WAXAHACHIE

Residents received their first glimpse of the city’s preliminary downtown neighborhood zoning district during a public meeting Monday inside the chambers of the Waxahachie City Council. Some remarks went over positive, planning director Shon Brooks stated. Others, not so much.

The preliminary plan for the district was formally approved by the Waxahachie City Council in May of last year. The district was created to serve as a transition between the central area and single-family residential zoning districts, and to make the downtown area more pedestrian-friendly to residents, reiterated several city officials on Monday.

“Commercial is coming,” Brooks stated. “We see it. If you were to open a commercial business, these requirements are even more strict than the zoning ordinance.”

Brooks remarked that the intention was to reduce separation and encourage connectivity between residents and services in the downtown area.

“Obviously, they’re concerned with noise, parking, walkability in general," he said. "These are all things we’re considering when we’re adopting this downtown neighborhood zoning district.”

While the original ordinance established the downtown neighborhood zoning district and categories, the language of what constituted the district itself remained vague in the initial resolution. City manager Michael Scott said that was done on purpose so the city could deliberate further on the specifics for the district.

“It’s a placeholder,” Scott explained. “That’s why we’re here today, to go over what’s going to go in those places.”

Scott stated that over 150 notices were sent out to residents that live in the downtown area.

The draft ordinance states that the maximum height regulations of a residential or commercial property in the district would be three stories high for the main building. According to the draft ordinance, the dwelling per unit area for residential units is 1,200 square feet, while non-residential units are 2,000 square feet.

According to the FAQ sheet, various districts currently exist in the proposed area for the downtown neighborhood zoning district, including commercial, general retail, single-family residential, central area and light industrial. While applicants do not have to apply for the downtown zoning district rezoning, some uses would require a specific use permit for the district, which would require further approval from the city council.

Brooks pointed out an example of an automotive shop, which is legally conforming under the current ordinance but would be out of conformity under the new downtown neighborhood zoning district guidelines.

While an automotive shop would still be able to operate under the district’s restriction, it does limit its uses if ownership of the property changes.

“If that were a changed use in any way – if the building were to be sold or we would get a new tenant in that building, that use would no longer be allowed,” Brooks explained. “But as long as you live there and work there, that won’t change.”

Resident Coy Sevier remarked that he owned three businesses within the district, and he questioned who this district benefitted more – the residents or downtown developers.

“For the last five years, this has been a gold digger’s mine,” he remarked. “We’ve already pimped out downtown once, and it hurt us. They’re still sitting there with 40 percent vacancy, and they haven’t lived up to what they said they were doing.”

Resident Amy Hedtke recommended that the city posted an email form on its website to more easily elicit feedback from the community, adding that she didn’t understand why this meeting didn’t have a clearer presentation for the residents present.

“This meeting tonight wasn’t even on the website or a calendar – much less with any information about what is and what is not allowed,” Hedtke added.

Brooks clarified that the district’s use chart would be published on the city’s planning and zoning page online and would be available for the public’s review. He elaborated that the department is seeking further public input before it goes to the planning and zoning commission, adding that there are still many more holes to fill before they could bring the updated ordinance to council.

“It’s still a working document,” Brooks stated. “Nothing is final. This is an attempt to get out ahead of what could be the future for Waxahachie.”

The full outline for the proposed downtown neighborhood zoning district was published Tuesday morning on the city’s website. To access it, visit www.waxahachie.com/departments/planning_department. To provide feedback on the proposed district, call 469-309-4290 or email planningandzoning@waxahachie.com.