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Zoho Advances Plans for Corporate Campus in McAllen, Amidst Controversial Property Reclassification

Balancing Public Sentiment and Economic Development

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McAllen residents stand divided over the proposed transformation of their beloved Disc Golf Park (Course) into Zoho's new tech campus. Photo by Roberto Hugo González
McAllen residents stand divided over the proposed transformation of their beloved Disc Golf Park (Course) into Zoho’s new tech campus. Photo by Roberto Hugo González

Texas Border Business

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By Roberto Hugo González

The City Commission meeting held on the evening of July 24, 2023, stands as one of the most dynamic gatherings I’ve attended in years. There was a transparent presentation of ideas from every corner, including residents in favor, those against, and government proposals, all bearing witness to ZOHO’s campus proposal.

Zoho, a globally operating tech company, boasts a diverse team of approximately 12,000 employees worldwide. As stated in their brochure, they are recognized as India’s largest software product company and are presently expanding their international presence.

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Zoho, moved closer on Monday night to construct a corporate campus on the McAllen Disc Golf Course. This followed the McAllen City Commission’s controversial approval to reclassify the property for commercial operations.

Jose R. “Pepe” Cabeza de Vaca

“No one likes change. And with change comes fear. But it’s time to confront that fear — and take the next step for the city of McAllen,” articulated City Commissioner Jose R. “Pepe” Cabeza de Vaca, recognizing the prevailing hesitation towards the change.

This article serves as the first in a series of reports drawn from that night’s proceedings. The vibrant participation of the residents, putting forth a range of differing and opposing views, was the most significant since the heated approval of the downtown bus station in McAllen. This meeting is but one in a series of future discussions about ZOHO Corporation’s intent to use a specific site on Ware Rd. While the residents opposing this move welcome Zoho to McAllen, they do not favor the proposed Ware Rd. location.

The Ware Road site is where the Hackney Floodway used to be. Given its former status as a floodway, the property is bordered by a levee to the north and south and features an outlet near McColl Road that drains into the new floodway.

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Roy Rodriguez

In this meeting, Roy Rodriguez, the McAllen City Manager, discussed the proposed rezoning for the new development in McAllen. He explained the process they’ve undertaken to ensure transparency, the concerns and misinformation that have arisen, and the efforts being made to ensure the development is safe, beneficial, and in line with the city’s goals.

Transparency and Community Involvement: Rodriguez emphasizes that the city has gone above and beyond the requirements for rezoning, including holding meetings for the public to discuss the changes and address concerns, partly because the community didn’t initially know what was planned for the property.

FEMA Involvement and Flood Concerns: He points out that the proposed site must meet FEMA’s floodplain requirements, such as being outside of a 100-year floodplain. Rodriguez corrects the notion that the site is in a floodway, stressing that it is in a flood zone, which has different implications. He mentions that the proposed building will be above the required height, which has sparked concerns about its impact on the surrounding area but assures that studies will be conducted to ensure it will not affect floodway flow.

Drainage Improvements: Rodriguez assures the community of their commitment to improving drainage in the city, stating they have spent over $60 million on improvements. He highlights specific projects in South McAllen, demonstrating their efforts to alleviate existing drainage issues.

Green Space and Environmental Concerns: Rodriguez challenges misinformation about the lack of green space in McAllen and asserts the city’s plan to double the amount of green space. He also refutes claims that the project will harm birdlife and natural fauna, stating that the company, Zoho, plans to plant more trees to attract more birds.

City Development and Recreational Facilities: The City Manager emphasizes that the area was always designated for development aimed at bringing jobs to South McAllen in response to criticisms that not enough is being done for the area. He also brings up the topic of disc golf, acknowledging its popularity and refuting the notion that the rezoned area is the only place for disc golf. Rodriguez ensures that the city will continue looking for suitable locations for the sport.

Previous Designation of the Site: Rodriguez asserts that the site was never intended to be a park, contrary to some public opinion. He provides memos from 2010 and 2013 as evidence that previous requests to designate the site as a park were denied with the intent to save it for future development.

As he finished his comments, the City Manager maintained that they’ve been transparent with the facts as they understand them and asserted that the location is listed as an employment center in their comprehensive plan. The goal is to advance city development, enhance community living standards, and attract more job opportunities, particularly to South McAllen.

Prepare to dive into a thrilling journey! Our upcoming series of articles will stir you into the heart of a City Commission meeting that had passion and intensity. Picture an electrifying debate where every voice had a chance to be heard. Get ready; this is one discussion you wouldn’t want to have missed!

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