COPPERAS COVE — Developers and business owners may find themselves working within different guidelines in a couple of months as officials work to update the city’s zoning ordinance.
“The definitions alone are kind of built around a 1960 drive-in culture, and that is a fun thing to be nostalgic about, but that is not the same as a drive-thru Starbucks or industrial park,” said Chris Stewart, the city’s contracted planner with Stewart Planning LLC.
While the city’s zoning ordinance was updated in 2007, there are still a lot of changes that could be made to meet the needs of modern commercial, residential, industrial and manufacturing developments. The city’s zoning ordinance regulates what type of establishment, such as a house or a convenience store, can be in a particular area.
Starting Monday, the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission will discuss the ordinance’s regulations and definitions at 5 p.m. workshops on the second and fourth Mondays. In April, the commission may submit recommended changes to the Copperas Cove City Council for a decision.
Commercial property definitions are different from what they were 50 years ago, Stewart said. For instance, a 1960s drive-in is nothing like Starbucks or other commercial developments now seen in Cove.
“There are things that happen that (the ordinance) doesn’t address,” City Manager Andrea Gardner said.
In late 2012, the Copperas Cove Economic Development Corporation and the city worked together to create a zoning district for the Narrows, an industrial park planned by the corporation.
At the time, there was no zoning designation for the type of site the Cove EDC wanted to build — a modern mix of small manufacturing, light industrial and some commercial businesses, Stewart said, adding other cities have had mixed-use designations for years.
More than definitions are out of date, Stewart said.
Gardner mentioned some regulations, such as the amount and size of parking spaces, need to be revisited as well.
As is, the ordinance requires 10-by-20-foot parking spaces for commercial sites, and multiple businesses have requested variances to 9-by-18-foot spots, Gardner said.
When variances are for items as common as parking lot requests, the city probably should consider a rule change, she said.
“I would like to say it is just changing the furniture out, but we are painting the room and taking some walls out, too,” Stewart said about his proposals, which will go before the commission for discussion and revision before heading to the council for final approval.
“I think we need to look at some of them,” said Jack Widup, chairman of the planning commission. “Some of the codes are possibly antiquated, and the times have caught up and the city has grown to the extent (where change may be needed).”
Widup said he had opinions about some zoning changes but wanted to see what city staff recommended before mentioning his own.
“They may fit into the city and the direction the city is taking or maybe we need to change them a little bit,” Widup said of current regulations. “I want to make sure we are headed in the same direction.”
Stewart said the ordinance should be easier to understand and flexible, while still drawing the line of separation between different zones.
In the current ordinance, some of the zoning districts only differ in name by a number. There are no definitions of what each zone should accomplish other than listing types of businesses.
By creating an intent statement, the city can define each district and create guidelines, Stewart said.
During the upcoming discussions, Stewart said his role would be to provide guidance on several problem areas he sees in the ordinance, but the council will make a final decision.
“The council really gets to decide how much control over the ordinance they want,” he said.
Stewart and Widup both encouraged residents interested in zoning rules to attend the meetings.