Is ‘Downtown’ West U. Unfriendly To Developers?
A comment by West U. Councilman George Boehme at Monday night’s special council meeting concerning the vacant JMH building on Edloe led to a discussion of the city’s development standards and the possibility that they may actually hinder development.
“Most things in downtown West U. today could not be rebuilt even if you wanted to according to the existing development standards,” said Boehme, who added that there is a “hodgepodge of development standards that have been developed throughout the years that don’t make sense.”
Boehme, owner of Edloe Street Deli, said “enormous” setback requirements make it difficult for interested developers to build pedestrian friendly businesses.
City Manager Michael Ross said the Zoning and Planning Commission has discussed the issue for years, but a large problem involves with willingness of individual business owners to participate.
“In a perfect world you would be able to craft something that would be a blueprint in the zoning plan for that town center, something you could redevelop over time,” said Ross, citing the challenged of “multifaceted owners” with varying interests.
Steve Brown, chair of the Z&P, says the issue has been discussed for at least the past six years. Brown says two key issues that could not be resolved were parking and the proximity of residential areas across Poor farm Ditch.
“It boils down to what kind of downtown do you want in West U., when you are surrounded by every conceivable service almost within walking distance,” said Brown. “I don’t hold on to any high hope for a quick resolution or agreement to a master plan.”
“The problem is it’s a hell of a big investment to make without knowing that your developer rights are,” said Boehme.