Friendswood’s city council is continuing to focus on making its downtown district more business friendly.
The issue came sharply into focus when one downtown business owner decided in frustration to move his business from downtown instead of invest in expensive amenities required by the city.
Soon afterward, the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission held a discussion about the issue of nonconformity. If a structure expands or alters in any way, city staff said, it loses its nonconforming status – and for downtown, that means benches, lights and sidewalks are then required.
“If we leave this like it is, we will be looking at those old buildings until they are actually razed – if we won’t allow anybody to go in there and increase the footprint. I don’t know what you can do with those buildings,” Councilman Jim Hill told the council during a discussion at its June 2 meeting. “Sometimes I think we can restrict so much that basically, it makes the land worthless.”
One option for amending the downtown district is to drop amenity requirements on side streets.
Councilman John Scott was among those who liked that option.
“We have enough on our hands trying to get the businesses filled on 518,” he said. “We don’t need to be raising costs or putting undue burdens on people who may want to expand businesses on those secondary streets.”
The downtown district was not created to stifle business, Councilman Jim Hill pointed out.
“We need to be really careful when we get to the reverse effect,” he said.
He suggested when ordinances are written, that the city attorney include a paragraph stating the original intention of that ordinance.
“The whole thing was to get something going downtown; we should not lose sight of that,” Hill said.
With much of council appearing to be in favor of dropping the requirements on side streets, a clarified ordinance will likely appear on an upcoming city council agenda.