A Galveston homeowners group is gearing up to sue the city for records it claims could stop the rezoning of a west island property.

The Laffite’s Cove Property Owners Association, with the backing of the Pirates Property Owners Association, is prepared to spend up to $25,000 on the lawsuit, which association leaders hope yields maps showing the history of the property’s zoning.

The property, 13718 Stewart Road, is in the process of being rezoned from residential to “resort/recreational.” The effort has caused outrage among some nearby homeowners in Laffite’s Cove and Pirates Cove, who say a zoning change could lower property values in the area.

The land’s owner, John W. Hamilton, has the property up for sale, and a contract is pending.

“It opens up just a can of worms of all kinds,” said Jed Goodall, president of the Laffite’s Cove Property Owners Association.

“You could have a biker bar, you could have a nightclub. If that were to happen, it would just absolutely kill the property values in Laffite’s Cove or Pirates Cove.”

Homeowners had previously expressed distaste at the idea of an RV park in the area. Realtor V.J. Tramonte, who is representing the owner in the sale, said he was never approached about an RV park and that he couldn’t disclose the name of the potential buyer.

Officials with the city planning commission, which has to preliminarily approve the zoning change before it is finalized by the city council, have said the property never should have been residential in the first place.

When the city overhauled the island’s zoning in 2015, the Stewart Road property was accidentally changed from commercial to residential, planning commission Chairman Bruce Reinhart said.

The homeowners association doesn’t buy it. Open records requests have yielded a map from 1991, stamped with the city of Galveston seal, showing the 13718 Stewart Road property was zoned as “neighborhood services” on the bottom strip of land, with the rest zoned as “single-family residential.”

Janice Norman, planning manager for the city of Galveston, said in an email to Tramonte that she reviewed a former zoning map and does not believe it was ever commercially zoned.

“After reviewing the map and looking at the details this was not rezoned in error,” Norman said in a Jan. 9 email to Tramonte. “This was always a residential zoning district except the bottom part of the lot and it was Neighborhood Services, which is not commercial.”

Norman did not respond to a request for comment. Tramonte declined to comment on the rezoning issue.

Marc Hill, a Laffite’s Cove resident and attorney who was hired by the neighborhood homeowners association, said he now intends to file a lawsuit asking a judge to order the city to hand over appropriate documents showing the zoning history of the area.

“I believe if everything comes to light, I believe the planning commission and city council will do the right thing,” Hill said.

Hamilton, who declined to comment, has previously said the land should be rezoned because the area to the west of his property is “resort/recreational.” The 1991 record also contradicts that, Hill said.

Reinhart, the planning commission chairman, declined to comment. “This is just getting so out of hand,” he said.

Those in the area have also been putting pressure on their councilwoman, Carolyn Sunseri. Sunseri, of District 6, had previously said she supported Hamilton’s desire to change the zoning, but now she said if the land truly was residential, then it should stay that way.

“Evidently there is information out there that we have not seen,” she said. “We’re just trying to gather everything to give clear information to the planning commission so they can make a decision.”

Samantha Ketterer is a reporter at the Daily News. Contact at 409-683-5241 or samantha.ketterer@galvnews.com. Follow on Twitter @sam_kett.

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(14) comments

Nancy Greenfield

Thanks for objectively covering a situation of homeowners in the west end of Galveston.

Ben Hock

Homeowners purchased their homes knowing the Hamilton track was zoned residential and fully expected another subdivision would some day be built. They did not anticipate an attempt to re-write history. Ben Hock

Bill Broussard

Mr Reinhardt. Getting out of hand? It got out of hand at planning commission when you called security on a neighbor who knows more about commercial property and zoning than you do

Are you the mysterious buyer? Wouldn't put it past you after you led the charge on extending Marquette's SUP then turned around and bought a section from Marquette six months later

Ms Sunseri. One would expect better of the head of Stewart Title and think you would have gotten the same information the neighborhood did from your city staff but then it was you who lost all of the plats of Porretto beach and I'm sure that wil land in court also. Guess I can't expect too much from Stewart title or you

Vote no on the 60 MM bond. You simply cannot trust these folks.

Carolyn Sunseri

Mr. Broussard- I work at South Land Title, not Stewart Title.

Bill Broussard

Ms sunseri. It's good to know we can trust Stewart Title again

By the way at your Saturday talk at WGIPOA you told the audience that the charge to us for the 60 MM bond was about 3.5 to residents. But Brian Maxwell is on record having said it would be 3.5 to 7.5 and most likely would be 7.5 in four years. Did something change with Maxwell and we can trust you numbers? There is quite a difference. Best as I can tell two times your quote

Katherine Maxwell

That is not at all true Bill. The bonds will precipitate a 3.5 cent tax increase. The balance is being absorbed internally if needed as the bonds are sold over time. Bill, once again, I find you to be a very intelligent and well meaning person......please check your facts before spreading misinformation.

Don Ciaccio

Thank you Carolyn. You serve your constituents well.

Bill Broussard

Interest on the bonds would partially be paid for by a 3.5 cent increase in the property tax rate, according to Mike Loftin, the city’s assistant city manager of finance. Further increases in the tax rate would begin in 2019 and reach a total of 7

Bill Broussard

Ooops south land title I had that wrong I think

Bill Broussard

Brian. Those numbers came from you in the gcdn. Perhaps something changed since you gave the quote?

Bill Broussard

Actually it was 7.0 I just checked, Brian

Katherine Maxwell

There is no plan for any tax increase beyond 3.5 cents and I have never said anything but that Bill. Talk about alternative facts. The balance comes from funds elsewhere in the budget not precipitating any further tax increase for the bonds. Nice try though Bill......Read the official information the city has released on the bonds both in print and on the web site.

Bill Broussard

Interest on the bonds would partially be paid for by a 3.5 cent increase in the property tax rate, according to Mike Loftin, the city’s assistant city manager of finance. Further increases in the tax rate would begin in 2019 and reach a total of 7 cents in 2021.

City Manager Brian Maxwell said none of the tax increases are set in stone.

“The whole thing is structured to give the council flexibility,” Maxwell said. “We have lots of opportunity to tweak and change if we need to.”

That is what you said. Where is it in print? Something changed and I guess I missed it, Brian

Bill Broussard

BTW: I'm not "trying" anything. I'm giving you what I see to be facts and also the reference for those facts. If you change things, I might be behind since the last three times I or anyone registered in my neighborhood tried to use the website it would not allow entrance.

Back to the original point: You staple the list of to-do's on the ballot and form some kind of accountability and you will probably get my vote. Though, that never mattered much when it came to Sea Wall parking.

But I do need to say that after the Hamilton fiasco, I'm not sure who on the west end wants any part of the bond.

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