A comprehensive rewrite of Kerrville’s zoning code passed its first hearing with Kerrville City Council on Tuesday.

The project has been in the works for several months under the care of the Code Review Committee. The goal of the project is to make the code more clear and leave less room for staff interpretation.

“I think you’ve all done a fabulous job of taking in all the nuances of what we as citizens want to make our city a better place to live and work,” said Rachel Fitch, a Kerrville resident present at the meeting.

While much of the changes include re-wording and more clarification in the code, there also are other changes, such as updating the zoning map so that it uses an industry-standard color code and adding a definition section for zoning terms.

“We know today that this ordinance is not perfect,” said Monica Heid, a consultant from Prologue Planning Services. “(But) just because there’s an update that’s necessary, that doesn’t mean that everyone didn’t do a really good job. This was just a huge change.”

It started with stakeholder interviews — staff who use the code explained the problems they face with it and some ideas for what could make it better.

There are some changes to the actual zoning, too. Kerrville currently has 49 different districts, but with the new zoning changes, that has been narrowed down to 17. Heid said this will make dealing with zoning situations a lot simpler.

The CRC also created some special districts that didn’t exist before, one of which includes the Downtown Arts and Culture District. Development in this area — which is along main arterials Main Street and Sidney Baker Street — will focus on walkability.

Other new special districts that have specific focuses include mixed use, planned development, public and institutional, airport and agriculture.

“If I were a business owner here going through all of this, I might kind of feel like ‘Woah, you’re putting me on a short leash, you’re squeezing me,’” said Mayor Bill Blackburn. “I will tell you, the movement of the CRC and the consultants and staff is to be a business-friendly city. We’re working at that.”

Even though there were a lot of changes made, the CRC looked to keep the code as unchanged as possible — that is, they only made changes they deemed were necessary. 

Heid said they didn’t want to create non-conformities, which are properties that used to agree with the code but, because of the changes, no longer do. Nonetheless, making a few non-conformities was unavoidable. 

Kerrville resident Stephen King said he was particularly worried about the potential non-conformities on G Street.

“This area also has some concern areas with fire protection,” said Drew Paxton, director of development services. “Any new development there is going to have to be looked at significantly.”

Another person at the meeting, William Rector, said that he wanted the zoning code to be considerate of the river.

“I think it’s important that we look at a river corridor overlay and we look at either restrictions or some usage to protect our river as development occurs,” Rector said. “I think that’s one of our greatest assets.”

Heid added that encountering problems with the code is inevitable, and that’s why the code needs to be updated periodically after this. The date of the last big update was sometime around 1997.

“Don’t do that again, please,” Heid said. “It’s better for all of us, and you particularly as a city, to keep the updates coming more regularly.”

The zoning code changes will not be adopted unless it passes the second hearing.

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