With an aim at revitalizing Old Town Lewisville into a vibrant multiuse area, the city has continued its public outreach with property owners ahead of rezoning considerations for a large swath of downtown between Charles and Railroad streets.
Old Town Lewisville currently has a mosaic of zoning with light industrial zones—with uses such as automotive and storage—sprinkled among properties zoned for business, residential and retail use. The proposed rezoning would reduce the seven zone types downtown into four districts: business, mixed use, warehouses and light industrial.
The proposal would get rid of the vast majority of light industrial zones downtown. However, existing light industrial businesses would be grandfathered in and allowed to continue operation as long as they do not go vacant for more than 90 days.
Planning Development Director Richard Luedke said the Lewisville Planning and Zoning Commission’s vote on its recommendation regarding the proposal has been rescheduled from Aug. 6 to Aug. 20. City Council will make the final decision on whether or not to change the zoning at its Sept. 9 meeting.
“Well, [the proposal would give]certainty to new developers that are investing about the direction that [Old Town Lewisville] is going, that we are truly implementing our plan,” Luedke told Community Impact Newspaper at a July 11 open house regarding the proposal at Medical City Lewisville Grand Theater’s recital hall.
Luedke said the city has had developers express interest in bringing mixed-use developments, which provide a mixture of retail and residential, only to walk away because they were deterred by the amount of light industrial throughout downtown. Developers often do not see light industrial use as being compatible with nonindustrial development, he said.
“The zoning kind of guarantees the direction [of Old Town]because it controls the uses,” Luedke said. “It gives investors and developers a lot more comfort in the direction the area is going.”
Some property owners attended the open house at Medical City Lewisville Theater’s recital hall to ask city planning staff specific questions about how their properties might be affected by the proposed rezone.
Prompted by questions from concerned property owners, Luedke confirmed even if a multiple-tenant building only has one tenant, it will not be considered vacant. He also said change in ownership would not affect grandfathered businesses as long as they do not surpass the vacancy time limit.
Lewisville resident Andy Bowman, who owns property zoned light industrial on Main Street, said he is comforted by the fact the city is willing to grandfather existing light industrial businesses into the proposed zoning, but he is uneasy about the 90-day vacancy rule, which if surpassed, would cause a property to lose the legal non-conforming status that would allow it to continue light industrial use.
Bowman said light industrial properties up for rent are suffering because of uncertainty for the future.
“We need a longer time frame to rent it out because of that,” Bowman said. “It cuts the fuse short and lights it and hands it to us. That makes it very difficult. It kind of boxes us in. It checkmates us on that.”
Aside from expanding the 90-day vacancy limit, Bowman feels affected property owners should be compensated if the proposed rezoning is approved.
“In real estate, any time you take an option off of the table for the property owner, you’re taking money from them,” he said. “I don’t think that that’s right. Unless someone wants to come and compensate us. You know, usually when you take something away from somebody, you compensate them with something.”
Bill Peck, the owner of William Peck & Associates Inc. on Main Street, said he has been wishing for a zone change like the one proposed for at least 10 years.
“This will save the land owners a lot of time and hassle,” Peck said, noting under the current zoning, developers often have to go through multiple steps with the city to get the property rezoned to be compatible with their project.
Peck added although he has heard mixed opinions about the proposal from his fellow property owners, he believes it would help Lewisville achieve its goal of a vibrant Old Town, if approved.
“It will help everything that we’ve been trying to do for years for this whole sector of the town,” he said. “We really can’t grow the way that it’s been zoned. You have some businesses that are—not that it’s their fault—but some businesses will actually devalue the one right next door to it just because of what it does. It’s just not compatible. This would help keep the value of the property up all across.”
Residents interested in voicing their opinion on the proposal to elected officials can do so at the Aug. 20 planning and zoning meeting and the Sept. 9 City Council meeting, as there will be public hearings at both before the commission votes on its recommendation to council and before council makes the final decision.