City Re-Examines Business Climate

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Not long after a frustrated business owner told City Council he was moving his downtown business elsewhere, the city is revisiting its Downtown District requirements.

Planning and Zoning is reviewing requirements, especially in regard to sidewalk requirements for side streets, and will come before the council with a recommendation soon, assistant to the City Manager Nick Haby said.

Mayor Kevin Holland, who chaired a P&Z downtown subcommittee when the ordinance was developed, said the intention for benches, lights, etc. was to be on FM 518 only, and pavers on auxiliary streets.

“That was the intention of about 15 people on the downtown committee,” he said, “now the interpretation has taken it with amenities off the major thoroughfares and then on the backside of the street. The zone goes there, but the pavers and amenities don’t.”

He recalled the committee’s intentions behind conforming structures. “We’re trying to encourage growth in here, and we said as long as they add structures that are conforming to the downtown, you’re increasing the conformity, not increasing the non-comformity, so you wouldn’t have to bulldoze all the way down Main Street.

“How it’s being interpreted seven years later is why I’m clarifying what we intended at the time,” he said.
When it was originally created, businesses were given the option to be in the Downtown District, Jim Hill pointed out.

“And then we decided to make all these things mandatory,” he said. “I think we’re going to stalemate things to where they were 15 years ago.”

The council appeared to agree during Monday’s work session that Downtown District zoning requirements may be more than potential or existing businesses, currently required to maintain amenities, are willing to bear.

“In reference to the gentlemen who spoke to us at the last meeting, how long will it take us to get this ordinance changed where he could comply?” Hill asked.

The process consists of a draft of the ordinance and two readings before council, Haby said, but a conditional approval may be a possibility.

P&Z will likely have a resolution at the next council meeting, he said.

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