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Major step toward the future: P&Z approves Realize Rowlett Phase II
The journey to reinvent the city of Rowlett's comprehensive plan cleared a major hurdle on Tuesday, Oct.23 when Realize Rowlett 2020 Phase II received the support of the Planning and Zoning Commission. The city staff and consultants presented the commission with the final draft of the plan during its regular work session. The work session included a public hearing that allowed stakeholders to ask questions and give their input on the plan.
The city has been undergoing an initiative to update the plan and garner input from residents and property owners as well as the development community. The first phase of the plan was approved by the city council in September of last year to provide a basic framework for the development within the city. The current phase, Phase II, has focused on refining specific details within each of the city's target areas to create a vision of what the city wants the areas to look like.
"[Phase I] is a visioning document. In order to implement the vision we realized we would have to go through and create regulations and rezone individual areas so in that end we moved into the Phase II process," Jones said.
The entire process has involved public meetings to allow all stakeholders to have an opportunity to weigh-in on what they want to see the city's future development consist of for each different part of Rowlett. The city is utilizing a form-based code to allow the plan to have more flexibility than a traditional comprehensive plan.
"A form-based code really allows us to create places of lasting value and character while minimizing some of the bureaucracy that normally comes with the zoning process," Jones said. "It requires developers to really invest in the aspects of the project that matter most to sustainability."
During the presentation to the Planning and Zoning Commission, the city staff and consultants went through some of the refinements that were made in the initial draft of the plan after more input was gathered from stakeholders and the consultant team. The agenda was broken up into several parts to allow attendees to give input and ask questions specific to each of the plan's four target areas.
One of the concerns expressed by attendees was the reduction in the amount of open space required from 20 percent to 14 percent. The reduction was made after an analysis was performed by the consultant team. Councilman Chris Kilgore said that he believed the open space should be left at 20 percent and that the city needed more open space to achieve the look desired by the city.
"This has to be a Rowlett-sized plan and compatible. For that reason I object to the reduction of the open space requirements in the new neighborhoods from 20 percent to 14 percent," Kilgore said. "Open space her should not necessarily be treated here like some other place like uptown in Dallas."
Other concerns about the plan included a lack of notification of the possible rezoning by the city and traffic concerns.
Jones said notifications were sent to all property owners within 200 feet of the zoning change as required by law.
Rick Sheffield, Planning and Zoning Commission chairman, pointed out that the information has been available on the city's website for more than a year and also advertised in other ways to the best of the city staff's ability.
The city consultants performed traffic analysis based on the recommended changes in zoning and did not believe there would be any traffic issues as a result of the rezoning.
Kurt Schulte, a member of the consultant team, said there would be additional vehicles going through Harborside to access additional housing in the Signature Gateway portion of the city. He added that a detailed traffic study would have to be done to determine an exact traffic count.
Commissioner Karl Crawley recommended allowing the developer to have the option to connect to the residential development in the area through the commercial portion of the development.
"I don't think there is anything magical about comingling the traffic in that area," Crawley said.
Crawley added the possibility of allowing access from the commercial area into the new residential neighborhood planned for the area, but limiting it to only that area and not providing any access to the existing residential area from the commercial to keep traffic from flooding Harborside to the commission's approval of the plan for the Signature Gateway area.
The Phase II plan will now be presented to the city council for their approval following another public hearing.