The city of Fulshear has begun a comprehensive review and update process to its ordinances, including those for zoning, Mayor Aaron Groff said. The decision comes as the city has seen zoning issues come to the forefront at recent City Council meetings.
“I think one of the things we have to understand is growth is coming, and all we can do is hope to manage it and partner with all the key stakeholders as they come along,” Groff said.
Assistant City Manager Brant Gary said the project to review the city’s zoning ordinances will take about a year to a year and a half.
City Council approved the first phase of the review, and its continuation is part of the 2018-19 budget proposal, Groff said. The goal is to ensure rules help the city grow in a manner that benefits residents and preserves history, Fulshear officials said.
The city partnered with Kendig Keast Collaborative, a consulting firm specializing in policy, to conduct the review, according to city documents.
“There are some changes to be explored in our rules and policies and procedures that are in line with the master plan and are good for everyone,” Gary said.
Groff said the city wants simpler ordinances to make it easy to identify zoning restrictions in the city. Groff said the idea is to ensure city rules and ordinances are consistent.
“Because of all the documents that the city holds, there are times that we discover that an ordinance is outdated or is in conflict with something else,” Groff said.
Groff said the amount of documentation the city has can be confusing.
“One of the challenges is that all of our ordinances are what you would call the written ordinances,” Groff said. “You’re [sorting]through literally years and years of ordinances.”
Zoning issues from unclear policies were evident at three recent City Council meetings.
On Aug. 9 Capital Retail Properties received a zoning exception for its Fulshear Market development at FM 1093 and Syms Street. Anderson Smith, a partner with the company, estimated it had taken 15 visits to the city to get permits and a zoning exception.
Fulshear’s Mayor Pro Tem Kaye Kahlich defended changing Fulshear Market from a downtown district to a commercial zone. Provisions require the development to meet the downtown district standards, Kahlich said. It also allows businesses other than restaurants and some others to get permits without exemptions, she said.
“The goal with the Unified Development Code will be to achieve consistency, which can also help to streamline processes for city staff, residents, and businesses,” Kahlich said.
In April the council rejected the appeal for a zoning exception for a car wash at 30414 Fourth St. The permit had been denied because the car wash had been closed for a year. The city’s zoning ordinance does not allow automotive services in the area, city officials said, and the year-long closure eliminated any grandfathered rights.
Car wash owner Samy Shahin said city staff had not been clear in previous interactions after he had bought the business, and he had not understood city concerns based on city feedback.
On March 20 the City Council updated an ordinance to allow permits to be issued to developers after the city engineer approves proposed projects. Prior to the change, a surety bond had also been required, causing frustration for developers, city officials said during the meeting. City staff said the issue frustrated several builders.
Groff said expansion of FM 1093 and construction of Texas Heritage Parkway between FM 1093 and I-10 will attract growth.
Fulshear is already growing quickly, Groff and Brant said. Additional roads to commute will only increase residential and commercial growth.
For upcoming developments such as Fulshear Village, a planned shopping center on the north end of the city on FM 359, updated zoning becomes important, Gary said. The city wants to attract high-quality developers and partner with them to help the city grow smoothly and save tax dollars. Updating zoning ordinances will help the city partner with developers and large retailers to that end, he said.
“City staff is eager to help assist through the planning and permitting process, and we recognize that there may be some challenges,” Gary said.