Senate leader: Administration’s drawdown plan unacceptable
By BRUCE ALSOBROOK | News-Telegram Managing Editor
Sept 12, 2007 - Four residents in the recently annexed area west of Sulphur Springs lost the battle but may have won the war in their fight to stop a local trucking company from building and expanding to a new home.
The tussle over land use and zoning came at Tuesday's Sulphur Springs City Council meeting.
Clint Bulkley, owner of Bulkley Trucking in Martin Springs, owns three sections of land in the annexed area. The land, close to the Clayton Homes site, fronts both the Interstate 30 frontage road on the south and U.S. Highway 67 (Main Street) on the north. He had applied for a plat to combine the three sites into one.
Bulkley, who was at the meeting with his wife, Linda, said he employs about 70 people with a payroll of between $2 million and $3 million. His plans for the land include a commercial truck facility — relocating his company to the site, selling parts and making repairs on big rigs, as well as a refrigerated storage facility.
Bulkley's plans would create new jobs, and the improvements would mean increased property taxes for the city of Sulphur Springs.
"It's not just in the best interest of Clint and Linda Bulkley," he told the council.
But four people who live near Bulkley's land protested the move, saying the plans would disrupt their quality of life.
Chris Gibbins, who said 1,500 feet of his property adjoins Bulkley's, said a trucking facility would aggravate his daughter's allergies. He said she recently tested positive as "highly allergic" to dust, mold and petroleum products, which he argued would be exacerbated by a trucking facility operating nearby.
"That has a direct affect on my quality of life," Gibbins said.
Johnny Dobson, whose house is on property on the frontage road to the west of Bullkley's land, said he didn't relish the prospect of trucks driving by his bedroom window without any protection.
"I don't think what he does with his land should affect my land," Dobson said.
Donnie and Katie Martin, who live off of U.S. Highway 67, also stated their concerns.
"If you can honestly say you would not mind having a trucking company in your back yard, then you do that — you put it in your back yard," Mrs. Martin told council members.
Bulkley was not alone, however. Roger Feagley, director of the Sulphur Springs-Hopkins County Economic Development Corporation, addressed the council and asked them to support Bulkley's plans.
"Mr. Bulkley is going to supply some good jobs, and Sulphur Springs needs good jobs," he told council members.
Feagley, noting the EDC has property nearby, also pointed out that the area is best suited for light industrial development.
Ironically, it was only because the city annexed the land that the other property owners could protest Bulkley's ideas.
"If Mr. Bulkley had developed it just a few months before it came into the city, we wouldn't be here," said Johnny Vance, the city's director of Community Development.
Council member Gary Spraggins made the motion the council approve Bulkley's plat request, saying he believes the city needs to demonstrate to prospective business and industries the support of the city.
Councilman Chris Brown, however, said his main concern was creating a light industry zone next to a single family zoning, adding he had nothing against Bulkley's plans.
"My problem is this particular location," Brown said.
But the motion to approve the plat was approved on a 3-2 vote, with Spraggins, Clay Walker and Oscar Aguilar voting in the affirmative, while Brown and Freddie Taylor were against it.
Councilman Garry Jordan was not present, and Mayor Yolanda Williams abstained from voting — but not for long.
The next item on the agenda sought to change the zoning for Bulkley's land to light industrial. The property had three different zoning classifications — about 20 percent is either heavy commercial or single family, the other 80 percent is light industrial.
A new discussion arose at that point, with Brown asking if the council couldn't create an ordinance requiring barriers or buffer zones when industrial zones bump up against residential areas.
"A couple of years ago, we came up with masonry walls for heavy commercial," Brown said, alluding to a measure requiring a barrier between single family and commercial zones. "Why can't we come up with a similar protection?"
Spraggins reminded Brown that the council had already designated much of the property in that area for light industrial use.
Brown also said that while the city's long-range planning calls for the area in question to ultimately be used for industrial development, when the annexation was planned the city did not know about two residential properties in the area.
"We did a lot of work with the wrong information," he said.
For his part, Bulkley said he would be agreeable to building a wall between his property and the Martins, "or something more aesthetically pleasing." He has also had discussions with Dobson and Gibbins about barriers between the properties, but they sides have not been able to finalized any agreements.
When it came time to vote to change the zoning to light industrial, it appeared the measure would get approval by a 3-2 vote, with Spraggins, Walker and Aguilar voting "aye," and Brown and Taylor saying "nay" — until Mayor Yolanda Williams decided to take a side, voting against the zoning measure. The 3-3 vote killed the zoning request and, for now, Bulkley's plans for the property.