Monday, March 23, 2009

Second Public Hearing Tomorrow Evening (Tuesday)

The Whitehouse City Council will be holding a public hearing to take stakeholder input regarding the proposed zoning ordinance update. The hearing will take place during the regular meeting in Council Chambers Tuesday night.

Any interested party is strongly encouraged to attend. The Council may elect to request changes to the code and/or additional public input sessions. However, the Council may also chose to approve the code. Therefore, this may be the last opportunity to give feedback prior to adoption.

The code is available to download as individual tables in previous posts. The full code text is also downloadable in PDF format here.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Public Hearing This Evening

As a reminder, the Planning & Zoning Commission will be holding another public hearing to take public comment and feedback on the proposed Zoning Ordinance update. The meeting will be held in the Council Chambers/Municipal Court building at 6:30 pm, Monday March 9, 2009.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Schedule Reminder

As previously announced, the public hearing for the Zoning Ordinance Update originally scheduled for this evening has been postponed. The next public hearing will be held Monday March 9th.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Development Incentives

Several portions of the Town Center code refer to "development incentives." The concept for the proposed code is to allow greater flexibility for developers while maintaining absolute fairness from site to site. With that goal in place, a series of incentives have been built into the proposed TC-1 and TC-2 districts.

Each incentive relates to a development characteristic described as desirable by stakeholders. However, these stakeholders did not feel that every site should be required to meet each characteristic. Therefore, each has been associated with a related "benefit" for development.

The three benefits are increased permitted building height, increased residential density, and reduced parking requirement. Each incentive is only available where the give and take are related. For example, if a site develops with mixed use, a developer can take a reduction in the parking requirement. The relationship is derived by the increase in pedestrian activity, and reduction in parking need for those customers.

Characteristics which are eligible for an incentive include: Open Space Preservation, Mixed-Use Development, Green Building, Wide Sidewalks, Increased Plaza Space, Sidewalk Improvement, and Structured Parking. For each characteristic met, the developer of a project must select one of the three incentives to apply. Other incentives may be gained by meeting other characteristics.

Design Aesthetics in the Town Center

Development in the Town Center has been viewed as an opportunity to cultivate a higher design aesthetic within the City. However, the proposed code does not move into full architectural review of projects as is common in some similar districts. Also, the proposed code provides flexibility as well as regulation. The desired outcome is a higher quality development environment with additional freedom and flexibility.

Building material is an example of this higher quality balanced with increased flexibility. Structures in the Town Center will be required to provide 100% of exterior walls with an approved material. However, unlike other portions of the existing zoning code (remaining in place after this update for other zoning districts), structures in the Town Center will have a wider range of building materials to consider. Specifically, the proposed code will permit brick, EIFS, rock, stone, and wood. Exposed metal will not be permitted as a façade material.

Colors will also be regulated under the proposed code. A maximum of three colors will be permitted per site. Earth tones native to East Texas are also a requirement. Color in signage is excluded from these regulations. Such signage and colors, if exceeding the regulation, must fit within the allowable square footage for attached signage.

The other significant feature of the code relates to façade configuration. To reduce monotony and encourage a comfortable pedestrian environment, codes of this type typically regulate transparency. In short, the regulations require a certain percentage of the first floor to consist of windows and other transparent materials. This requirement greatly enhances both perception and reality of public safety. This practice is commonly referred to as "eyes on the street." The inclusion of transparency also increases viability of commercial activities. The requirement would not apply to residential, religious, educational, or other similar uses. The following graphic illustrates the concept of transparency under the code.

Signage in the Town Center

The manner in which signage is handled in the Town Center will have a significant impact on the district's character. Two goals of the district were to encourage pedestrian activity and promote a higher urban design.

The proposed code makes several changes to the existing sign ordinance for TC-1 and TC-2. The most radical is the elimination of freestanding signs. This proposed change will limit primary signage to monument or attached configurations. Another noteworthy change relates to video boards on signs.

Within the town center, these and other "spectacular" signs will be permitted only with static images. Signs will not be allowed to change more than once per minute under the proposed ordinance. This restriction will also cover blinking or traveling lights. Video and audio are not permitted. Banners and other temporary signage will only be permitted with a sign permit which complies with the allowable square footage totals for the site.

Public Hearing Tonight!

This evening the Planning and Zoning Commission will hold the first public hearing on the proposed zoning ordinance update. While the consultant and city staff have held many public workshops and town hall meetings, this is an opportunity for citizens and stakeholders to speak directly to Whitehouse elected and appointed officials about the ordinance. The City Council will hold a similar public hearing later in the month, and both boards may hold additional public hearings to fine tune the code. However, all interested parties are strongly encouraged to attend this evening to have their say in the update process.

The meeting will be held in the Council Chambers/Municipal Court building at 6:30 pm, Monday February 16, 2009.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Parking in the Town Center

Parking in the Town Center is addressed differently from other zoning districts.  Due to the inherent mixed-use land use, broad categories of use determine the parking requirement.  Residential and lodging uses must provide parking based on the number of dwelling units.  Commercial and office uses must provide parking based on square footage.

Sites in TC-2 require slightly more parking due to different parking lot and site design standards.  However, the proposed general parking requirement is lower in the Town Center than in other parts of Whitehouse.

Another concept that is slightly different in the Town Center address the location of parking.  To maintain the pedestrian streetscape, parking is primarily located in the rear or on the sides of structures under the proposed code.  In the TC-1 District, only 10% of total parking is permitted within the build-to range.  In the TC-2 District, only 50% is allowed in the build-to range.