by A.C. Hall
Hawaiian Falls is coming to White Settlement, and city leaders are confident that along with it will come new businesses. Where to put these businesses was addressed on Monday in a joint meeting between the City Council and the Planning and Zoning board, and staff and council members didn’t mince words about the situation the city is facing. “If we don’t change something with Hawaiian Falls coming in, all the growth they bring in around them, it’s going to go to Fort Worth,” Economic Development Director Jim Ryan said.
Building Official Kyle Reeves echoed the need to accommodate the coming growth.
“We do have some good things coming and we’d like to be prepared for that,” Reeves said.
The idea being proposed by staff was a zoning change to Commercial Neighborhood. This large stretch of rezoning would extend roughly from the 820 access road to Las Vegas Trail, and would reach from the Northern border of the city down to the Central Park area. Within this zone, both residential and commercial buildings would be allowed.
One major concern was immediately addressed, as Ryan said that no one was going to be forced out of their homes if they live within the proposed Commercial Neighborhood zone. While it does appear that no new homes will be able to be built in the zone, existing homes are in no danger. “You can stay there forever, there will be no repercussion,” Ryan said.
Council member Danny Anderson also touched upon this concern later in the meeting.
“We’re not zoning anybody out of their home,” Anderson said.
The goal of the proposed zoning change would be to give potential new businesses a place to build, but Ryan continued to touch upon the benefit it would give to citizens as well. He spoke about the possibility of citizens selling their house for prices above the appraised value to businesses who want some of the prime real estate within the Commercial Neighborhood zone.
Several in the meeting spoke about their wish that their home fell within the zone, saying they’d love to be in a position to take advantage of what could be prime selling conditions. It was also said that some in the real estate business are already buying up houses in the neighborhoods around Hawaiian Falls in the hope of flipping the property to interested businesses at a later date.
Two members of the Planning and Zoning board voiced concerns. One was the streets, as it was pointed out that if a business bought out several lots and built in a neighborhood the streets might not be equipped to handle the increased traffic. Anderson responded to this, saying they can make it the business’ responsibility to build up the streets.
Another major concern that wasn’t fully addressed is what would happen if a house in the Commercial Neighborhood zone was destroyed. There was some back and forth on this matter, but it appeared that if it is completely destroyed, it would not be able to be rebuilt. Some in the meeting appeared at odds with this, and the matter could change as the plan continues to take shape in the coming weeks.
Concerns were also raised about the type of commercial that is allowed to build in the Commercial Neighborhood zone, with some possibly bringing a heavier presence than would fit in a neighborhood setting.
This spiraled into a discussion about controlling what’s allowed to build within the Commercial Neighborhood zone. The possibility of hand tailoring the list of approved uses in the zone was thrown around, but eventually most agreed that adding on a type of Mixed Use Overlay District would work best. This would see the City have additional oversight, as they would be in a position to approve or turn down a proposed business.
The vast majority of those in the meeting appeared to support this proposal. The importance of freeing up an area for new businesses to come into was touched upon again and again, and staff, council members, and several P and Z board members seemed to believe this zoning change is the way to do that.
“This will give us a chance to sell this city like it’s never been sold before,” Ryan said.
City staff is moving forward with the rezoning plan. It appears there will be a public hearing on the matter in early December, with votes on the proposed rezone coming after that. Keep your eye on The Grizzly Detail in the coming weeks for further coverage of this issue.