In a rare turn, the Sherman City Council was split this week amid resident concerns about a new duplex planned for McGee Street. The deadlock was ultimately broken by Mayor David Plyler who served as the tiebreaker and voted against the motion to approve the request and asked the developer to come back with modified plans.
However, the request was never officially denied, and was tabled by default due to no official passing motion.
Monday’s deadlock by the council follows a split vote by the Sherman Planning and Zoning Commission, who voted three to two in April to approve the request, sending it to the council for final approval.
“You know, this is the first time this has happened since I’ve been mayor,” Plyler said. “This is an odd situation for us.”
Developer Seraj Ali approached the city in April to request a specific use permit to build a new two-family duplex in the 700 block of McGee Street. The proposed duplex would feature two units with four bedrooms in each dwelling for a total of eight bedrooms. Despite the McGee address, the building would instead face along Maxey Street, which provided longer frontage for the property.
The designs met all other city requirements aside from the need for a specific use permit in order to make it a two-family residence.
“As it is, if it didn’t have a wall down the middle, and it was a single family home, it complies,” commission chair Clay Mahone said last month. “All he is asking is to allow it to be (a) two-family home.”
The request received opposition in April from residents in the neighborhood who worried about the effect the home would have on visibility, parking concerns and who would move into the duplexes.
During Monday’s meeting, the request received additional opposition from Gary Simpson, who lives along McGee Street. Simpson said he was concerned with plans to face it along Maxey. He also said the lot was currently overgrown with tall grass and said he hoped it received more attention if developed. Simpson also spoke out against other duplexes in the area, noting many rarely keep long-term residents.
Concerns from the council seemed to focus on the number of residents and the marking that would be required for the project. Scott Shadden, director of developmental services, said city code requires one off-street parking spot for each bedroom in the dwelling. With four bedrooms per dwelling, Shadden said the duplex would need eight spots in total.
Deputy Mayor Shawn Teamann asked whether that was normal for this kind of development. Shadden said the building, and proposed parking, would take up much of the lot and leave very little to be mowed.
After a brief discussion, council member Josh Stevenson made a motion to approve the request as written, with Pam Howeth seconding the motion. Howeth and Stevenson were joined by Daron Holland, who voted in support. The motion to approve was opposed by Willie Steele, Teamann and Sandra Melton.
With the tie vote, Plyler voted in opposition to the motion, but asked Ali whether he could resubmit plans with a reduced number of bedrooms and parking requirements. Ali said he could modify the designs.
While Plyler’s vote defeated the motion to approve the request, a second motion to officially deny the request was not made and the council continued through the meeting as normal.
Nate Strauch, Sherman community and support services manager, confirmed Tuesday that the request was not officially denied due to a lack of a motion. By not taking action, the city effectively tabled the request, he said.
This indirect action may have some benefits as it avoids some of the issues that would come with denial, Strauch said. As an example, Ali will be able to submit his modified plans to the council without needing to return to P&Z. Additionally, Ali will not need to wait the mandatory year to reapply since the request was not denied.