Saturday, November 22, 2008

Second Town Hall Workshop covering the City-Wide Zoning Ordinance Update (Zoning Update Advisory Committee Meeting #2)

Once again, the City of Whitehouse and its planning consultants wish to invite any and all interested parties to attend a town hall style workshop. The meeting will be held on Monday, November 24th, 2008 at 6:30 pm, in the Whitehouse Council Chambers/Municipal Court. Any citizen, stakeholder, or community member is welcome and encouraged to attend and participate.

The workshop will consist of two parts:

  1. A brief review of the zoning district definitions established at last month's workshop,
  2. and an opportunity for participants to guide the creation of the City's new zoning map (utilizing the new zoning districts).

The Planning Team envisions this as the final Advisory Committee/Town Hall meeting. However, the final determination will only be made once City and consultant staff are satisfied with that all opinions have been heard and considered.

Following that determination, the consultant will present the Whitehouse Planning & Zoning Commission with the proposed map and district definitions, along with the proposed Town Center ordinance for review. This meeting will include a presentation by the consultant, a public hearing seeking input from citizens, and Commission discussion. If approved by the Commission, the documents will be forwarded for consideration by the City Council. The Council will hold a similar public meeting and consider adoption of the updated code.

These meetings by the Planning & Zoning Commission and Whitehouse City Council will be held in January of 2009. Once again, the Planning Team encourages all interested parties to attend and participate in these public hearings.

Following the final Advisory Committee meeting, the Planning Team will begin using this blog much more heavily to distribute draft code language, maps, and visuals. If not already subscribed, all interested parties should subscribe to the RSS feed to have this material delivered directly to a reader of choice.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Zoning Ordinance Update Town Hall Workshop

As advertised in the local newspapers and at previous meetings, the City and Consultant staff would like to remind any interested party about this evening's Town Hall style workshop. During the meeting, staff and stakeholders will shift focus from the Town Center to the overall zoning ordinance update. The meeting will be informal but directed toward specific goals. Any interested parties are strongly encouraged to attend and express opinions on how to best implement the land use component of the Vision 2020 Comprehensive Plan.


This workshop will be the first of two or three to focus on the City-wide zoning ordinance. Once complete, the updated zoning code (along with the complete Town Center code) will be delivered to the City for adoption though public hearings.


The workshop will begin at 6:30 pm on Thursday, October 16, 2008. It will be held in the Whitehouse City Council Chambers/Municipal Court. If you are unable to attend but would like a recording of the meeting please contact the consultant staff. Future meeting times and dates will be announced on this website, at tonight's meeting, and through local media.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Town Center Meeting Tonight

As advertised in the Tri-County Leader and Tyler Paper, the City of Whitehouse will be holding a Town Center Advisory Committee Meeting this evening at 6:30 in the Council Chambers. As discussed in the newspaper articles, the purpose of this meeting is to bring the discussions for a Town Center Zoning code to a close. Due to hurricane impacts on consultant time the meeting agenda will be scaled back somewhat. But consultant and city staff members still invite interested stakeholders to attend and participate.

Once compete, the code will be finalized and held until it can be presented to the Planning & Zoning Commission and City Council. Those presentations will take place along with discussions of the community wide zoning ordinance update. The update process for the full zoning ordinance will take several months to complete. However, the Team is hopeful to have both codes ready for presentation by the end of the year.

This blog, and the advisory committee will continue to hold monthly meetings to solicit input from stakeholders and community members on the city-wide code. Once complete, the consultant staff will present graphics and information showing what both codes may "look like" as commercial and residential development occurs.

Stakeholders and community members may also wish to attend and comment during public hearings before the P&Z and City Council. All input will continue to be welcome and encouraged as the Team shifts its focus to the city as a whole.

Lastly, this blog will become more active as the process moves forward. Draft documents, visuals, and other content will be added to prepare for the upcoming public hearings and eventual adoption of both codes. Schedule information will be posted here when it becomes available. Those interested should also continue to follow the local newspapers for announcements and information.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Reminder: Town Center Meeting Tonight

Just a reminder, the Town Center Advisory Committee will be meeting this evening at 6:30 PM to further discuss and finalize the new zoning ordinance for lands planned for Town Center in the Vision 2020 Plan. The meeting will be held in the Whitehouse Council Chambers in the Municipal Court building (Old City Hall). Further details can be found in this week's Tri County Leader. Any Whitehouse community member is welcome and encouraged to attend.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Second Town Center Advisory Committee meeting tonight at 6:30, episode 3 of the project podcast uploaded last Friday

This post is just a reminder to anyone interested in attending tonight's Advisory Committee meeting. The Committee and interested stakeholders will begin looking at details of the new Town Center zoning code. This analysis will form the basis for the full code, which will be presented to the Committee and Planning and Zoning Commission in the coming months. It is very important that anyone with an opinion of how the Town Center should develop attend and participate in this and upcoming meetings. Each opinion will be heard and counted, so please make plans to attend and help guide the committee's decision making process.

