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Residents raise questions on zoning, Old Town District Not quite game of ‘rock, paper, scissors’ for
Keith Johanson (foreground) is among a crowd of La Vernia residents Jan. 7 during a Planning and Zoning Commission public hearing. Johanson questioned masonry requirements in a proposed zoning ordinance.
A proposed new zoning ordinance for the city of La Vernia could have some things literally set in stone, if it passes.
In addition to designating certain parts of the city as residential, commercial, retail, or industrial, the ordinance includes a requirement for homes to sport 85 percent masonry on their façades and businesses, 75 percent. Masonry, in the ordinance, is identified as stone, brick, or stucco. Cementitious board siding, such as HardiePlank, is not included. Another aspect of the ordinance that drew residents to pack the council chamber in City Hall for public hearings Jan. 7 and Jan. 9 is a proposed Old Town Overlay District, for 19 streets in the city’s older neighborhoods.
“This ordinance will slow progress down in La Vernia and limit only certain kinds of folks to come to town,” said Keith Johanson, owner of LV Pump & Supply. He addressed the La Vernia Planning & Zoning Commission during the Jan. 7 public hearing on the proposed ordinance. “What I don’t understand is the 85 percent masonry requirement you’re proposing.”
He was among several who questioned why the city did not include cementitious siding as a masonry option.
Planning & Zoning Commission member Martin Poore addressed this point, saying he and the commission had done extensive research, as he’d had the same question.
He elaborated on this after the meeting, citing sustainability and durability issues with cementitious board siding, when compared to stone or brick.
But façades weren’t the only concern. Many of those packing City Hall for the hearings live in the older part of La Vernia, in a proposed “Old Town Overlay District.” They expressed concern about the zoning ordinance’s impact on their homes.
Janice Fay Brietzke said she was surprised when she received a letter from the city about the proposal. She owns property in the proposed district and asked about the impact of the designation, should she choose to build there.
Mayor Robert Gregory outlined the overlay district and its purpose. If the ordinance specifying the masonry requirements passes, new construction would be subject to this.
Jameene Banks with the city attorney’s office said such an overlay can add regulations onto a district or exempt it from the regulations that apply to other areas.
“This Old Town overlay allows the existing properties in that district to remain as they are, and not subject to the improvements or regulations elsewhere,” she said.
Councilman Randy Leonard offered reassurance.
“The Old Town District is a good thing,” he said. “It exempts you from the masonry requirements. ... It’s a good thing, in my opinion.”
The Planning & Zoning Commission voted to recommend the zoning ordinance and the Old Town Overlay District to the La Vernia City Council. Final approval rests with the council. It was tabled during the Jan. 9 council meeting, with a special meeting set for Jan. 30 for another public hearing and possible approval. Read more about the Jan. 9 meeting below.
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