HARKER HEIGHTS — What would Harker Heights’ “Main Street” look like?
During Tuesday’s two-hour workshop, City Council members discussed implementing across-the-board land-use requirements for developed and bare land on Farm-to-Market 2410 from U.S. Highway 190 southward to Warrior’s Path.
The considered area is 2.39 square miles, city documents stated.
The overlay district could supplement existing development by outlining site design and aesthetic quality standards, including buildings’ appearance, parking locations, signage and landscaping, documents stated.
Councilman Spencer Smith questioned if the corridor of FM 2410, also known as Knight’s Way, could become a hub of business and social activity, a “Main Street.”
“It could be, yes,” said Fred Morris, director of planning and development. Overlays can add character to an area, distinguishing it from “just a place to drive through.”
Presenting photos as examples, Morris asked all council members for written opinions on 10 issues relating to the proposed overlay, ranging from building sizes to signage regulation.
The next orders of business would be writing a draft of a design guideline manual, gathering public input and writing an overlay ordinance, Morris said.
The ordinance should answer many development questions, including two that Morris posed to the council: Where should businesses line the sidewalks, and where should they sit behind parking lots? In what cases should signs in a strip be required to carry the same font and placement in relation to a store?
Mayor Mike Aycock said the language of any overlay ordinance should neither be so strict as to stifle development nor so relaxed as to open loopholes.
“If (developers) don’t have a guideline, they’ll do the minimum,” Aycock said. “What I don’t want to see is three (businesses) that look really nice and one that doesn’t fit.”
Councilman Sam Murphey called for an incremental approach to the overlay rather than an immediate, sweeping plan, and asked how the city could incentivize developers and landowners to buy into the city’s prospective plan.
Councilman Pat Christ said money and restrictions could be used, while Aycock questioned if city funds could be left off the table.
“We need to get an anchor that creates a lot of other commercial opportunities,” and increases business and property values, said City Manager Steve Carpenter.
“We’re laying the groundwork for the next 10 to 20 years in Harker Heights,” Morris said. The Planning and Zoning Commission recommended the council take quick action on writing an ordinance.
To hammer out the details of an overlay, council members discussed having a retreat in the next two weeks at the Activities Center, but nothing was scheduled.