Controversy surrounds plans for old sugar mill

May 22, 2012 4:59:15 PM PDT
The old Imperial sugar mill is a cherished piece of history for residents of Sugar Land. City leaders recently approved new development at the site, including plans for a new apartment complex.

But now it has become the center of a growing controversy, as homeowners worry the apartments could open the doors to more and more apartment complexes popping up in the city.

Opponents of the Imperial Sugar Mills apartments say they're also gearing up to fight other proposals for apartment complexes throughout Sugar Land. But in this last week, before the election for this district's state representative, the fight over apartments has now become a big campaign issue.

On the street leading away from the soon-to-be developed Imperial Sugar property, Diana Miller's state representative campaign signs line her curb as neatly as the 1920s bungalows that were once home to sugar mill workers.

"My focus is the community," Miller said. "The community was never anti-development, although we were painted in that picture."

What Miller, and she says 2,000 other Sugar Land residents, don't want is a new luxury apartment complex and multi-story parking garage on the site of the old Imperial Sugar factory.

Last month, Sugar Land City Council approved the rezoning of the 690 acre property near the new Constellation stadium -- a mixed-use plan that includes retail, parking and apartments, much like Sugar Land's Town Square.

"I do agree with the residents who say that we should move them closer to the baseball stadium," said Jacquie Chaumette.

Chaumette, who is finishing up as Sugar Land's mayor pro-tem and also running for state representative in District 26, says this should not be a campaign issue -- not at the state level.

"I think it's something our local elected officials, our city council members, need to look at closely. But the fact that it's now being brought into a state representative race, I think that's not called for," she said.

Chaumette says Miller's attempts to make the apartments a state issue won't go far because the legislature doesn't decide local issues. But Miller says it's all one and the same.

"I really can't say that they are separated or one is a priority over the other, because it is all about the community," Miller said.

Miller is also trying to get a referendum on the ballot to overturn city council's approval of the rezoning.

We contacted the other two candidates in the race for District 26 -- Sonal Bhuchar and Rick Miller. Neither of them returned our calls.

At this time there's no word on when building on the Imperial development might begin.


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