Night club plans in Donna ignite protest

February 13, 2017 GMT

DONNA — Noise and safety concerns from residents of a local RV park prompted city leaders here on Tuesday to table the consideration of a conditional use permit for a nearby night club.

As many as 75 residents of the Victoria Palms RV Resort left Donna City Hall with only standing room accommodations at Planning and Zoning and City Council meetings held Monday and Tuesday, respectively. During both proceedings, representatives of the park and an affiliate presented a petition of more than 500 signatures from residents, who are largely Winter Texans, protesting the opening of the El Centenario Nite Club and asking that officials deny the permit’s approval.

Proposed at 3708 E. Business 83 in Donna, which is about 200 feet from the resort’s 602 N. Victoria Road location, park residents at the meetings said the club may disrupt the peaceful lifestyle that attracts them to their winter destination annually. Fears are that loud music, additional traffic congestion and an elevated potential for disturbances will accompany the club’s opening in the area.

Judi McClellan, front office manager for Victoria Palms Inn & Suites, told council members on Tuesday that she stands to lose her guests, and further warned of a possible economic impact given the park’s residents accounting for up to $40,000 a year in city taxes alone.

“We do most of our business in December, January, February and March with the Winter Texans than the entire year, and so it will not only impact the RV resort but it will also impact our hotel,” McClellan said.

Progreso resident Liz De Los Santos filed the application with the city for a condition use permit in December and has since met the requirements necessary to open the club, Planning Director Robert Escobar instructed the council in recommendation of granting the permit.

Requirements include a $225 filing fee, applying for a TABC (Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission) license, producing a warranty deed for the property, publishing a public notice in The Monitor and mailing residents within a 200-foot radius to inform them of her intentions.

“We do understand their point of view about the noise and everything, but the thing is we have already invested money in it,” Gilbert Treviño, De Los Santos’ brother, said at the council meeting before referring to the establishment as a business that “won’t just be a bar,” but a place for dancing and where families are welcome. “It’s not like we’re going to go gun down people or elicit problems. It’s going to be a family occasion bar and grill. You’re all welcome there also.”

El Centenario’s hours of operation — from 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. on weekdays and 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. on weekends — were also of concern to Victoria Palms residents.

“It’s too close to our community; noise is very transparent in that community,” Terry Goss, the resort’s general manager, said before the council. “Victoria Palms is one of the finest resorts in America, but it’s the intangibles that have brought our residents to call this home. They like our pool, but they love that they can sleep with their windows open on a cool winter night. They enjoy our restaurant, but they would not be here without the comfort and safety of being able to take a walk after dinner. They play cards and shuffleboard, take dance lessons and exercise classes, but take away their ability to enjoy a peaceful evening on their deck, and they will leave us.”

Another brother of De Los Santos, Mario Heriberto Treviño, attended the council meeting and reminded that events at the hotel ballroom often last until 1 a.m.

“He’s right,” McClellan said in response. “We do have weddings, dances and quinceañeras, and there is sometimes music until 12 or 1 o’clock in the morning. But they’re not part of the RV park, per se, and that is our activity (that can be controlled within the park), and this we can’t.”

Although the Planning and Zoning Commission recommended that the council deny De Los Santos the permit, city attorney Jim Ramon suggested tabling the item until a future meeting.

Before assuring the gathering of Victoria Palms residents their “voices have been heard,” Ramon said city leaders must also afford the applicant an opportunity to make a case for the club.

“My recommendation as an attorney is that the council take no action on this tonight, until I’ve had an opportunity, along with Mr. Treviño, to look at it closer ...” Ramon said. “Certainly we can appreciate in our capitalistic country folks that come in and want to make an investment. Certainly the city and I also appreciate your (park residents’) impact on the community. Nobody here wants to harm any of you. I appreciate the applicants who’ve come in and I don’t have any reason to doubt their sincerity about wanting to come in and operate a business that’s not going to be offensive to the folks who live out in your park, but I think they also deserve the respect to be heard.”

Council members agreed with the recommendation and postponed the permit’s consideration.

Wilma Jacobs, one of more than a thousand people believed to reside at Victoria Palms, disagreed with the elected officials, as did many of the winter visitors in attendance. One gentleman quipped, “No backbone,” while exiting City Hall.

“I’m very disappointed with the decision,” Jacobs said. “I don’t understand how the staff could recommend this to go ahead when we went before a board that gave the opposite opinion. I’m not sure how much more information counsel needs, and we’ll certainly follow-up on this, but we’re all very disappointed.”