WU Council to Vote on Zoning Changes

The West U City Council will meet Monday to consider final adoption of a new zoning ordinance for commercial properties in the city.

The council preliminarily approved the new zoning rules for non-single family properties in West U, by a 4-1 vote on February 23. The changes generally apply to commercial properties on the periphery of the city, and a strip of businesses along Edloe St between University and Rice Blvds.

Since that vote, many West U residents have emailed members of the city council about concerns that the new Town Center Commercial district could become “a mall” across the street from West U Elementary School.

Those concerns apparently were prompted by an email widely circulated by West U resident Spyros Maragos, who urged people to contact the Mayor and City Council. In his e-mail, Maragos wrote: “The change of the zoning code and the building of the mall is a controversial project and the developers know it. “

Maragos claimed that the new zoning rules would “change the character of the town center for the worse. In order to make the economics work the TCC owners will have to bring in national chains and customers from outside of West U. TCC will become a shopping destination.

Under an amendment to the zoning ordinance tentatively approved by the council, Yehle proposed that the Edloe property owners would  be allowed to rebuild only if they follow the new zoning rules. Those rules would:

*limit the buildings to two stories, or no more than 35 feet in height;

*do away with the “head-in” parking along Edloe St., by requiring that new construction be built at the front property line with parking spaces in the back, along Poor Farm Ditch, and;

*would not include a parking garage in Town Center, or any other area of West U.

In a lengthy rebuttal to Marago’s claims, Yehle said his concerns were unfounded.

“National chains” are highly unlikely to be interested in the West U Town Center because there is insufficient retail traffic to support their businesses,” Yehle wrote.

And, Yehle added, “There is nothing in the code that would cause anything like a “mall” to be built.  The code only allows buildings to be a maximum of two stories high and requires them to have 2.6 parking spaces per square foot of commercial area.  Those are essentially the same conditions that exist with today’s non-compliant structures and are hardly parameters supportive of a supportive of a “mall.”

Before voting on February 23 to give preliminary approval to the new zoning changes, the West U City Council and the Zoning and Planning Commission held a joint public hearing that was extended for several days, to allow input from West U residents. That public hearing is now closed.