Some Clarifications to the article in the Keller Citizen

This week’s Citizen has an article about how the P&Z handled the Town Center Visioning Project and I would like to make some clarifications.  The clarifications are my own, not of the entire P&Z as I don’t speak for the body, but only for myself.  I may let slip a we or us, but read it as me or I. 

 

Planning advisers reject recommended area for hotel

By SARAH JUNEK

First off, we didn’t reject the area that was recommended for a hotel, but would rather like to see the study that the City Council has approved looking at the feasibility of a Hotel/Convention Center.

Keller’s planning advisory board on Monday approved all but three of a consultant’s 20 recommendations for building out Town Center.

The board rejected proposals to limit a hotel and conference center to the south of Keller Parkway and to restrict home sizes west of Rufe Snow Drive. It considered another recommendation, to prohibit multifamily homes north of Keller Parkway, redundant because another proposal calls for no more such housing in most of the center.

OK, I spoke to the first item.  The second item is wrong in it’s entirety.  The recommendation from Dan Sefko was as follows:

Townhouses, Patio Homes and other Fee Simple medium density, single family uses seem appropriate west of Rufe Snow along the creek.

There was never a discussion of home sizes, but rather should we change the UDC to state that this was an allowed use on that particular piece of property.  The board decided to let the market decide the best use of this property.   Size of homes was NEVER an issue.

As for the last statement, it is correct except for one word, most.  We recommended that Multi-Family Housing not be allowed at all in Town Center, period, not most.  Any future high density residential development will require an SUP, which triggers multiple public hearings if these changes are passed by council.

In his three-page report last month, the consultant, Dan Sefko, a planner with the Fort Worth firm Freese and Nichols, suggested “it would seem more logical to locate” a hotel and conference center south of Keller Parkway, the largest section of the 352-acre, mixed-use district. The largest undeveloped area, however, is north of the thoroughfare between Keller-Smithfield Road and Rufe Snow Drive.

A hotel building in that narrow strip north of the parkway would likely be more than two stories and would overshadow homes in the adjacent Saddlebrook Estates subdivision, Sefko said. However, city officials consider a 22-acre undeveloped property in that area to be the most suitable site.

As a result, the board decided to require permits for five-story buildings in the strip, the tallest allowed under current rules without a permit. The measure would require a public hearing before a hotel could be approved, board member Doug Miller said.

Here the terminology the reporter used is wrong.  A permit is required for all new construction, what will be required if a developer wishes to build something greater than two stories is a Special Use Permit (SUP).  When applying for a SUP it triggers at least two public hearings, one at Planning and Zoning and one in front of City Council  It will allow for any person or group that is opposed to the SUP the right to speak his or her minds.  That is very important.  I feel that the board and City Council wishes to have as much public input as possible in decisions such as these, and as the UDC is written now, that isn’t a requirement.

A hotel was proposed as an alternative to apartment-style homes, which Keller residents have opposed. Such a facility could increase foot traffic in the center, benefiting businesses without straining schools or risking nearby property values, officials have said.

The site in which the Economic Development Board and the City Council is looking at for a Hotel/Convention Center is NOT the same piece of property that the Mixed Use development was propsed on in 2007.  It is the property behind/besides the CVS at Rufe Snow and 1709.

In another recommendation, Sefko advised designating land west of Rufe Snow Drive along Bear Creek for townhomes, patio homes or other medium-size, single-family dwellings. But the board decided to not rule out large homes for that area.

What we decided not to rule out isn’t large homes, but commercial, retail and office uses.  It is a very difficult piece of property to develop, and we don’t want to limit any new ideas for the property.  But I don’t think you will ever see single family detached homes built on this property, let alone large houses.

A third recommendation to prohibit apartment-style homes north of Keller Parkway was rejected after the board declared another recommendation, to ban such housing in all but the second phase of the Uptown area, would have the same effect.

Uptown has long since been approved, so it doesn’t have any bearings on what we did.

Uptown is promoted as a live-work development. Its second phase was been approved, but construction has not yet begun, Sefko said.

Sefko’s recommendations, as well as the board’s decisions, are scheduled to be considered by the City Council on March 17. Two additional public hearings must be held before he city’s zoning rules are changed.

The last sentence is wrong in so many ways….where to begin.  There will be another public hearing at the March 17 City Council meeting where the City Council will consider Mr. Sefko’s recommendations as well as ours (P&Z).  But this isn’t the end of the process by any means.  The recommendations, if approved, will then go to City Staff with a direction from City Council to rewrite the Town Center UDC.  Once the changes are approved, the process begins again.  P&Z will then have another meeting looking at the changes to the UDC and have a public hearing, and then it will go on to City Council where another public hearing will take place along with a final vote.

To 90% of the people in Keller, what was printed in the paper and what actually happened are close enough not to need an explanation.  But to those that follow politics and development in Keller, there is a drastic difference.

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