Small Turnout for Zoning Proposal

October 1, 2014

About 30 West U residents attended two “town hall meetings” Monday on the city of West U’s commercial zoning review.
Gary Mitchell, vice-president of the Kendig-Keast Collaborative and the consultant to the city on rezoning non-single family properties in West U, spent a great deal of time explaining what the rezoning will not do.
Mitchell stressed that a steering committee and the West U Zoning and Planning Commission have already ruled out parking garages within the city limits, and have agreed that no buildings should be allowed that are taller than 35 feet.
Those changes would apply in a proposed new Town Center District, which includes the light commercial buildings on Edloe Street between University Blvd. The steering committee has recommended extending the Town Center District just past Rice Blvd., to include Texas Citizens’ Bank and the Tiny Boxwoods restaurant.
If those buildings are ever rebuilt, the proposed zoning changes would require the structures to be moved forward toward the street, with parking in the back. Any outdoor seating areas in the Town Center District would be allowed only in front of the buildings.
Although the Town Center District drew the most concerns in 2011 when the city of West U considered rezoning commercial properties, the focus this year may be on a proposal to allow the rezoning of a section of Kirby Drive to “mixed use” from University to Amherst.
The “eclectic” zoning plan might best suit that section of Kirby Mitchell said, because only five townhomes have been built since the area was zone for townhomes in 1987. The small lot sizes on Kirby, and the volume of traffic, might best be suited to commercial uses, Mitchell explained.
But several residents of Lake Street, which is just one block west of Kirby in West U, objected to that proposal. They complained that allowing commercial zoning on Kirby would add to crime, vermin and other problems in their residential neighborhood.
The West U City Council has set the rezoning of non-single family residential neighborhoods in the city as one of their top goals.
The list of the City Council’s “goals statement” includes: “A comprehensive review of the highest and best use of the city’s properties, and the properties within the area known as Town Center.”
The city is paying KKC $56,700 for the consultants help in rezoning the non-residential properties in and around West U. The majority of commercial properties are on the periphery of the city.
The rezoning effort is being spearheaded by Assistant City Manager Chris Peifer.
“This has been just to let people know what is going on, and to get public commentary” on the proposed zoning changes.
He stressed that the work done so far is a proposed rezoning plan that will be considered by the Zoning and Planning Commission and the West U City Council only after a more formal joint public hearing.
Peifer said that the next steering committee meeting will be held Thursday, October 9. The Zoning and Planning Commission also meets October 9, at 6:15 p.m. at the West U Municipal Building, at 3800 University Blvd.
The consultants are scheduled to deliver their final recommendations to the Zoning and Planning Commission on October 29, Peifer said.
The ZPC would then send a preliminary report to the City Council, and they would conduct a joint public hearing before the ZPC submits their final report to the City Council.
The City Council is likely to consider the proposed zoning changes in the first 60 days of 2015, Peifer said.