Monthly Archives: August 2019

Council approves new zoning law

With a unanimous vote at Tuesday night’s meeting, the Kerrville City Council adopted a brand new Zoning Code that includes some extensive changes to both the rules and the map. This adoption is the culmination of a year-long process of re-working the code by the Code Review Committee, the Planning & Zoning Commission, with input from the City Council, too.

Because of the multitude of changes in the new code, council admits that there will be issues that need to be addresses on a case-by-case basis, especially when it comes to nonconforming uses (when a property is being used for something that is not allowed in the new code). Council pointed out a six-month window during which property owners can bring up their objections with Drew Paxton, Executive Director of Development Services, and staff can begin to address those concerns.

Why is a zoning code important? A city’s zones establish where certain types of buildings, businesses, residences, factories, merchants, and service centers can operate, as well as how the buildings should look, what kind of parking they need to provide, and how the land use will fit within the larger surrounding neighborhoods and community as a whole. Zoning is one of the most important functions of a city’s planning department, which hopes to encourage responsible growth while protecting the quality of life for its current inhabitants. Cities are authorized to regulate zoning via Section 211 of the Texas Local Government Code.

A portion of the new zoning map. The entire map is available to view here: https://legistarweb-production.s3.amazonaws.com/uploads/attachment/pdf/411739/20190813_Map_Future-Zoning.pdf

Notable Changes

  • Reduction in the number of zones from 49 to just 17
  • Cleaning up and re-writing rules for clarity and user-friendliness
  • Expansion of residential districts
  • Changes to the Downtown Arts and Cultural District (DAC)
  • Changes to land use table
  • Changes to zoning map

Opposition

Several landowners spoke against the ordinance, stating their objections with regards to specific properties that they own, including former mayor Bonnie White. Council members answered these concerns by admitting that there might be issues that need to be addressed, but that it was important to move ahead with the new code to solve a multitude of other problems with the previous zoning ordinance, all the while providing a forum for property owners to air their grievances and discuss their problems with city staff.

Process

The process of creating the new Zoning Code has taken place over the past year, with numerous opportunities for citizens to attend open houses, public meetings, and workshops with the Code Review Committee (CRC), the P&Z Commission, and Council. The CRC met nine times in public meetings; the P&Z joined Council for a workshop in March; and a community open house was held in May. P&Z held a public hearing on August 13 and received public comments.

During all of these meetings and during this review period, the public was encouraged to provide feedback, comments, and suggestions. The city’s consultant also interviewed multiple stakeholders, business owners, landowners, and members of the general public. It is the opinion of this author that ample time and opportunity was given for public input, and we salute the city for their transparency during this process.

Next Steps

This was the second and final reading of this ordinance, so it is adopted as law. As noted, staff will work with individual property owners to address their concerns moving forward. And as always, P&Z and Council can grant variances and/or make changes to the code as needed in the future.

References

Video

Regular meeting held on August 27

Written by Aaron Yates

Council revives the Kerrville Main Street Program

Following a period of hiatus from the Texas Main Street program, the Kerrville City Council has resolved to restart the board and programs that aim to further the goals of the Kerrville 2050 plan with respect to the downtown area. Kerrville initially became involved with the Main Street program in the mid-1990s but took a one-year leave of absence beginning in summer 2018 “to acquaint the new leadership with the City processes and to hire new staff to take on the task of downtown revitalization.” Council voted unanimously on August 13 to reconstitute the program and appoint new Main Street Advisory board members to serve.

According to councilperson Kim Clarkson, “From my perspective… through the 2050 plan, neighborhood development and place-making, as well as focusing on the downtown revitalization would be a reason for recreation of a board like the Main Street Board. It’s re-focusing, and that’s what our citizens said they wanted to look at as an area of focus.” (Ref.: City Council Meeting, August 13, 2019.)

The seven-member board (MSAB) will be made up of property owners and business owners within the Downtown Arts & Cultural District (see map below). The city is currently accepting applications for membership on the board, which will require a two-year term of service, except for three members, chosen by chance, to serve a one-year initial term, so that the terms are staggered. To apply for membership on this board, please visit the city’s Main Street page.

The MSAB “serves in an advisory capacity to the Mayor and City Council and assists other City Boards and Commissions and City Staff to further goals and objectives of the City, including goals and objectives of the Kerrville 2050 Comprehensive Plan and other long-range plans adopted by the City; provides for the achievement of the Texas Main Street Program goals and criteria for the preservation and revitalization of the historic downtown in order to provide the necessary image for the downtown area and serves as a unifying factor to encourage area merchants and building owners to reinvest in downtown; creates positive change for downtown to ensure the success of the Main Street Program by identifying and mobilizing resources, building volunteer support, developing new leadership, and maintaining clear focus on the needs and opportunities for the downtown area.”

The Main Street program hosted the Mardi Gras on Main fundraiser from 2005 through 2016, raising funds for public arts projects such as the James Avery Mother’s Love sculpture at Main and Earl Garrett, and Lupe the Bass in Louise Hayes Park. The program also provided a voice for downtown business owners and stakeholders to participate in the overall direction and programs aimed at developing and supporting the historic downtown area. The board advised council on various matters pertaining to downtown, such as parking rules, signage, facades, walkability, and other important matters.

However, turnover in city staff leadership of the program along with other concerns, led to a temporary hiatus from the Main Street program. Council’s action this month will allow the city to remain in good standing within the state-sponsored program that aims to help communities preserve, develop, maintain, and promote their historic downtown districts.

References

P&Z rejects proposal to increase size of electronic signs

During the regularly scheduled meeting of Kerrville’s Planning & Zoning Commission on Thursday afternoon, commissioners voted unanimously to maintain the current maximum size of electronic signage at 32 square feet, and also voted to adopt new language to clarify rules for other sign types in Kerrville and the extra-territorial jurisdiction (ETJ). The proposed changes presented by the Code Review Committee suggested enlarging the maximum allowed electronic signage to 64 square feet for businesses with certain road frontage. However, the commissioners voted unanimously to maintain the current 32 square foot maximum after hearing from over a dozen community members that spoke out against the proposed enlargement.

Approximately 16 citizens, businesspersons, and community representatives addressed the commission with their thoughts on electronic signage in general and the proposed rule changes specifically. All but two persons spoke against enlarging the allowed size of electronic signs. Two individuals spoke in support of the proposed rule changes to allow the larger signs — Walt Koenig of the Kerrville Area Chamber of Commerce and Cory Traub of Pro Tech Signs & Graphixx.

After listening to the public comments, commissioners proposed several changes to the proposed ordinance that will now be submitted to the City Council for consideration and discussion. Changes included maintaining the maximum electronic signage at 32 square feet, maintaining the current duration of electronic messages at four seconds, and also some other minor changes to language regarding awning signs. The council will oversee a three-step process including a public hearing and two readings of the proposed changes to the ordinance. Community members will have a chance to speak again when council considers the ordinance presented to them by the P&Z.

Electronic signs have been the topic of much debate in Kerrville in recent months. Several businesses and organizations had submitted variance requests for larger electronic signs or other types of signage that was not in compliance with the current statutes. The topic was a point of discussion leading up to May’s city council elections. The Code Review Committee, an ad hoc city commission made up of approximately 15 citizens, had worked on changes to the Zoning Code, Sign Ordinance, and other matters, from October 2018 through July 2019.

References

Written by Aaron Yates of Kerrville United