The Killeen City Council is set to vote tonight on a lucrative rezoning request in the southern portion of the city, after tabling it during the council’s July 22 meeting for additional discussion.
W.B.W. Land Investment, a local developer, is requesting to rezone more than 35 acres near Splawn Ranch Drive and South Fort Hood Street from cemetery and university districts to a cemetery and university district with conditional-use permits for a residential development.
According to the request by Bruce Whitis, the developer, the average lot size for homes in the subdivision would be 8,600 square feet with 70 feet of frontage, 25-foot front yard setbacks, 20-foot rear yard setbacks with a maximum height of two stories. Under the conditional-use permit, they also would have exteriors that are 90 percent stone, stucco or brick on all levels and all four sides.
Tony McIlwain, city planner, said in the area being requested for rezoning, single-family use is not allowed by right, forcing the developer to go before the council seeking a conditional-use permit.
The property is currently designated for commercial use.
Councilman Jonathan Okray expressed concern over granting a conditional-use permit — a zoning exception that lets the property owner use land in a way that isn’t permitted within a particular zoning district.
“If we’re not going to follow the ordinances of the city, we might as well get them all and throw them in the trash and light a fire to them,” he said. “We’re talking about ordinances; those are rules. As far as I know, it’s a fixed rule of operation that leaves no room for question, discussion or debate. We’re debating what we should be doing with something that’s zoned as a commercial piece of property.”
Whitis said he believes the council is “missing what the overlay district” was created for.
“The restrictions are so restrictive that I can’t sell anything out there without coming to get a conditional-use permit, and that was intentionally done (by a previous council),” Whitis said. “(The council) intended to have each particular (developer) come and sell our project (to) you. Basically, it gives (the council) one more look at it instead of by right. ... I thought we had satisfied everyone.”
Councilman Terry Clark expressed concerns about timing, and possibly holding off on developing the area to see how Texas A&M University-Central Texas will grow.
“Once we utilize this land for single-family housing today, the decisions we make today will affect our community for 50 years,” he said. “We may be taking land that could do dense population that’s very close to (the university) and converting it to single family and not having room for that dense (population) that’s 2½ miles from the university.
Clark said he doesn’t see anything wrong with the council “taking things slow and cautiously.”
“There’s a reason we have a cemetery district; there’s a reason we have a university district,” he said. “I don’t think we should rush to a conditional-use permit for single-family housing.”
Whitis said he isn’t certain what the council wants in the area.
“Personally, as a developer, the owner of this property and an investor, if the council tells me they’re not going to give me a conditional-use permit, I don’t need to buy any more property along this (area),” he said. “No one is going to want to buy it. It makes it harder if I can’t have some understanding of what the council wants in these areas. I really don’t have a good feeling of what’s wanted in that area.”
Whitis said if the council determines that the area he’s requesting to be rezoned should be multifamily to provide a more dense housing area rather than single-family, he could accommodate the change.
“I might could get an apartment complex out there. I could certainly get some higher-density duplexes and four-plexes and townhouses to go in there,” Whitis said. “If that’s what (the council) wants, then let’s do that, but (the council) can’t just not do anything and say ‘OK, I don’t want to do anything with the property. Let’s just wait and see.’”
Councilman Steve Harris also expressed concerns over timing and that it may be in the city’s best interest to wait,
“Let’s make sure the city does develop in a way that it should develop,” he said. “Not saying this is bad, but we want to ensure that everything is done right because if it isn’t done right, it’s permanent.”