Tag Archives: planning and zoning

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

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

P&Z denies variance for Calvary Temple Church

In a 4-1 vote on Thursday evening, February 7, the Planning and Zoning Commission denied a variance request for a large electronic sign submitted by Calvary Temple Church. The proposed sign was to be located on church property along Loop 534, and would have more than doubled the currently allowed maximum sign area.

The motion to deny was made by David Jones, seconded by Garrett Harmon, and passed 4-1, with Chairman Bob Waller casting the dissenting vote.

“In a few months, this may be a moot point.”

Rustin Zuber, P&Z Commission Member
Diagram of relative sizes of the maximum size allowed by ordinance versus the proposed size of the Calvary Temple Sign on Loop 534.

More than one commission member stated that they were voting “no” at this time, but that the code review process was in the works, and the sign ordinance may very well change once that process is complete. So it is possible that the proposed sign may, in fact, be in compliance with a future amended sign ordinance.

Staff reported that the Code Review Committee would be meeting during the next two weeks, and an open house of the proposed revisions would be available to the public on February 25. Following that presentation, a joint P&Z and Council meeting would be scheduled for March 7.

Electronic signs to be reconsidered by P&Z

Kerrville’s Planning & Zoning Commission will discuss electronic signage during this Thursday’s regularly scheduled meeting at City Hall. Two agenda items relate to the electronic signage issue. The first is a discussion regarding sign ordinance research. The second is a variance request for Calvary Temple Church’s proposed electronic sign on Loop 534. The variance request for the Chamber of Commerce sign has been withdrawn and will not be part of Thursday’s meeting.

The full agenda and packet is available to download here (PDF).

Sign Ordinance Review

At the previous P&Z meeting, the commission instructed staff to review the current sign ordinance and collect examples of various sign ordinances from other communities. This research was specific to how other cities treat electronic message displays, digital boards, electronic message centers, or changeable copy signs.

Within the agenda packet prepared for commission members, staff has created a chart displaying sign ordinances from numerous Texas cities as small as Llano and as large as Bryan. Many of these cities regulate a sign’s total area, and then denote a percentage of that total area that can be used for electronic messages. The chart is shown below.

Staff recommends that if the commission does want to change the code, that they consider changing our current ordinance to regulate electronic signage as a percentage of the total size of an allowed sign, but also cautions the commission that another committee has already been tasked with the review of the sign code (along with other ordinances) next year. Staff’s opinion states that it might not be prudent to review and update the sign code at this time, knowing that the entire code will be reviewed again in a few months.

The Kerrville Daily Times offered an online poll on their website asking if the city’s sign and billboard regulations need an update. Although the poll doesn’t indicate the number of responses, the results show that approximately 2/3 of respondents believe the regulations need to be updated.

Kerrville Daily Times online poll results as of February 4, 2019.

If the P&Z does decide to amend the ordinance, it would not be done at Thursday’s meeting. Staff and City Attorney Mike Hayes would likely draft an ordinance to amend the code, which would be approved at subsequent meetings.

Chamber of Commerce Sign

Last month a variance request for TEU Services for a sign located at the Chamber of Commerce was pulled from the agenda just hours prior to the meeting. Again this month, the variance request has been withdrawn and may be reapplied for at a later date. So, for now, the sign at the Chamber of Commerce building will continue to be used only in part, so as to conform with the current ordinance.

Calvary Temple Sign

After tabling the matter last month, Calvary Temple Church is back on the agenda for two variances relating to an application for an electronic sign along Loop 534. The two variances requested include:

  1. To allow a freestanding sign to be located on nonresidential property for an establishment that has an existing monument sign;
  2. To allow an electronic sign to exceed the maximum size of 32 square feet by allowing an electronic sign that is 12 feet by 6 feet for a total of 72 square feet.

Staff traditionally does not make recommendations for or against specific sign variances, and has not made a recommendation in this case.

Mock-up of proposed sign at Calvary Temple Church.

If the variance request is approved, Calvary Temple may begin construction of the sign. The variance does not have to be reviewed by City Council.

The meeting is scheduled for 4:30 PM this Thursday, February 7, 2019, and will be held in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 701 Main Street, Kerrville, Texas. The meeting is open to the public.

Electronic sign requests postponed

Kerrville’s Planning and Zoning Commission was scheduled to hear variance requests for two proposed electronic signs on Thursday, January 3, 2019, but both requests were postponed or removed from Thursday’s agenda.

For the Chamber of Commerce sign along Sidney Baker Street, the agenda item was removed at the request of the applicant. No information about that variance request was presented at Thursday’s meeting. P&Z Chairman Bob Waller indicated that the item would likely be revisited at a future meeting.

The variance request from Calvary Temple Church was presented, but no action was taken. Instead, the committee voted unanimously to table the matter and to hear recommendations about possible amendments to the sign ordinance at the next meeting on February 7.