Also, those of you with a free subscription to the project podcast should have noticed Episode 3 available for download on Friday. This episode is the second half of the June 2nd Advisory Committee meeting. The main focus of this recording was a discussion of the visual preference exercise results. Be sure to check out the results music video which was also published as a podcast and embedded in this blog. Future episodes of the podcast will be published in the coming weeks, so please subscribe or check here for updates. As always, if you would prefer to not use iTunes or other podcast software, you can download the episodes manually by right clicking here, and choosing "save as."

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Visual Preference Exercise results music video is ready to watch (Episode 2 of the project Podcast)

Part 2 of the June 2nd Advisory Committee meeting will be posted Friday morning. The majority of this recording is a discussion of the Visual Preference Exercise results. To refresh the memories of those in attendance, and to give other interested parties a feel for the results, the consultant team has prepared a video slide show. This video (also available in the podcast feed) should be an entertaining presentation of the top rated 15 and bottom rated 5 examples. Keep in mind that the ratings were for the pictures themselves, not the cities as a whole. Participates were rating for how well they felt the examples represented their vision for the Whitehouse Town Center. You can watch the video below or in the podcast feed.


video

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Episode 1 of the project Podcast is now online.

Anyone interested in hearing a recording of the June 2nd Advisory Committee Meeting can do so now. The consultant team will be producing similar audio and video shows throughout the process. Meeting recordings will typically be edited for length to reduce listening time requirements. Episode 2 will include the second half of the June 2nd meeting, and will be posted later in the week.


The show can be downloaded in two ways. The easiest is as a podcast. Podcasts are free subscriptions to audio and video shows which are automatically downloaded and added to portable music players like iPods or Zunes. The show can be found in the iTunes store (a free download for any Mac or Windows users). If you have installed iTunes:

  • Click on the "iTunes Store" link on the left to activate the store.
  • Once this has opened, type "Whitehouse Town Center" into the store's search box (located at the top right of the screen) and press ENTER.
  • You should now see a podcast with the name "Whitehouse Town Center and Comprehensive Zoning Update." Click the subscribe button.
  • Now click on the "Podcasts" link on the left to see the podcasts.
  • You should see the show here. Click the little triangle to the left of its name to show all available episodes.
  • ITunes defaults to only download the latest episode, but you can click the "get" button to download any others that are listed as well. The program will automatically add new shows to this list as they are uploaded by the consultant team.
  • Once downloaded you can listen to each episode from your computer, on an mp3 player (including but exclusive to iPods), or burn them to CD.
  • If you want to subscribe to the feed with software other than iTunes, the URL is here.


If you would prefer to not use iTunes or other podcast software, you can download the episodes manually by right clicking here, and choosing "save as."


Feel free to get in touch with the consultants at whitehouseplan@gmail.com if you need further assistance.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Our heads are in the (word) clouds

In preparing for the upcoming advisory committee meeting, it was helpful to review the public involvement notes from the Vision 2020 Comprehensive Plan. It became obvious that many of the issues important to participants then remain very relevant to the task of planning for the Town Center. To illustrate the point, I generated a Word Cloud (below, click on the image for full sized view) from the meeting recordings. This visualization technique shows the 150 words which were said the most by citizen participants. The size of each word is determined by the number of times it was said.



It is clear from the cloud that concepts such as "Town Center," "mixed use development," "a place for people," "development," and "community" were highly important issues in 2005 when the plan was being developed. Our task as we move forward is to turn these general concepts into concrete plans and regulations.

At our meeting on June 30th the consultant team will present the framework of a zoning code to regulate and promote the Town Center. More details will follow about the meeting, but anyone with an interest in the area should make plans to attend and help us turn a vision into reality.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

1st Town Center Advisory Committee meeting Monday at 6:30 pm.

REMINDER: The consultant and City staff will be holding the first Town Center Advisory Committee meeting this Monday (June 2nd) at 6:30 pm in the Whitehouse City Hall council chambers. The meeting will include supplemental surveys of all interested parties regarding the visual and physical direction the district should take for future development. Attendance is important as the discussion undertaken during this meeting will form the basis for draft zoning regulations to be presented at our next session in late June (currently scheduled for June 30th).

