Lewisville City Council discussed re-zoning Old Town and clarifying its substandard structures ordinance in a pre-meeting discussion before approving its consent agenda, which included a bronze statue of Wayne Ferguson that will sit watching the entrance of Wayne Ferguson Plaza in as little as a year’s time.
During an early workshop session, planning manager Michelle Berry presented the council with an update on the plan to eventually rezone Old Town so that, when properties in the downtown district eventually change hands, the new uses will be in line with the city’s vision for the area.
The plan is to first adopt a new light industrial-2 zoning district in other parts of the city. This is similar to the city’s current light industrial designation, but would allow some automotive repair sales uses, and is specifically intended to draw car repair shops currently in Old Town to other parts of the city. After that, the city will rezone all of Old Town as Old Town Mixed Use, which allows for the kind of downtown uses the city wants to bring into the area. Much of the area is currently zoned as light industrial, but some business owners have already volunteered to have their land recategorized as Old Town Mixed Use. Berry designated three areas that would be eligible to voluntarily rezone as light industrial-2.
Existing businesses are grandfathered in under the new zoning designations. If the property changes hands or is abandoned, the new use must be in line with the new zoning, but there is no penalty to existing property owners, whose usage would become legal non-conforming. Berry discussed a potential 10-year amortization ordinance, which would give the owner 10 years to bring the property into compliance, but said it would be used sparsely on businesses that store things outdoors and would include relocation options within Lewisville.
Berry said that constant communication with businesses was paramount to all steps of this process. Her full powerpoint is available in agenda background material.
Council members were impressed with the proposed plan.
“The great part about this is it’s only a benefit to the property owners. In no way does it hurt them at all because they can continue to operate in non-compliance, so it’s only a benefit to the owner,” councilmember Brent Daniels said.
Councilmember Bob Troyer said the city also needed to do a better job of reaching out to the public in general, and referred to rumors that surfaced over the weekend that the city would soon force the Old Town Meat Market to move away. Old Town Meat Market would not be affected by the possible amortization ordinance discussed at the council meeting. The Lewisville Texan Journal is looking into that situation separately.
“I also agree we need to make sure that we do a good job on education not just with property owners, but to the public at large,” Troyer said. “As the firestorm on Facebook this afternoon indicates, there’s a lot of misinformation floating around.”
Councilmember TJ Gilmore echoed his frustration.
“People hear eminent domain, they hear rezoning, they hear conflict of interest, they hear these phrases and it’s like lighting a match. They don’t even think through the process, they just throw a word out there, and it creates this thing,” he said. “Maybe some people on Facebook would much rather just light a match and watch everything burn.”
Daniels also addressed the discussion in his comments at the end of the meeting, encouraging citizens to contact him directly and not to be too quick to believe rumors.
“Unfortunately today, Facebook has become the new telephone game, and watching Facebook today and hearing stuff about the city forcing people out and rumors and stuff that just aren’t true, well, there is no Snopes for the City of Lewisville,” he said before giving out his personal contact information. Daniels said he could be reached at bdaniels@cityofLewisville.com 972-898-5361. “When you hear something that sounds like a lie, it probably is.”
Neighborhood and inspection services director Wayne Snell also discussed the need for more objective standards in the substandard structures ordinance. Snell said the current ordinance is leaves too much up to city judgment.
“All they [the guidelines in the current ordinance] tell us is ‘dilapidated, substandard or unfit for human habitation,’” Snell said. “We all quickly take a snapshot of that, we’ll all have a different picture of what that is.”
A new ordinance with more specific language is expected at the next council meeting June 4.
During the meeting, council approved its consent agenda, which included final approval of a bronze sculpture of late mayor Wayne Ferguson, which will sit on the west side of Wayne Ferguson Plaza facing residents as they enter from Charles Street. Ferguson will be holding a map of the plaza and be accompanied by a few of his personal possessions.
According to city background material, Ferguson’s family and the city as a whole has been wanting something like this going back to his death in 2008. The initial plans stalled, but recently, local developer Alex Buck raised $50,000 toward the $90,000 project, which he asked the city to match. It did. Buck and Ferguson’s daughter, Amanda, were on hand for the meeting.
“It’s an honor. It’s all very hard to put into words,” Ferguson said. “It’s exciting. We’re very fortunate to see the energy and the momentum going now in the development of Old Town.”
The city also approved an agreement with Lewisville ISD to create an entrepreneurial curriculum at Lewisville High School. The city received an annual pledge of $15,000 from Mary Kay Inc. and a $17,500 donation from the Hudson Foundation to establish an entrepreneur center last year, but discovered individual centers tend to perform poorly and proposed to partner with existing school facilities instead.
Assistant city manager Claire Swann described the curriculum as a yearlong business development process ending with a pitch meeting similar to TV’s Shark Tank to a board of Lewisville businesspeople, which would include at least one City Council member. Swann also said the startup money included seed money for some of these potential businesses, and they anticipate seeing businesses from this program in Lewisville.
LISD will review the item in their June 4 meeting, according to background material.
Lewisville City Council meets every first and third Monday of the month at 7 p.m. in City Hall, 151 W. Church St., usually with a workshop session beforehand to discuss the evening’s agenda. Its next meeting is scheduled for June 4.