Cedar Park mulling higher masonry standards

The Cedar Park City Council discussed raising the required percentage of masonry on new structures built in city limits at its meeting March 22. The council heard from several stakeholders and city staff, including Planning Director Rawls Howard; Harry Savio, Home Builders of America Greater Austin executive vice president; and Leila Wurst, Texas Masonry Council community planner.

Howard said city planning staff consolidated all the design standards that had been scattered throughout the city's code of ordinances into one part of the code and took several recommendations to the Planning and Zoning Commission. He said the staff's mantra had been, "no net decrease of our existing standards."

These changes to the code would only apply to new buildings.

One of the changes staff recommended was to specify how the city calculates the percentage of masonry used in buildings. The current wording is not specific in that regard. Staff recommended industrial buildings all be required to have 50 percent masonry, which raises general industrial and heavy industrial building requirements 25 percent. Office, employment center and commercial buildings would be required to have 100 percent masonry under the proposed amendments.

The proposed changes that prompted the most discussion had to do with higher requirements for homes. City staff proposed the requirement be raised across the board to 75 percent for single-family residences. The Planning and Zoning Commission recommended keeping the standard at 50 percent, except when the home faces two or more streets. In that case, the requirement would be 75 percent.

"If new material comes out that the planning department considers to be applicable, exceptions could be made," Howard said.

There is language written into the amendments that would allow planning staff the ability to approve new building materials or other innovations if a builder had plans for something different. Howard said the homes being built in Cedar Park are already meeting the 75 percent standard and that the amendment is supported by the market.

"The market seems to be asking for that 75 percent standard anyway.," Councilman Don Tracy said.

Savio said the city should not be dictating masonry requirements to begin with and that it should be left up to homeowners and builders. He pointed out that Austin does not have a masonry requirement.

"I never believed that Austin would be less restrictive than Cedar Park on anything," Savio said.

Another part of the amendment affecting future residential development was a requirement for two different types of masonry to be used.

"I'm not particularly in favor of the two kinds of masonry. I'm struggling with that," Mayor Bob Lemon said.

Councilman Mitch Fuller said the council should consider the amendments' potential impact on ad valorem taxes the city would collect in the future.

"Anything we build, we have to maximize the (ad valorem tax) that is generated from it, and that includes single family," he said.

The council will hold a second reading and potentially vote on the issue at a future meeting.



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