At-home kenneling, brewpubs and wineries were the main topics of conversation at Tuesday’s meeting of the Harker Heights City Council.
The common thread was a determination of what the city’s code of ordinances allows in each case, and how these codes might need to be adjusted to accommodate potential entrepreneurs.
What will it take to clarify the legality of business operations within the city that allows people to care for pets from their homes, providing numerous services including pet sitting, walking, feeding and kenneling?
That has been the concern of council members and city staff as sites adverstising these services began to pop up all over the Internet.
These service providers operate out of their homes and the business model varies per provider, with many going to the home of the pet owner while others bring the pets back to their homes.
It is the bringing of pets into the home to provide a service that is violating the city’s Home Occupations section of the Code of Ordinances as “commercial kenneling.”
City Manager David Mitchell told the Herald that the city already had to tell one person to stop what they were doing until the City Council made a decision about how to regulate kenneling.
City Planning and Development Director Joseph Molis said, “We know these have appeared in the city and we’re not quite sure how to deal with this or whether the council wants to change the code.
“The bottom line is these services are increasing through technology and that’s outpacing our laws.”
All of the council members and Mayor Spencer Smith weighed in with their concerns about the issue by following Coucilman John Reider’s lead, who said, “We need a lengthy workshop session on just this item alone.”
Smith said, “It is a complex issue and one that is growing rapidly so the council is looking for a tight set of guidelines and we’re asking our city attorney to help us.”
A resident, who owns a service dog and is a certified trainer, shared with the council that he agreed with everything that had been presented by Molis.
He said, “There are a lot of people who love dogs but a lot of the time they don’t know what they’re getting into. When you start kenneling dogs in your home without the full knowledge of the biology of the dog, then you could run into serious trouble.”
In other business, Molis told the council that for the past several years there has been an interest in opening brewpubs or wineries within the city.
Under the current code, these do not typically meet the standard definitions of restaurants as they sometimes serve food, but not in quantities that would meet the code’s requirements.
“Because our code does not make it easy for them to open in the city, the staff believes we are missing a niche market that is expanding in surrounding communities,” Molis said.
A possible solution discussed would be to amend the zoning code to allow for brewpubs and wineries within certain commercial zoning districts.
The entire council was in favor of Planning and Zoning beginning the research to find the best locations and changes needed in ordinances.
City Attorney Burk Roberts has expressed some concerns about making the city’s definition airtight because people will be looking for loopholes as to what they can get away with.
“The City Attorney will be working closely with us to make sure our citizens are protected,” Molis said.
Also approved by the council was the removal of three stop signs at Commercial Drive and Heights Drive and adding four yield signs to regulate the flow of traffic through the roundabout as a continuous movement four-way intersection.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Councilman Michael Blomquist was appointed as the city’s mayor pro tem, succeeding Jackeline Soriano Fountain.