After previously tabling ordinances regulating commercial drone delivery hubs, Plano City Council approved the city’s first regulation of their operation.

An update to the city’s ordinances was approved 5-3 with council members Anthony Ricciardelli and Rick Horne and Mayor Pro Tem Kayci Prince voting against during the Feb. 26 meeting. The ordinance only regulates zoning and zoning uses because the city is unable to regulate flight, which is overseen by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The overview

Plano Planning Supervisor Jordan Rockerbe said the proposed ordinance is meant to support measured implementation of new technologies, address potential impacts to nearby property and maintain consistency with existing regulations. The new regulation would allow the operation of small drone delivery hubs, which utilize aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds, within regional commercial and retail zoning districts, according to city documents.

Large drone delivery hubs that utilize heavier aircraft would be required to obtain a specific-use permit. Screening would also be required for outdoor storage areas within the hubs, per city documents.

Director of Planning Christina Day said screening requirements could be waived by the planning and zoning commission during its review of site plans. The three council members voting against and representatives of drone operators requested a remanding to the commission to consider unique aspects of various drone operations.

“If we’re going to have an ordinance, we have to get this right,” Horne said.

The context

Council previously tabled a proposed ordinance in October and November last year. The planning and zoning commission previously recommended approval during its Aug. 21 meeting.

City officials said the screening requirement for on-site storage was consistent with other requirements for outdoor storage within retail and regional commercial zoning districts.

“We have a screening policy and don’t want to set a precedent by not having that for all other businesses that are required to have that type of open storage regulation,” Mayor John Muns said.

What next?

Based on direction from council in the motion to approve, city staff will report on drone operations under the ordinance in around a year.

The updated ordinance also allows for drone delivery hub operations in the city, which were previously prohibited because it was an unlisted zoning use.