HARKER HEIGHTS – In a City Council workshop Tuesday, Mayor Mike Aycock urged council members to draft a binding, comprehensive city concept plan for future development.
City ordinance currently allows developers to submit plans that only pertain to their specific lot. The law states that plans should outline the layout of the site itself, and take into account all developed and undeveloped surrounding land. The city then reviews any concept plans before issuing a development permit.
But Aycock called for passing a new ordinance that would establish clear-cut citywide guidelines for developers to follow before handing in their project-specific concept plans.
The council didn’t reach any agreement on such an approach.
Councilman Sam Murphey objected to an across-the-board concept plan, saying that it would put unnecessary restrictions on land buyers.
Aycock disagreed, and said an overarching city concept plan would simplify the development process. “If we have a basic concept plan, it makes it easier for the developer,” Aycock said.
Fred Morris, director of planning and development, cited the Exxon station adjacent to Market Heights and the Starbucks at Farm-to-Market 2410 and U.S. Highway 190 as two sites whose construction didn’t account for ease-of-road access.
Starbucks customers currently have to drive through a Taco Bueno parking lot to get to the coffee shop, and the gas station sits in the corner of Market Heights, capping traffic access into and out of the shopping center.
Councilman Rob Robinson said the council “could have done a better job” in planning for Rooms To Go, which is being built in front of Carl Levin Park.
“We couldn’t tell them, ‘No,’ because we didn’t have the tools,” Mayor Pro Tem Pat Christ said. “You can write an ordinance that’d be so detailed to cover every one of those (issues).”
“We’re having growing pains, because Harker Heights has grown very well,” Morris said. “We have a limited amount of developable land left. We want it to be really good.”
Councilman Spencer Smith said that because Harker Heights’ city limits are “landlocked” by other cities, he expected new developments to include taller buildings, drawing pushback from residents.
Aycock said for the city to sustain itself, tighter restrictions would have to be put in place for future developers. “Otherwise, we’ll have a bunch of hodgepodge (businesses) on the sides of the highway,” he said.