HARKER HEIGHTS — After more than a decade worth of focus groups, forums and public hearings, the proposed Heights Overlay District No. 1 along Farm-to-Market 2410 was approved by the City Council on Tuesday.
Council member and concerned residents discussed the issue for more than 1½ hours following a presentation from Fred Morris, Planning and Development director.
The overlay will follow a zoning ordinance amendment and set standards for current and future buildings, parking, signage, landscaping, screening, buffering and street appearance over the next 20 years.
Residents and business owners, both for and against the overlay, filled the council chambers Tuesday night to share their position on the issue.
The first individuals to speak at the public hearing were Kwik Kar Lube & Tune owners Robert Kitchenmaster and Gene Kocmoud. Both were opposed to the overlay since its inception.
“Signage is a big part of our advertising and blending in is not good for business,” Kocmoud said regarding his issues with the signage guidelines of the overlay. “If all of the signs were the same, people will be more distracted trying to find the place they are looking for. Signs give businesses their identities.”
Although Kitchenmaster said he sees some positive outcomes from the overlay, he feels business owners’ voices and concerns are falling on “deaf ears” and the city is trying to “hide businesses.”
A majority of the residents who spoke out at the forum were not 100 percent against implementing the zoning tool; rather, they just wanted to the council to re-examine the signage portion of the overlay before coming to a vote.
“The concept is good but the signage portion will kill businesses,” said Jim Wright, a 30-year Heights resident. “Let’s not get unbusiness friendly here.”
Larry Robison, 48-year Heights resident and Planning and Zoning chairman, was in favor of the overlay and he clapped after the council approved it.
“The city needs something to help it go further,” Robison said. “This will help guide us in the right direction and I’m really happy that it finally got approved tonight. We needed this.”