In an effort to create a more urban, walkable downtown, the city is considering rezoning the eastern portion of Old Town Lewisville.
If passed by City Council in August, a large portion of Old Town between Charles and Railroad streets would be zoned for mixed-use developments with such offerings as restaurants, office and retail. The area currently has a mixture of zoning that allows for residential, light industrial, automotive and storage uses.
If the rezoning ordinance gets approved, no additional light industrial or automotive uses will be able to come to Old Town, Lewisville City Council Member TJ Gilmore said.
“The goal is to really remove a lot of the industrial uses that don’t really match well with the residential uses,” he said. “We are hoping to get more density in that part of Old Town.”
Lewisville Planning Development Director Richard Luedke said existing businesses would be grandfathered in.
“No one currently operating will be forced to move out or shut down,” he said. “They can continue operating just as they are for the next 100 years if they want. However, [staff]would not support any more of those uses coming into that area because it does not meet the long-range plan for the area.”
Luedke said the rezoning will help the city attract more mixed-use developments to the area.
“We had a developer look at building a large, urban mixed-use project … they came in from out of town and drove the area, and it just scared them because there are so many automotive, industrial uses out there,” he said.
Since the area is not currently zoned for mixed-use, the developer looking to bring that sort of project would have to take extra steps.
“Because this [area]is zoned industrial, developers have to go to a City Council meeting and hope that the council agrees to change the zoning,” Gilmore said. “That’s got a little bit more risk associated with it because you don’t know what the council may or may not do.”
The city is talking with several developers now, Gilmore said.
“We need more houses and rooftops because that’s going to help drive more restaurants and grocery and retail opportunities for that area,” he said. “We are doing well, but I think we can do a lot better. We just need the head count for retailers.”
Concern from property owners
The process leading up to getting the ordinance in front of council started last fall. Luedke said that the city hosted an open house back in November so property owners and their tenants could learn more about the potential rezoning.
Through that process, the city determined the ordinance needed to be tweaked, Luedke said.
“We had a group of warehouse owners that were very concerned,” he said. “Initially the rezoning [proposal said]if [the warehouses]go vacant for more than three months, they lose their legal non-conforming status.”
That means the warehouses would be rezoned to mixed-use and the owners would no longer be able to operate them as warehouses.
After months of discussion, council gave staff direction to not include warehouses in the rezoning proposal. However, staff will re-evaluate in a few years to see whether the warehouses should be rezoned to mixed-use as well.
The uncertainty has warehouse owner Linda Purcell concerned. She leases her building to two tenants.
“I’m glad that they aren’t including us right now,” she said. “I kept this building so I would have monthly income because I am retired. So, I would like to keep it like it is. But it looks like they are forcing my hand.”
Putting her 9,000-square-foot concrete warehouse on the market causes her angst as well. Compared to the small homes nearby that developers can purchase for redevelopment, Purcell said she believes her warehouse would be on the market for a while.
“Commercial real estate does not move nearly as fast as residential,” she said. “Plus, whoever buys this will probably have to tear it down, which costs a lot of money.”
Luedke said he thinks warehouses are great for redevelopment purposes.
“They’re usually great, big, wide spaces that can be turned into many things like offices, entertainment,” he said. “You can let your creativity flow because they are like blank canvases.”
6 to 8 p.m. July 11: Open house will be held on the proposed Old Town East rezone at the MCL Grand Theater recital hall, 100 N. Charles St., Lewisville. Property owners within the rezone area will have an opportunity to ask questions and provide additional input.
6:30 p.m. Aug. 6: The Lewisville Planning and Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing in council chambers at Old Town City Hall, 151 W. Church St. in Lewisville. Commission will vote on a recommendation.
7 p.m. Aug. 19: Lewisville City Council will hold a public hearing in council chambers at Old Town City Hall, 151 W. Church St. in Lewisville. Council will consider final action on the proposed rezone.
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