MIDLOTHIAN – The Midlothian City Council talked for almost 20 minutes about the pros and cons of overlay zoning before deciding to table the matter.
In the first meeting following last week's municipal elections, the council was approached by city planning director John Garfield about developing an ordinance to allow overlay districts or zoning along specific streets or in designated areas of the city.
Place 3 Councilman Ken Chambers and newly seated Place 5 Councilman Hank Miller felt the move would add another layer of city government that had to be cleared by developers wanting to change zoning or homeowners wanting to modify their property.
Garfield tried to point out he was only seeking to create an ordinance that would have to be approved by the full council.
“We are only seeking to clarify language and expand the capability that would allow us to monitor and manage growth,” Garfield said. “This is just another tool in the toolbox.”
Chambers said Midlothian has too many “tools in the toolbox” or restrictions and felt the ordinance would run developers out of town.
The move comes after a property owner tried to re-zone a home and lot downtown to allow a psychic to live and work on North 8th Street. While the property was zoned residential/commercial it did not allow specifically for that type of business.
Miller said if homeowners didn't want a certain type business in their neighborhood, the city should change the zoning.
Midlothian Mayor Boyce Whatley countered that changing zoning once a developer has walked in the front door of City Hall looking to build can be grounds for a lawsuit.
“This would be a year-long process to draw up this ordinance and it would give the city options to implement this type of balanced control,” Whatley said. “We don’t want to be too restrictive, but we also want to protect people’s property, too.
“We currently have zoning that was decided in the ’70s,” Whatley said. “Midlothian has changed a lot since then and we need ways to fairly and properly adjust zoning.”
Garfield said he has been working with developers and cities on zoning issues for 40 years and the council needs to consider two things: “All any developer wants to know is what the rules are or what the property is zoned to allow. All an adjacent property owner wants to know is what the rules are and what the property is zoned not to allow.”
Zoning is a device used by city government to regulate the use of land and growth in a community. One goal is to separate quiet residential property from busy commercial property or streets.
Overlay zoning allows a city to “lay zoning over” a specific street or neighborhood. Overlay zoning enables cities to designate areas that are changing in character and protect or encourage historic, commercial, residential or environmental concerns. Overlay zoning is more flexible than traditional zoning.
The desire for overlay zoning came to the city council with a 6-0 vote from the Midlothian Planning and Zoning Board.
Chambers moved to table the matter until the May 26 meeting. Chambers’ motion was seconded by Miller and approved by the council on a 6-0 vote, with Place 1 councilman R.J. “Dusty” Fryer absent from the room.
In other business:
•Place Six Councilman Steve Massey was sworn in for this fourth, three-year term. The council also said goodbye to former Place 5 Councilman Wayne Sibley and watched at Miller took the oath of office for the Place 5 post from County Court at Law No. 1 Judge Greg Wilhelm. Former Mayor Pro Tem Fryer said he would not seek another term as vice-mayor. On a motion by Fryer and seconded by Massey, the council unanimously elected Place 4 Councilman Joe Frizzell as mayor pro tem.
•The council approve the rezoning of property at 103 N. 1st St. to a proposed urban village planned development from single family residential.
Developer Steven Hidlebaugh is seeking to turn the home into a professional office building. Homeowners in the area wanted the property to remain residential.
On a motion by Chambers and seconded by Place 2 Councilman Bill Houston, the board voted 6-0 to change the zoning.
•The council recognized both the Midlothian Gryphon Motorcycle Club and BACA and proclaimed May as Motorcycle Safety Month.
•The council tabled a contract with American Eagle Tree Services to trim trees and brush and then dispose of the limbs and debris.
Frizzell made the motion to table, saying he wanted to see a contract before he approved a contract. Frizzell’s motion was seconded by Houston.
•The board heard an annual update from Frank Viso, executive director of the Midlothian Corporation for Economic Development. Viso said, since October, his office has fielded questions from 54 prospects, had 37 formal inquiries and 25 site visits from industrial and commercial developers interested in Midlothian.
Viso said he hopes to make an announcement on bringing a new company to Midlothian in the next few weeks.
•The board entered a closed, executive session to deliberate condemnation of real property for U.S. Highway 67 grade separation projects.