By Gilda Morales
The Van Horn City Council met in regular session last Tuesday with a large audience in attendance waiting to hear the status of a previously stalled apartment building project in town. Bill Story, the investor in the Historia Apartments, and Abraham Gonzalez, the contractor for the project, were on hand to plead their case for restarting the construction of the proposed 12-unit apartment complex, totaling 48 apartments. The project had been shut down for lack of a permit, confusing zoning regulations, and an ordinance on the books, which only permitted 8 units.
Mr. Story stated that he had already invested more than $200,000 on the project and that he was under the impression that he had the “go-ahead” when he started the project. Mellie Hernandez, Billing and Permits clerk, confirmed that the official permit had never been issued because the address was wrong on the application and that she was waiting on approval of the EDC. Mr. Story did admit he never had the actual permit in hand but stated that he did not know that the plans had to have the blessing of the Economic Development Corporation, and the engineers hired to review the plans. City Administrator Fran Malafronte explained to Mr. Story and Mr. Gonzalez, that the engineering firm had found several deficiencies that needed to be corrected, with the corrected plans to be resubmitted to the EDC for final approval at their next meeting on February 19th. She reassured them that the official permit could be issued and resumption of construction could begin immediately after the EDC gave their approval.
Council made it official by voting unanimously to amend the old ordinance to allow 12 units instead of eight. City Attorney Steve Mitchell advised Council that the confusion over zoning was a non-starter since there had never been any apartments built in town that would have used an R4 zoning designation, and that Mr. Story’s project fell under the B-1 business or commercial zoning umbrella.
Mr. Gonzalez, who is also the contractor for the concession building at the City Pool, also reported that the concrete had finally been poured early Tuesday morning, signaling the resumption of that project after numerous obstacles delaying the construction.
Council then moved to a request by Alderman McDonald to consider a reduction in a large water bill caused by a water leak at the residence of Patsy Lucas. Council agreed to reduce the bill by half and to offer her a payment program for the remaining balance.
Edward Torres, Utilities director, reported that the new Rest Area construction is on schedule, with clearing already commencing, and that the contractors should tie into the City gas and water lines tentatively in late March or early April. He also reported that progress on the landfill was stalled again, this time due to inclement weather, putting the project more than 6 months behind.