The planning and zoning commission’s effort to strengthen the city’s masonry standards for its residential and commercial districts was shot down by the Killeen City Council on Tuesday after a tiebreaker vote by the mayor.
The proposed ordinance, passed by planning and zoning 5 to 2 before going before the council, would require residential districts zoned single-family residential, residential townhouse single-family, two-family residential, multi-family residential and multi-family apartment residential to consist of 75 percent masonry brick, stone or hard-coat stucco on all sides on the first floor and 50 percent on the second floor.
Tony McIlwain, city planner, said the ordinance was created to “address the visual appearance of the city and its sustainability, making sure we have structures that are long lasting and return value to the city.”
Mayor Dan Corbin expressed concerns about the new standards driving up the cost of homes in the area.
“It used to be that Killeen was rated among the most affordable places to buy a three-bedroom house,” he said. “How many more of these requirements are we going to put on until it won’t be affordable for people to buy a home?”
McIlwain said the cost, under the ordinance’s standards, would increase about $5,000 to $7,000 for a one-story 2,000-square-foot home.
Leila Siqueiros, Texas Masonry Council community planner, said the cost of homes would increase under the ordinance, but a $5,000 increase over a 30-year period would amount to $13.50 a month.
The Texas Masonry Council is a nonprofit largely funded by masons.
Councilman Jose Segarra said he is concerned with homeowners trying to put these homes on the market.
“Mentioning prices over 30 years it’s only a little bit,” he said. “The issue here is that most people live in a house three to four years. There’s a huge difference between cost and market value. The problem is long term. When somebody needs to sell that house, they are going to have a hard time.”
Councilman Terry Clark said he would “like to see the face of Killeen change.”
“I want people to start to stay in Killeen,” he said. “I would like a lot of our soldiers to call Killeen home when they reach retirement.”
“This is going to benefit our community in terms of the houses will look better,” Corbin said. “But it’s not going to change the houses we already have.”
The ordinance also requires that commercial buildings be composed of 80 percent masonry materials.
Bruce Whitis, a local commercial developer, said the majority of restaurants, fast-food establishments and car dealerships in the city wouldn’t meet the ordinance, and some looking to place a stake in Killeen might turn away because of it.
“(Some businesses) have a particular style that they try to achieve,” he said. “Would Red Lobster have come to Killeen if you said you have to look all brick? I can tell you for sure that there are some that wouldn’t.”
Whitis said he doesn’t believe requiring 80 percent masonry is the solution to improving the city’s aesthetics.
“If we are talking about look, there are a lot of businesses in town that meet the ordinance, but aren’t very good looking,” he said.
Siqueiros said from her experience with the masonry council, higher building standards won’t drive away businesses.
“They’re going to do it and that’s what we have seen across Texas,” she said. “If you don’t put in the requirements, they’re going to build to the lowest possible standard. For the most part, they are going to build to whatever standard you want. It definitely doesn’t deter those builders from coming in.”
Mayor Pro Tem Elizabeth Blackstone, Councilman Wayne Gilmore and Segarra rejected the ordinance. Councilmen Jonathan Okray, Jared Foster and Clark voted in favor. Councilman Steve Harris was absent. Corbin voted against it to break the stalemate. The council will discuss the ordinance further and address concerns in coming meetings.