, mobile RVs and permanent trailers.
"Trailers would not be allowed in it, ever," George said.
As for concerns over increased traffic, the mayor said, "I would love to see a traffic jam in Tulia, Texas. That would mean something's happening."
Tulia ISD Superintendent Steve Post spoke to clear up the school district's position on the RV park issue.
"The school is not against it. It is against this location," Post said, citing safety and traffic concerns.
"An RV park and a school full of young children does not make a good combination," neighborhood resident Mary Lou Roach said.
Post said the school district tried to "put our money where our mouth is" and approached the land owners about buying the property. Post said they were not interested in selling.
Most of that likely has to do with the Herrings and Johnsons considering the proposed site as the best possible location for their RV park. Other locations were discussed, but the Highland area seemed to be the least expensive and most trouble-free.
City Manager Dan Dible said the city would spend $22,000 or less helping turn the land into an asset for the city.
"This project is a bargain," said Dible, who also serves as the director of Tulia's economic development corporation and said the need for an RV park to assist wind energy workers is huge.
Supporters of the park tried to alleviate fears of the kind of people who will be staying there.
Don Sanders, who owns property in the neighborhood, said his sister is a frequent RV traveler and "can't speak highly enough of RV parks" and the "hard-working people" who generally use them. "I think it will be a great asset to our community."
Jeannett Herring, a past president of the Tulia Chamber of Commerce, said the people involved with wind energy projects are "some of the nicest people we ever met" and pose "no threat to the school or community." She added that many RVs "cost more than the house we live in."
George said he spoke to chiefs of police in three cities were RV parks are located — Abernathy, Dumas and Sweetwater — and all said there have been no issues related to the parks.
Another neighborhood resident, Jason Evans, spoke in favor of the park mostly because it would help with the negative "stigma of Tulia.
"Let's be honest, there's not a lot of industry beating our doors down," Evans said. "We ought to open our arms (to wind energy)."
He said Tulia was being "very close-minded as a community. The pros way outweigh the cons."
Ultimately, the council again unanimously agreed after adding a handful of restrictions to the permit, including a six-foot opaque fence along the south and west sides of the park and not allowing RVs older than 20 years. Also, a park manager with daily office hours must be available when the park opens for business, which owners hope will be this summer or fall.
The permit, which is good for 10 years, can be revoked by the city if any code violations are not cleared up within 15 days.
Herring, who farms land where some wind energy development is proposed, was relieved after the meeting.
"I'm excited about the potential for Tulia to grow," he said. "This should help Tulia stay on the map. It's about Tulia's last chance. I don't see anything else coming down the pike as far as being a significant influx of people."