P&Z considers electronic signage requests

The State of Texas grants cities the ability to regulate quite a variety of activities within the city limits. The City of Kerrville enforces building codes, fire regulations, development codes, sidewalks, and signs, among other things. At the staff level, our city’s administrators consider applications and review design criteria, and they approve or disapprove these proposals based on the city’s Municipal Codes. 

One of these codes is known as the “Sign Ordinance.” This lengthy set of rules and regulations sets forth criteria for the placement, materials, and size of various types of signage, including the types illustrated below.

Diagram taken from the City of Kerrville’s Sign Ordinance

Our current sign ordinance was written in 2012 and was amended in 2013, 2014, and 2018. Any person, business, or organization that wants to erect a new sign has to meet the guidelines specified in this ordinance. If they wish to go above and beyond what the rules normally allow, they must apply for a “variance” — basically a specific exemption from the rules. All variance requests must be approved by the city’s Planning & Zoning Board.

A specific portion of the city’s sign ordinance deals with electronic signs, which have gained in popularity since the sign ordinance was first adopted. These signs can be seen throughout town at places like the Convention & Visitors Bureau, Cailloux Theater, various banks and restaurants, and car dealerships. All of these current signs, unless grandfathered, have met (and continue to meet) the city’s requirements set forth below. Our city’s rules for electronic signs, which were written with help from sign vendors, regulate electronic signs as follows: 

  • May not exceed 32 square feet
  • May use color images
  • Must operate in a way that its message remains static for a minimum of four seconds
  • Must operate in a way that all screen transitions occur within one second such that the initial message does not fade, dissolve, or travel
  • May not use motion, such as a scrolling message
  • May be allowed as a wall sign or window sign instead of a freestanding sign
  • May not exceed a light intensity of 500 NITS at night or 7,000 NITS during the day
  • Operating within 200 feet of a residential area must be turned off from 8:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.

This Thursday, January 3, the city’s Planning & Zoning Commission will hear from two local organizations that wish to utilize signage that exceeds these stipulations. The first group seeking a variance is Calvary Temple Church, located along Loop 534. The second is the Kerrville Area Chamber of Commerce, located along Sidney Baker Street, aka Highway 16. 

Calvary Temple’s proposed electronic sign would measure approximately 72 square feet — more than double the maximum allowed size of 32 square feet. A diagram of this proposed sign is shown below.

Proposed signage along Loop 534 for Calvary Temple Church.

The Chamber’s sign has already been constructed and is in use currently, and they seek a variance to allow an electronic sign measuring approximately 79 square feet — again, more than double the currently allowed square footage. Because of a mistake made by the city’s planning department during the permitting stage, the sign was erected and activated, but the city has now told the Chamber that the sign cannot be used in its entirety without a variance from the P&Z. A diagram of the sign is shown below. 

Proposed signage along Sidney Baker Street for Kerrville Area Chamber of Commerce.

According to Drew Paxton, City of Kerrville’s Executive Director for Development Services, the sign should have been compared against three sections of the sign ordinance, but was mistakenly only compared against one section of the regulations. When the error was discovered, the city informed the Chamber that a variance would be necessary to use the entire surface area of the electronic portion of the sign.

The full agenda and information packet for Thursday’s P&Z meeting is available here: https://www.kerrvilletx.gov/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/3234

Dr. William Rector, president of the Kerrville Historic Downtown Business Alliance and one of the authors of the original sign ordinance, has expressed opposition to these variance requests. Writing specifically about the Chamber’s electronic sign in a guest editorial that is scheduled to appear in Thursday’s newspaper, Mr. Rector stated: 

“…[T]he current Sign Code does state that any place an electronic sign is utilized its size is limited to 32 square feet.  The sign to be considered by P&Z is nearly 80 square feet (per side) and is one of the first sights to greet tourists and prospective new residents on Sidney Baker.  Many, including members of the current P&Z, worked diligently to create, as a wide community effort, the Kerrville 2050 Comprehensive Plan.  The submission of this sign request and the request for this variance reminds each of us that this 2050 Plan can’t just be enacted then put on a shelf and forgotten.  It will require each of us to show up at meetings, like Thursday’s P&Z Meeting, to remind our officials that this is OUR PLAN for OUR FUTURE KERRVILLE and it must not be derailed even for the best of intentions.”

The P&Z will consider both of these variances, along with other business, this Thursday, January 3, at 4:30 PM. City staff has not provided a recommendation to the commission on how to proceed, because staff has historically not commented or provided such a recommendation for sign ordinance variance requests. Thursday’s meeting is open to the public and is held in the council chambers on the first floor of City Hall.

If the commission approves these variances, the owners can proceed with their plans. If the commission denies these variances, the parties do have the right to appeal the decision to the City Council.

What do you think? Should exceptions be made for these two organizations? What type of precedent, if any, does this set for future variance requests? What do you want your community to look like in the long-term? Should large electronic signs be allowed? Sound off in our comments section on Facebook, or attend Thursday’s meeting to make your voice heard.