Some displaced residents in Dickinson worry that businesses will buy flood-damaged homes, gobbling up older neighborhoods after Hurricane Harvey ravaged them.
Mayor Julie Masters doesn’t see that happening, though, she said.
“If we had more businesses in a growth mode, maybe,” Masters said. “We are trying to grow businesses. We really need that to survive.”
Although many Dickinson businesses are still closed or struggling, one is growing. Dickinson Bar-B-Que & Steakhouse shows signs of recovery six months after Harvey.
The restaurant, 2111 FM 517, in Dickinson, recently reopened after repairs and bought three houses on Holly Drive adjacent to its property with the intention to create about 110 more parking spaces, owner Keith Lilley said.
“Businesses are thriving if they are wanting to build parking lots,” Dickinson Chamber of Commerce President Dawn King said.
Charmaine Rea, who lives on the same block of Holly Drive behind the restaurant, opposed the parking lot plans and the loss of three houses in her neighborhood, she said.
Many Dickinson residents left their flooded homes after Harvey, and many are still waiting for repairs before they return, while others have given up and moved away, she said.
Businesses in Dickinson also flooded and many closed down for good, while others have returned.
The city needs businesses to generate sales tax revenue, but businesses are gobbling up neighborhoods, leaving residents out of the equation, Rea said.
“They were flooded out and forced out,” she said.
The city’s future land use map is shifting to reflect this, Rea said.
On Tuesday, the city council unanimously approved a zoning change to make two of the residential properties Lilley acquired on Holly Drive commercial. The city’s planning and zoning commission approved the changes at its Feb. 20 meeting.
The third house will go through the same process, but Lilley bought it after the others, Lilley said.
Holly Drive is a short street that dead-ends at Dickinson Bayou. It’s an older neighborhood, and the street runs parallel to FM 517, which is lined with commercial property that has been there for about 30 years. Dickinson Bar-B-Que has been there for about nine years, Lilley said.
“It’s not like commercial property has encroached that area,” Lilley said.
The restaurant flooded during Harvey and had to close, losing about $1 million in revenue, Lilley said. It reopened one month ago.
“We kept employees on the payroll,” Lilley said. “It was the right thing to do.”
Homeowners on Holly Drive approached him about three months after the storm to see whether the business might buy their properties, Lilley said. One who had insurance had already gotten her money, and one who did not have insurance could not afford repairs.
“Holly Drive took a significant hit,” Lilley said. “It totaled out houses.”
His company has hired engineers to make sure the lots will drain properly, and the design will retain the mature trees on the lot, Lilley said.
The commercial zoning will require a 20-foot setback for a buffer between the residential area and the parking lots.
“We went through the proper channels,” Lilley said. “We cut no corners and got no special favors.”
Lilley has been polite and professional, Rea said.
“He wants to build a wooden privacy fence,” Rea said. “He wants to be a good neighbor. He’s trying to accommodate.”
She doesn’t blame him for wanting the parking lot, but she accuses the city for sneaking the zoning hearings by residents, she said.
The city posted signs on the properties and announced the hearings ahead of time, officials said.
What irritated Rea about Tuesday’s meeting was that it started at 7 p.m. but the zoning change item did not come up until 10:30 p.m., she said. By that time, most of the people who were at the meeting had left, she said.
“I’m disappointed in Dickinson city government,” she said. “I know the city has to have businesses, but it’s not fair to residents.”
The council struggled with the decision, Masters said.
“There were mixed emotions,” she said. “When you own a home and it’s near a busy thoroughfare, this can happen.”
The city’s future land map will continue to adjust commercial zones and residential zones, Lilley said.
“Growth is inevitable,” he said.