In a 6-1 vote Feb. 20, the city of Magnolia's Planning and Zoning Commission voted to end the requirement of new commercial developments needing a minimum 2-acre lot in some areas of the city.
However, before the change can be implemented, the commission must recommend the change to City Council—who will then vote on removing the lot size requirement—pending public hearings by the commission and council, said Tana Ross, economic development coordinator and planning technician for the city.
Commission members said they believed the city's requirement was too restrictive compared to those of neighboring cities, making it less attractive for companies to start businesses in Magnolia. The 2-acre lot size requirement applies to new nonresidential and commerical developments in Magnolia.
Commissioner Tom Mayhew was the only dissenting vote; he said he believes the current use of a variance works for the city when determining whether to approve proposed commercial developments and that he believes having proposed developments be considered on a case-by-case basis is a better option than ending the minimum acreage requirement.
Although the commission voted to end the lot size requirement, commission members said during a workshop prior to the meeting that the frontage portion of the lot size requirement is necessary for safer traffic, as having 200 feet of frontage prevents businesses from putting driveways right next to each other. As such, the frontage requirement remains in place.
When compared to The Woodlands and the cities of Tomball, Montgomery and Conroe, Magnolia has the highest minimum lot size requirement for a proposed development, according to documents presented by city staff.
Anne Sundquist, vice chairperson of the commission, said she believes fewer restrictions are better for new businesses.
“We are by far the strictest compared to other places,” she said. “We don’t want something that would drive business elsewhere.”
Tomball's requirements are a minimum lot size of 60 feet by 100 square feet with a maximum lot size of 10,000 square feet, according to information presented during the meeting. Areas like The Woodlands and Montgomery have no minimum size requirements for commercial lots but have requirements on how far back buildings must be from the street pavement, according to documents provided during the meeting.
Commission Chairperson Robert Franklin said more restrictions are not beneficial for city development.
“As a business owner, [when] I see one [city as] more restrictive than the other, I am going to the other,” he said.