#145: Nacogdoches, TX 12/19/17

It may be the week before Christmas, but Tuesday’s Nacogdoches city council meeting scheduled an unfortunate, bitter showdown between neighbors.

The source of strife: whether to rezone a Garner Street home–mere yards from the hospital parking lot–from “residential” to “medical.”

Representing the affirmative side was the homeowner, a short woman with a heavy twang who appeared nervous and saddened to be begging for relief.

“Our home has been on the market for several years. We’ve accepted offers that did not go through,” she explained in frustration.

“We have been approached by a cardiologist who is wanting to purchase our property and make it his office,” she said, adding that he was “a highly trained, kind, and caring person….No selfish or self-serving motivation.”

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So far, so good.

Her hand shook and she murmured “sorry” as she scanned the scattered paperwork on the lectern. “Could Mr. Wood speak about the property values?”

Mayor Shelley Brophy nodded sympathetically. “I would allow a brief statement.”

The supportive witness took the woman’s place. “They need to sell their home. When somebody offers you 15 percent more than what you’ve been saying–the only stipulation being the zone change–you have to pursue it,” he drawled.

“I was worried about her getting through this. It’s real emotional for her.”

The final speaker on the woman’s side was unmistakable: bald, bespectacled, and wearing robin’s egg blue scrubs, he was undeniably the aforementioned cardiologist.

“The key thing about this property is the proximity to the hospital,” he explained in accented English. “There’s a patient coming with a heart attack, you attend them and take care of them.”

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Do no harm

Brushing aside traffic concerns, he gestured widely while elaborating upon the simple math. “I see 12, 15 patients a day, three days a week over an eight-hour period. Which means two cars coming and going an hour. That is NOT a traffic increase.”

Stepping up in opposition was a steady stream of neighbors on Garner Street, deeply disturbed about the decay of safety, the rule of law, and the moral fiber of the neighborhood.

A woman with long, dark hair and glasses appeared torn. “I have a lot of sympathy for the Morgans. I consider them friends. They’ve been neighbors for a long time.” She hesitated but for a moment. “For the greater good, please preserve our neighborhood.”

“We have two very small children,” a young mother pleaded. “We purchased this house with the vision of raising our little girls on a nice, quiet residential street where our children could play safely. It would absolutely destroy the integrity and appeal of Garner Street.”

“Apartments, offices, ambulance, hospice, nursing home, psychiatric hospital, boarding house, halfway house, or cemetery,” another man rattled off a list of boogeymen allowed by this “medical” rezoning.

Having sat quietly for half an hour, the council leaned forward to make an uncomfortable decision.

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It’s a tough call.

“I’ll make a motion to deny the zoning change,” Council Member Garth Hinze offered bluntly.

“Doctor, you’re very well respected around town,” he addressed the cardiologist, then turned to the homeowners. “I feel your pain. But for the greater good…that’s why I voted the way that I did.”

“Mr. Norton, do you have comments?” Mayor Brophy turned to her left.

“I don’t have any comment.” Council Member David Norton wrung his hands and muttered quietly: “I’m a little surprised.”

With that, the vote was 4-0 to deny the doctor his office and the homeowner her sale. But the “integrity” of Garner Street? Mostly in tact.

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