Those unable to attend should check this blog for links to download audio of the meeting.
Notifications have been mailed to land owners, a notice was placed at City Hall, and both newspapers will run stories and/or advertisements. However, the team would like to once again use this venue to encourage attendance by anyone interested. Now is the best time to have your opinion counted, and acted upon.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Preliminary survey results are in, but there is still time to submit!

The consultant team has received a portion of the Town Center surveys back from respondents. Responses will continue to be accepted for a few more weeks. Also, anyone who is interested in participating is encouraged to do so. The original survey was distributed to Town Center property owners and city officials. While the responses of these individuals will remain separate, the opinion of other community members is also welcome. If you are interested participating in either the general or visual preference portions of the survey, please contact the consultant at whitehouseplan@gmail.com.

For those who are interested, the preliminary results for the general survey are as follows:

  1. Respondents would like a Town Center which is accessed by automobile but offers strong internal pedestrian circulation.
  2. Respondents UNANIMOUSLY desired a Town Center which resembles a small downtown.
  3. Respondents UNANIMOUSLY believed that projects in the Town Center should not be large-scale in nature.
  4. Respondents UNANIMOUSLY desired more flexibility for zero lot line/setback developments.
  5. Respondents were evenly divided over the issue of holding projects developed in the Town Center to a higher aesthetic standard.
  6. Respondents NARROWLY believed that the City should be willing loose a development project if it does not meet the Town Center vision established by this project.
  7. Respondents NARROWLY believed that projects in the Town Center should be limited in height.
  8. Respondents UNANIMOUSLY believed that mixed-use development should be allowed in the Town Center.
  9. Respondents desired a combination of vertical and horizontal mixed-use development in the Town Center.
  10. Respondents UNANIMOUSLY believed that the City should consider establishing development incentives for the Town Center.
  11. Respondents UNANIMOUSLY believed that the City should consider establishing development partnerships with WISD and or the private sector.
  12. Respondents STRONGLY believed that publicly owned sites should be considered for redevelopment consistent with the established Town Center vision.

The online component (visual preference) also has some preliminary results to report:

So far the respondents have supported low intensity multi-story structures. Mixed-use, both in terms of commercial/residential, and various types of commercial have been supported. Respondents have also shown an affinity for historically themed architecture which is conservative in nature. Highly rated examples in the visual preference portion of the survey reinforce most of the preliminary general survey opinions as well. Aesthetic values such as pedestrian friendly design and architectural form and character show consistently high ratings for both surveys. High intensity development patterns have been rated poorly. Likewise, architectural/signage components which are overly modern or conspicuous have received consistently low ratings.

As mentioned previously, these results are very early and subject to change. It is expected that additional submissions may drastically alter the results upon final tabulation. It is important that each and every stakeholder and community member take part in this survey (and overall planning process). The end result of this project will be new zoning regulations for the Town Center and city at large. Now is the time to have your opinion influence what these ordinances require for future development.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Stakeholder interview appointments are still available

As announced in the opinion survey and Tri-County Leader, Butler Planning Services will be holding stakeholder interviews during the last week of April. These interviews are open to any community member or stakeholder. Appointments are still available for Tuesday the 29th and Wednesday the 30th. Although anyone is welcome to participate, an appointment is required. Please contact Christopher Butler (whitehouseplan@gmail.com, 979-777-7794) if you would like to make an appointment. Due to travel considerations, the consultant will only be available at scheduled times. Therefore, walk-ins are not encouraged. Appointments must be made 24 hours in advance to guarantee availability, though we will attempt to accommodate everyone.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Get updates to this Blog automatically

Did you know you can get updates to this blog automatically sent to you? Several programs and/or websites you may already use support something called RSS. This is a complicated sounding name for something very simple. It allows you to get a free “subscription” to this blog (and many other blogs and websites you frequently check). Instead of checking the site manually, you get the content delivered to you automatically, but ONLY when new items are posted.

Best of all, unlike signing up for a mailing list, you remain in control. The blog you subscribe to does not get your information. You can subscribe and unsubscribe freely and securely.

If you are already accustomed to subscribing to blogs, please use the URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/Whitehouseplan. This will allow us to count the number of subscribers we get. If you are new to the idea, I have created a short step by step guide to several popular subscription methods. You can use one or more, depending on how you wish to receive updates. If you have trouble with this, please use the project email (whitehouseplan@gmail.com) to get help.

