New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - June 7, 2000, New Braunfels, Texas
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Vol. 149 No. 143 18 pages in 2 sections June 7, 2000
Serving Comal County since 185
Mill Street comeback shows what can L happen when residents take a standEckerd Drugs withdraws
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K. JESSIE SLATEN/Herald-Zeitung
Colleen Seelhammer, Christina Smith and Allen Seelhammer believe the Mill Street Area Association has been a major force in turning their neighborhood from a slum to something to be proud of.
Group effort transforms residential area near downtown
By Heather Todd
A slow drive down West Mill Street today will reveal a quiet, peaceful neighborhood reminiscent of a residential street out of the 1950s.
The homes, many of which were built in the first half of the 20th century, are brightly painted white or pastel pink, green or blue with flower beds and gardens lining the lush, well-kept yards.
But many long-time residents say it wasn’t always that way. They say the small enclave just off downtown must be considered the comeback kid of dilapidated neighborhoods.
“This area was really downtrodden,” resident Allen Seelhammer said, adding that the house across the street from his was in such disrepair, even transients refused to live there.
“We had a prostitution ring and burglaries and a murderer living in our community,” he said.
Christina Smith, who has lived in the Mill Street area since 1986, said, “There were a lot of abandoned buildings and boarded up buildings and lots of traffic and speeders.”
Finally, several residents in the area decided to take a stand.
“Some of us were concerned and we decided as a collective group we wanted to clean it
up so about 60 of us went down to city hall,” Seelhammer said.
Members of a neighborhood task force talked with the city’s Safe City Commission and the police and fire chiefs about ways they could improve their neighborhood.
Don Ferguson, assistant to the city manager, said the neighborhood really needed the city’s help.
“We saw a number of issues to address,” he said. “In addition to criminal activity, we saw a need for neighborhood revitalization and (the residents) decided the best way to do it was to form an association.”See MI LL/10 A
‘Neighborhood Watch’ program aids in revitalization
Many residents throughout the city are making grass roots efforts to instill pride in their neighborhoods and increase safety.
Don Ferguson, assistant to the city manager, said the city currently has 25 active Neighborhood Watch programs, which bring residents together to practice crime prevention measures.
Willow Street “Neighborhood Watch” program block leader Beth Bizer said her neighborhood had problems with car burglaries three or four years ago but not so much now.
“We’re a close-knit neighborhood,” Bizer said. “We have a directory with everyone’s name and phone numbers so we know whose cars are whose and we know when there’s a strange car in the neighborhood.”
Once a year, the “Neighborhood Watch” pro-
■ Residents interested in forming a “Neighborhood Watch” program can call the Safe City Commission at 608-2100 ext. 218._
grams participate in “National Night Out Against Crime” to help increase awareness among residents.
But, Texas Avenue “Neighborhood Watch” program block leader Marsha Kiesling said residents meet several times a year to plan neighborhood projects, and she feels it has made the neighborhood safer.
Residents of Texas Avenue experienced a series of small crimes in 1998.See WATCH/10A
By Heather Todd
Eckerd Drugs has withdrawn its application for a special use permit to build a drug store on the comer of Business 35 and South Walnut Avenue, but reasons Tuesday were unclear.
City planner Harry Bennett said he received word on Tuesday that the Shelby/Estus Realty Group, Inc., the realty group representing Eckerd, issued a request to withdraw its application for rezoning, scheduled to go before the city’s Planning Commission Tuesday night.
Bruce S. Shelby with Shelby/Estus confirmed Tuesday that Eckerd officials told him to pull the application, but he said he was not told why.
A spokeswoman for Eckerd at the corporate office in Florida said she would look into the issue but did not call back Tuesday.
But, at least one resident suggested it was vocal opposition to the project that caused Eckerd to pull out.
Paul Derrick, who lives on S. Sycamore Avenue behind the proposed development, said, “Maybe they saw the opposition they were up against and realized we weren’t going to lay down and die.”
