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San Antonio may not be able to stop planned Saint Leo University project

SAN ANTONIO — Even after months of deliberation, San Antonio city officials still reject Saint Leo University's plan to build a major warehouse along a city street. But that might not be enough stop the project.

A revised plan is headed to the town of St. Leo's commission for approval Monday. That plan still hinges on the controversial use of Pompanic Street, even after San Antonio residents and officials have said they think the street is unsuitable for truck traffic and poses a safety hazard.

Although San Antonio shares control of Pompanic with St. Leo, the building would lie in St. Leo limits. That means site plan approval is up to its commission, not San Antonio. It's not clear what the city can do, if anything, to stop the plan if it's approved.

"We'll see," San Antonio Mayor Tim Newlon said. "At that point it becomes a legal issue."

The proposed facility — a 16,000-square-foot plant operations building — would bring daily truck traffic to Pompanic, including semi trucks. The street is already too narrow for cars heading opposite ways to pass one another, Newlon said, let alone trucks.

He said the street would likely need to be widened to avoid safety issues.

University engineer Peter Hubbell disagreed, however. A traffic study on Pompanic revealed the street saw 600 to 700 vehicles a day. He said the facility would add about 26 vehicles per day.

If the street's width is already an issue, Hubbell said, the facility's extra trips wouldn't warrant widening the street.

But he has already tried and failed using those figures to placate San Antonio's concerns about the university's plan. Hubbell and other university engineers met with residents May 14 to discuss using Pompanic. Afterward, San Antonio officials' and residents' minds were unchanged.

The university's persistence left many wondering, why not connect the facility's driveway to nearby State Road 52? Hubbell, however, said the university doesn't want a service road running through land it wants to eventually develop.

The building would stand on a nearly 12-acre vacant lot overlooking Lake Jovita. SR 52 borders the lot's southern edge. Pompanic and San Antonio border the east, and the Holy Name Monastery, which the university purchased last year, borders the west.

Original plans for the new facility had it using already existing roads through campus that entered from SR 52. But when the university purchased the 12-acre lot next to San Antonio, Hubbell said the university wanted to move the facility as far away from campus as possible.

The problem with that, Newlon said, is it places the facility where it becomes a problem for San Antonio and the town of St. Leo. He said that not only is Pompanic not wide enough for the facility's truck traffic, it's not strong enough.

"My fear is the road will deteriorate faster than it normally would," Newlon said. "Residents of San Ann and St. Leo will foot the bill for that."

The university disagrees, further contributing to the impasse. Pompanic is a general access street without a weight restriction, it said in a release. The university's analysis showed the street could handle weights far greater than that of the facility's truck traffic.

Newlon said that since an April meeting with St. Leo's former mayor, Hubbell and a university representative, he hasn't heard from the university.

Richard Christmas, St. Leo's current mayor and member of the town commission, said that when the university makes its case for the plan's approval Monday, they'll think of San Antonio.

"We want a plan that addresses both San Antonio's and the university's concerns," Christmas said.

San Antonio may not be able to stop planned Saint Leo University project 06/05/14 [Last modified: Thursday, June 5, 2014 4:33pm]

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