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A new apartment and townhouse complex may be coming to the city of Carrollton; that is, if it can pass the planning and zoning regulations.
Land owner Paul Kemper and Scott and Wendy Whittaker of Whittaker Squared Architects came to the special Planning and Zoning Commission meeting Tuesday, Sept. 4, to discuss the possibility of building in the 1200 block of Gillock Avenue, currently zoned C-3.
“What we are proposing is, right now, to build two structures that would each have 10 units in them, (and) in the future, a third structure which would give you a total of 30 units on a little bit over three acres of land, which would still fall under the 50 percent land-use ratio, and I feel like going through your code, the way I interpret it, it meets all the ideals of whoever outlined this in the beginning,” Scott Whittaker said. “The only thing I saw that would be questionable is what exactly is high-density in this area.”
Density is based on the number of dwelling units per developable acre.
The architects brought four examples of how high density is defined in other areas across the state for the commission to see, and in those places, their design would be incompliance.
Commissioner Sam Burgess said in his research online, he could not find a standard definition of high density. “Until that density level is set, there is no way we can move forward with your request,” he said.
City Attorney Nick Marsh asked what would be the hesitance of changing the zoning designation from C-3 to R-3. Either way, they will need to have a public hearing because it is a planned development. The only added step would be that city council would need to approve a zoning change. “Our city council is usually pretty amenable to moving quickly if we’re looking at a development,” he said. “My question is if we are R-3 all the way to the point of that property, what is the hesitance to going to R-3 when in fact you are using this for an R-3 use? Is there something I’m not seeing, that the commission is not seeing?”
Scott Whittaker said he is not prepared to ask for a zone change because he has not researched how an R-3 designation would impact the plans. “I know what we designed would work in C-3, or I believe it will.
will. I don’t know if it will work in R-3. It may or it may not; I have not looked at that because I never considered a zone change when I thought if we could define what was high density and get a reasonable definition that we can move forward.”
When they spoke to former Code Enforcement Officer Art Zook, he did not tell them this would be a problem and it would be allowable under C-3, Wendy Whittaker said. “We moved ahead under those assumptions.”
Commissioner JoEllen Tumbrink said they would be overstepping their bounds if they decided on a high density definition. Marsh said if the commission wanted direction from city council on what they consider a numeric definition of high density, they would need a text change to the ordinance.
“It would have to be a numeric definition because that’s the only way you can base it,” Burgess said. While they are at it, they need to define medium and low density because those will come up in the future as well.
Tumbrink said they need to discuss the issue and then make a recommendation to council.
Commissioner George Miller said P&Z dumps “everything on council.”
Burgess said the commission cannot purposefully break an ordinance and right now, there is not a legal definition of high density. “Until it is specified in the ordinance, we cannot move forward on anything that would constitute high density until we know what it is.”
Miller said, right now they are looking at three apartment buildings that he thinks would help the community. “I’d like to see this done, and I don’t see any reason to dump it on any of the other boards who are going to say the same things we’re saying here. We’re supposed to be the experts. … We have the authority and the responsibility to set a number.”
Commissioner Ed Raker said he wants to change the code to set the number.
Marsh told Kemper and the Whittakers changing the zone to R-3 may be a little quicker than staying with C-3. As a planned development, the commission will be looking at whether or not all of the infrastructure is in place, such as fire protection and sewage and whether the overall scheme will fit nicely into the picture around them and within the zoning code.
However, with R-3, the maximum land use ratio is 30 percent, Marsh said.
Scott Whittaker said this would not work because they are already at 37 percent, not including the third residential building or the recreation building.
Marsh said he cannot tell them this will be the commission’s decision, but planned development let’s them back off of that number a little bit.
“If we change, there is no guarantee that you will allow this in that area is what you’re telling me, right?” Wendy Whittaker asked.
“There’s no guarantee,” Marsh said.
Kemper said he wants to keep it a C-3 because in a lot of instances, property is more valuable as a C-3 than R-3. Scott Whittaker said it seems like they are “rolling the dice” on whether or not it will be permissible to go with R-3.
When asked by Miller what he thought, Commissioner Beau Arney said he had nothing to say until a number is set for high density, and the commission could not do that at this time because it was not written on the special meeting agenda.
Miller asked the commission if they want the apartments or not. If they did, they should figure out a way to do it; if they didn’t, they needed to close the meeting. Tumbrink said it was not that she did not want it; it is that it needs to be done properly.
Marsh outlined two options. If Miller thought it was worthy of a vote, he could make a motion. The other option was to table the agenda item and put it on the next meeting’s agenda with two items: One, to schedule a public hearing for Kemper’s property to rezone as R-3. If he determines that’s what he wants to do, then the commission will act on that item. Two, to write a proposal for a text change to the zoning ordinance to define high density. Even if Kemper decided to go with R-3, they would be able to make the text amendment for the next time the subject arose.
Burgess added he still wants to define medium and low density as well.
Scott Whittaker said they are not prepared at this time to ask to be put on the agenda for a zone change.
Arney made a motion to table the discussion until either their special meeting on Sept. 20 or the next scheduled meeting on Oct. 1 so that “both parties can get their collective ducks in a row.” Miller seconded the motion.
Once planning and zoning determines a definition for high density, they will make a recommendation to city council, which council must adopt at their meeting and publish it twice in the newspaper before the ordinance can take effect, Marsh said.