A vacant lot in the Old Town Keller area has become an issue in the Republican primary for state representative District 98.
The lot at 110 Bates St., just west of U.S. 377 in one of the city's oldest neighborhoods, is owned by Armin Mizani, who is trying to unseat incumbent Giovanni Capriglione for the GOP nomination.
Capriglione, a Southlake resident who has represented the Southlake-Keller area in the Texas House of Representatives for six years, says Mizani's purchase of the land last year is not well-known in the Keller community.
He said the land could present a conflict of interest for Mizani because Mizani, who is a Keller City Council member, has voted to spend $4.25 million in improvements to sidewalks, drainage and streets in Old Town, and those improvements could drive up the value of his property.
"I don't think a councilman should buy property in an area being improved by city taxes," Capriglione said.
But Mizani says the votes on those Old Town improvements took place before he bought the property in March. Since he entered into a contract to buy the property, Mizani says he has abstained from voting on City Council matters in the vicinity of his real estate to prevent the appearance of a conflict of interest.
"I checked with the city attorney and city staff. I notified the City Council before we even closed on the property," Mizani said in a phone interview. "Anytime there's a vote in Old Town Keller, I recuse myself, even though I don't have to."
The .28-acre lot (about 12,500 square feet) was previously owned by Panther City Industries LLC, according to Tarrant Appraisal District records. It had a taxable value of $62,500 in 2016, the most recent year available on the records.
Panther City Industries also owns the property at 111 W. Vine St., next door to Mizani's property, according to appraisal records. That property is the former La Casita restaurant, and it is being renovated and is scheduled to re-open later this year as the Station Grill and Ice House.
City records show that Mizani voted in favor of Old Town Keller improvements in February 2016, before he bought the Old Town property.
Mizani said he closed on the purchase of the Old Town property in March 2017.
In July 2017, the City Council approved a $5,000 grant to help with renovation costs for planned Station Grill and Ice House. A video of that meeting shows Mazani getting up from his seat and appearing to leave the council chambers before the vote takes place. But he didn't publicly state why he was not voting. (To watch the vote, click on agenda item 11, approximately four hours and 45 minutes into the meeting.)
In December, the Keller City Council approved a sign variance for the Station Grill and Ice House. During that meeting, Mazani publicly declares his intent to recuse himself from that agenda item as well as three other items related to Old Town, although he doesn't specifically say he owns property in the neighborhood. (1:46 on the video.)
"Neither H1 or 2 or 3 or the item on the consent agenda are actual conflicts of interest (but) I'm recusing myself as a matter of perception," Mizani tells the mayor and council. "So, I just wanted to make that comment. I will be leaving the room. But I just wanted to make that clear."
Keller City Manager Mark Hafner confirmed that Mizani personally informed him, other council members and the city attorney of his land purchase.
"When he bought it, he made full disclosure, and in any votes he has recused himself," Hafner said. "He is doing more than the law requires."
Hafner and Mizani said in separate interviews they were unaware of any requirements for elected leaders in Keller to disclose their real estate holdings in writing.
Gordon Dickson: 817-390-7796; @gdickson