Neighbors pack West University land buy meeting

By Keith Garvin - Anchor/Reporter

HOUSTON - One by one more than a dozen West University Place homeowners approached the microphone at Monday night's city council meeting with the same message: They strongly oppose a proposed plan to sell and swap city property in a long-term expansion plan.

"Number one, this process stinks," Brennan Reilly said.

"This project has been handled poorly from the start," said Michelle Moore. "It has not been helped by the recalcitrant behavior of the council and the mayor when faced with opposition from the residents."

At issue -- in part -- was the city's plan to sell its community center and library to West Baptist University Church next door. Parents and other local leaders have even organized children against the plan. That proposal was the first idea to come off the list.

"You can rest assured this council is not touching that property," said Mayor Pro Tem Susan Sample, to which the crowd of nearly 200 followed with applause."

But residents remained angry over the new proposal which still calls for the city to buy several homes next to city hall, along with a land swap with West University Baptist for land it owns near the homes. A swap would allow the church to build a youth ministry building. The city wants the land for its own purposes and the residents -- almost to a man and woman -- aren't having it. They voiced their disapproval with Monday night's turnout.

"I think it's tremendous and if I was a council member I'd be really nervous," said resident Doug Schuler. "I'd be sweating right now."

"This is our neighborhood, you know," said Heidi Dugan, who's lived in West University for 32 years. "I think this will stop it. And I think all these council members are gonna be gone over this."

The city's ultimate goal is to consolidate all of its services into one building. The council decided to hold off on discussing any land exchange with the church until January 15. But residents won't have to wait that long to express their opinions. Two town hall meetings on the issue are scheduled for Nov. 17.

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