In Outlook 2007 (probably the easiest to use and integrate, new posts show up just like email)
  1. I believe this only works in Outlook 2007 (try Google Reader for a free, email-like option)
  2. On the Tools menu, click the “Account Settings” option
  3. On the RSS Feeds tab, click the “New” button
  4. A window will pop up called “New RSS Feed,” type http://feeds.feedburner.com/Whitehouseplan
  5. Click Add
  6. Check the “automatically download enclosures for this feed” check box
  7. Click OK
  8. You should now have a folder on your “Mail Folders” bar called “RSS Feeds”
  9. Each new article will show up automatically as it is posted to the blog. You can read articles the same way you would read new email.

In iGoogle (no software to buy, but not as seamless as the Outlook 2007 option, if you use Google everyday, this is still a great option)
  1. Go to www.google.com
  2. Click the “iGoogle” link at the top of the page
  3. Click the link in the line “(Don’t have an iGoogle page? Get Started.)”
  4. Click the “See your page” button on the “Create your own homepage in under 30 seconds” popup box
  5. Once you have been taken to the new home page click the “Add stuff” link, located in the upper right portion of the screen
  6. Click the “Add feed or gadget” link located in the middle, left portion of the screen, type http://feeds.feedburner.com/Whitehouseplan and click “add”
  7. Once it adds a check mark down below click on the “x”
  8. Click on the “Back to iGoogle home” link at the upper left portion of the screen
  9. A new box should have been created with headlines for the Whitehouse Planning Blog, new headlines will show up automatically any time something is posted. Click on the “+” icon to expand and read the story
  10. Next time you visit google this page should come up, you can also add many more feeds and useful items if you would like

In Internet Explorer 7 (not that useful)
  1. Launch the IE7 browser
  2. Type http://feeds.feedburner.com/Whitehouseplan into the address bar and hit “enter”
  3. Click on the “Subscribe to this feed” link
  4. A pop-up box will appear, click the “subscribe” button
  5. To check feeds click the “tools” button, then select “tool bars” then “feeds”
  6. This will bring up a list similar to your favorites list
  7. Click on the new folder item for “Whitehouse Plan”
  8. On the far right, click “View feed properties…”
  9. Click the radio button next to “Use custom schedule” and set the frequency to “15 minutes”
  10. New postings will show up here automatically

In Firefox 2 (least useful from my experience, but does work if the user does not mind checking for updates manually)
  1. Launch the Firefox 2 browser
  2. Type http://feeds.feedburner.com/Whitehouseplan into the address bar and hit “enter”
  3. You will see a yellow area near the top of the page with a drop down box
  4. Select “live bookmarks” then click the “subscribe now” button
  5. Click “ok” on the pop-up box
  6. To view the articles click on the “bookmarks” menu, select “Bookmarks toolbar folder” then right click “WhitehousePlan” and select “reload Live Bookmarks” (this option may be different for some users, you will be looking for the folder “WhitehousePlan”)
  7. New articles will pop out to the right

Other options
  1. Yahoo has a similar option to the iGoogle method for those who prefer Yahoo, it is called “MyYahoo.”
  2. Google Reader is a free stand alone application that works similarly to the Outlook 2007 method. Do a Google search for “Google Reader” for more information.
  3. Many more options exist as well including other email programs, websites, and services.

Finally, if you would like to receive updates via email rather than subscription, please contact the consultant team at whitehouseplan@gmail.com.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Town Center opinion surveys go out today

The consultant team would like to get as much feedback as possible for both the Town Center Plan/ordinance and the city-wide zoning ordinance. The first way for stakeholders and interested parties to participate is by filling out this survey. If you own property in the Town Center we have already mailed a survey to the address on file with the Smith County Appraisal District. If you do not own property in the district, but would like to participate as well, please send an email to whitehouseplan@gmail.com and we will be happy to get you a copy.

The surveys are anonymous; however, we are using a unique ID number to prevent duplicate responses. This ID is not tied to any personal information; however, participants must use it when submitting a survey. Duplicate submissions will be rejected, so please contact the consultant team if you would like to participate.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Welcome to the Whitehouse Planning Blog

The City of Whitehouse and Butler Planning Services are beginning a project to plan for development in the Town Center. The project will also produce a new Zoning Ordinance for the whole City. Check back here (or subscribe to the RSS feed) to get regular updates on how you can help shape the Town Center and City.