OYSTER CREEK — City leaders have been hoping to attract new housing, but a plan recently presented to them has some provisions that make them uncomfortable.

William Galvan and Mike Ramos spoke during Thursday’s council meeting about their hopes of constructing a small apartment building at 3215 FM 523. The location and type of building they propose using has some issues attached to it.

“It would require a specific-use permit from the council,” City Attorney Laurence Boyd said. “The property is not zoned for apartments at all.”

If council approves a specific-use permit for the land, it can set any special provisions for the project they wish.

One immediate concern about the proposed apartment building is fire safety. The current plans call for buildings to share a common attic, something of great concern to Mayor Justin Mills, who is a volunteer firefighter. He cautioned the hopeful builders to consult with the fire chief and consider rethinking that aspect of the proposal.

“If the council was considering doing this, and I’m not speaking for them, if they were considering doing this, we would probably pend final approval on fire inspection,” Mills said.

Galvan and Ramos readily agreed to the condition, but council members soon raised more roadblocks, including another related to fire safety. Some members questioned door placement and the lack of back doors that could hinder escape from a fire. Others worried that the builders planned to manage it themselves instead of hiring a management company or a live-in manager.

“Is there anybody close by that can respond in case y’all get called by the police or (anything else)?” Councilman James Dvorak asked.

The two both live within easy driving distance and have family in the area, they said. That’s one reason they agree with the council’s final concern: who will be allowed to live in the apartments? They said they intend to conduct standard background checks and hope to attract plant workers and other upstanding individuals.

“What we’re trying to bring is something better than just a vacant building,” Galvan said. “You want to make the city look better. We both grew up here, I grew up right down the street in Freeport. You guys look a lot better than you did, in my opinion, because you’re trying to uphold a standard.”

While most council members approve of the project, in the end, it’s up to residents to weigh in on the project, members said.

“As of now, you hold the majority of the council, pending letters going out,” he said. “After letters come out, if the people that are directly affected by it and looking at it every day decide against it, that’s generally the way we go.”

Mary Newport is a reporter for The Facts. Contact her at 979-237-0149.

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