MCALLEN, Texas – The city manager of McAllen, Roel ‘Roy’ Rodriguez says the city’s planning and zoning board got it wrong in a high-profile decision last week.
P&Z unanimously rejected a proposal from city leaders to turn Green Jay Park from agricultural land into light industrial land. If the park was zoned light industrial it could house a 90-acre campus for Zoho Corporation, a global tech company.
Local residents, environmentalists and disc golfers want the park to remain the way it is.
Rodriguez appeared on NewsTalk 710 KURV to discuss the planning and zoning board’s recommendation.
KURV Morning Show hosts Sergio Sanchez and Tim Sullivan interviewed Rodriguez. Sanchez said the P&Z’s vote appeared “alarming.”
Sanchez said: “It’s alarming… everybody on P&Z said ‘no’. So, what’s the issue here? It would seem that P&Z is not working in the better interest of the city and jobs and the future of the city. So what’s the problem?”
Rodriguez responded: “Well, the planning and zoning commission is supposed to evaluate these types of requests, zoning requests like this, and make decisions based on its merits. And so, the best guess that I have is that they felt the pressure of some of the community members and there’s not a lot of them, Sergio. There are a few people that are that are having concerns about it.”
Rodriguez said the planning and zoning board has let down a lot of people at City Hall.
“I was disappointed (with the P&Z decision) and so are many, many people here at City Hall. I think that they did not evaluate the merits correctly. But again, we’ll see. I mean, these folks are volunteers and they do the best they can and we’ll be fine. We’re going to move on.”
Rodriguez told KURV that the city commission could disregard the P&Z recommendation and vote to rezone the property light industrial. Alternatively, he said, it could look for another site for Zoho.
“We’ve got a very, very strong relationship with Zoho. In fact, the very evening of the P&Z meeting, the mayor and I met with their representatives and we talked about where we are. And so obviously P&Z denied the request. It still goes to the City Commission, and the City Commission has the authority to overturn that decision. And so we’re going to evaluate that and look at all of our options.”
Zoho’s top executives in McAllen have said the Rio Grande Valley is “rife with technical talent.” They say they “hope to bring many stable, high-paying technology jobs” to the region.
Rodriguez said the City of McAllen will definitely be helping Zoho.
“Zoho is a company that we need in the Rio Grande Valley, for a lot of reasons. And we believe that that specific site, which we’ve been holding for a long time, was perfect for them,” Rodriguez said.
“This is a company that truly cares about the environment and they were going to spend hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars, not only to ensure the protection of the area, but even to enhance it. So, we will look at our options. I think Zoho is here to stay. We just have to figure it out whether we put them there or put them in another location.”
Local residents have a different opinion to Rodriguez when it comes to the decision-making prowess of the P&Z board.
“I would like to compliment them for their patience and for listening to everyone,” Victoria Guerra, who lives about four miles from Green Jay Park, told the Rio Grande Guardian International News Service.
“The chairman, Mr. Fallek, was very professional and gracious. He listened to everyone and even allowed the Spanish speakers that were there from the south side to speak in Spanish. He spoke to them in Spanish. It was a very heartwarming thing to see that they (the P&Z board) really considered the concerns of the citizens in making their decision. I hope the City Council does the same thing.”
Guerra pointed out that P&Z board members help the city voluntarily. That theirs is not a paid position.
“Our government is supposed to be for the people by the people. Even local government. And here, city leaders are not listening to us. The majority of the citizens don’t want the city to rezone. They want to keep it as a park. They want to keep it as a green space and not to destroy it.”
Guerra added: “We already have a 0.1 percent negative green space per capita in McAllen. The city itself projects that by the year 2025 there will be a 825 acre deficit in green space in the city of McAllen.”
Raquel Oliva lives right next to Green Jay Park. Because of this she was one of the few residents to receive notice that McAllen city leaders want to rezone the park. Like Guerra, Oliva had nothing but praise for the planning and zoning board members.
“We appreciate that they listened to us with an open mind as to what our concerns were, and that they understood that the implications of rezoning are going to have a long term effect on the community,” Oliva told the Guardian. “This park doesn’t just belong to the people that live 200 feet out it belongs to the whole community.”
Oliva said she intends to be at the McAllen city commission meeting of July 24, when the issue of rezoning Green Jay Park is expected to come up.
“I think all of McAllen and really the surrounding area, the other cities, should come together and say that we need to have more green spaces,” Oliva said.
“We have to have more natural environments for our community to benefit. We have a beautiful area here and we need to make it more beautiful and part of the beauty is its natural beauty.”
Editor’s Note: Click here to watch a News in Pictures feature on the recent McAllen planning and zoning board meeting.
Editor’s Note: Click here to read a story about the disc golfers that use Green Jay Park.
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