This was Eckerd’s second attempt in a little more than a year to get the city’s permission to construct an Eckerd drug store on 1.62 acres on the comer of South Walnut Avenue and Business 35.
In February 1999, city council voted 4-3 in favor of the project, but city policy required a 6-1 vote or better because of public opposition to the proposal.
Derrick said he was happy when he heard the announcement that Eckerd had withdrawn their application at the planning commission meeting.
But, Teresa Frasch, who lives on West Coll Street, said, “I’m suspicious.”
“We’ve been through this several times and (the developers) said they came back with a new plan, but it was the same thing,” she said.
Derrick said, “We don’t know if they’re going to come back again.”
Currently that area is zoned R-3 Multifamily Residential and C-3 Commercial District.
Shelby said Eckerd decided to make another attempt to
build at the location after Walgreen’s was granted a special use permit Feb. 14 to build across the street.
Shelby said the developers made changes to the plans that addressed residents’ concerns about increased traffic and neighborhood disruptions.
But, several residents said they weren’t convinced it was a good plan.
“I’m opposed to it because I live in a residential neighborhood and they don’t belong there,” Frasch said.
Derrick said he was against the development because he lived about 70 feet behind where the dumpsters would be located.
Cindy Schlather, who lives on W. Coll Street, said she hoped Eckerd would look into building a store out on Loop 337.
‘ I rn opposed to it because I live in a residential neighborhood and (Eckerd Drugs) don *t belong there.”Teresa Frasch, who lives on W. Coll Street
But Shelby said during a previous interview Eckerd wanted to build near the existing store on Business 35 to keep the same customer base.
Several residents who owned property near the proposed site were in favor of the development because Eckerd agreed to make improvements to Walnut Avenue.
Shelby said Eckerd would donate IO feet of right-of-way along Walnut Avenue, which, combined with Walgreen’s donation of 30 feet of right-of-way, could help widen Walnut Avenue to accommodate six lanes of traffic including a turning lane.
Gloria Hitzfelder, who owns a house on Walnut Avenue next to the proposed site of the new Walgreen’s store, said, “(Walnut) is too dangerous for residential, too busy, especially for older residents ”
Florence Riedel, Hitzfelder’s mother, who owns a house at 565 Walnut Ave., said the See ECKERD/10A
Key Code 76
NY cancer survivor pedals for a cure
By Ron Maloney
Emie Neupert’s life has been a long, hard ride since he lost his wife, Helene, to breast cancer a little more than two years ago. About a month later, he lost his best friend to cancer as well.
And Emie has cancer, too: colon cancer diagnosed in 1994 that he hopes is in remission.
But the 60-year-old upstate New York native isn’t waiting around to find out: he was 2,378 miles Tuesday morning into a 7,000-mile bike odyssey around the country, raising money for cancer research.
He stopped in New Braunfels on his
way to San Antonio. After a couple of very important stops there, he’ll head westward toward Los Angeles, where he expects to loop northward, making the eastward leg of his trek on the back roads along Interstate 80. ‘
He hopes to be home in New York by winter. He’ll be, he believes, the first person his age to make the entire trip in less than a year, and certainly the first cancer survivor to do it.
And he just might make it: he traveled more than 80 miles Tuesday on his 21-speed, Cannondale T-700 bike, loaded down with about 70 lbs. of clothing, food and fund-raising brochures. At an average of 50 miles a day, with 60 days off for rest, he’ll be home by Christmas
He began his trip in Baldwinsville, N. Y. on April 4, which was his 60th birthday.
“When I lost my wife and my good friend David Kraft, 28 days later to cancer, I don’t know why the good lord didn’t just take me right then,” Emie said. “It took me about a year to get my head back on straight.”
While he was working to get over his loss, he thought about what he should do next.
“Ever since I was in grade school, I’ve wanted to ride a bike across the country,” Emie said. “Never give up a dream. I had to wait until I was 60 years old to be See BIKER/1 OA
New Yorker Emie Neupert stops in New Braunfels during a cross-country trek to raise money for cancer research.