KGNS On Your Side: Discreet business operation shut down by the City of Laredo following multiple violations

Published: Aug. 31, 2023 at 10:10 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 31, 2023 at 10:54 PM CDT
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LAREDO, Tex. (KGNS) - A residential property in central Laredo was at the center of debate during this month’s City of Laredo Planning and Zoning Commission meeting.

The property in question is only supposed to be used for residential purposes but somehow turned into a commercial kitchen right under the city’s nose, but nearby residents tell KGNS it’s been a long-time problem that was shared with the city from the beginning.

Back in 2020, work started on a project at 3702 Sanders Avenue.

According to citizen complaints made to the city’s 311 call center, there was construction going on at the property without the proper permits, and it looked like a business was going up in an area zoned only for residential.

City of Laredo Building Director Gerry Pinzon tells KGNS a stop-work was going to be issued to the property owner, but the owner assured the city that what was being built would only be for residential purposes.

“I said, okay, you know what I need something notarized from [the property owner] telling me that indeed this is going to be for residential purposes,” said Pinzon. “We have a letter signed, [from] that time back in 2020, that it was for residential purposes, and so at that point for [an] RV, so we got the letter put it in the file, and [the city] approved the permit.”

In 2022, more 311 complaints were made to the city, this time the comments specifically stated that the facility was being used as a warehouse for the “Kissi restaurant.”

The situation was investigated by the city, once again, but enforcement found it was not a restaurant so the case was closed.

According to KGNS’ records search, at that time, the only permits associated with the property were for residential storage and residential electrical meters.

In June 2023, a fire broke out at the warehouse.

According to the fire department’s incident report, a person working on the warehouse’s A/C unit was welding a tube from the exterior of the building to the new walk-in refrigerator.

Photos from the investigation show what looked like a commercial kitchen inside the “residential” storage unit belonging to Tacos Kissi.

According to the manager on-site, the warehouse is used to store perishable goods and create spice mix.

Soon after the fire, the property owner was cited for operating a business without a Certificate of Occupancy.

The site was closed for a few days, but according to nearby residents, the operation was back up soon after.

It wasn’t until a recent Planning and Zoning Commission meeting that the situation gained the attention of the commission.

“I don’t understand how they even started,” said Hector “Tito” Garcia, a member of the commission. “If the [concerned citizen] is correct and she called whoever, building [dept.], they would have documentation of what it’s going to be or whatever the situation is, and for [the property owner] to throw foundation and walls and all this, and not be able to give this lady an answer, it’s a shame on [the commission], or not [the commission], the city,” he added.

During the meeting, city staff said that it would be up to the city’s building director to determine enforcement action in response to the violation.

According to Pinzon, they’ve already shut the business down.

“They should not be operating right now,” he said. “They have no electrical, no gas, you know…that place is supposed to be for residential purposes only.”

The city said it got to this point because they believed the owner, but residents we spoke to say it was a situation that could’ve been addressed from the start.

Aside from having their electrical and gas meters pulled, the property owner was also cited.

According to the city, if operations continue, the owner will get cited once again.

KGNS contacted the property owner, Ricardo Kissi, for a request for comment but we have not heard back.

If you see an issue in your neighborhood that requires code enforcement, you are encouraged to contact the city’s 311 call center which will refer you to the proper department.

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