Developing by design: New I-35 developments must conform to rules

by ANDY SEVILLA

After months of public discussion, Kyle council members unanimously approved the implementation of specific design standards for new non-residential developments along Interstate 35.

The I-35 Overlay District Development Standards has endured several revisions from the first proposal, which drew fire from the development community, up until its first reading at council in early December.

Mayor Lucy Johnson said at the Dec. 4 meeting that a developer, whom she did not name, spoke to her about prospects of lavish main entrances and how those materials could not be used in the building’s whole outside façade without having costs skyrocket.

The latest revisions council offered at the Dec. 4 meeting included relaxing the rules so that developments could employ the same character and color for the whole façade of the building and not force developers to use the same materials.

Council members agreed to allow the same aesthetic on all four sides of the building to include character and color, and not force use of the same materials on the side of the building as on the main entrance.

“We have also incorporated other building material treatments that can be utilized to reduce blank walls,” said Planning Director Sofia Nelson.

Council accepted accent lighting, light fixtures, and/or vegetation coverage of at least 30 percent of a wall to be used as a method of breaking up the space.

The arduous task of establishing the development standards, which began in April, included several public meetings, public hearings, communications, feedback, heated exchanges and ordinance revisions.

The city’s Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commission in their latest revisions to the ordinance on Nov. 27 updated the standards to require trees every 40 feet, instead of every 30 feet; allow evergreen landscaping to screen mechanical equipment; allow utility boxes to be a uniform earth tone or a color that matches the wall upon which the box is located; allow for internal pedestrian walkways to be distinguished from driving surfaces by textured pavement or paint.

The standards also require parking lots to visually and functionally segment into smaller lots with no more than 250 parking spaces, rather than 150 parking spaces, per parking area; reduce glazing requirements from 40 to 30 percent, as an option; and update the building massing and form requirements from non-retail and retail development.

At final passage of the ordinance Dec. 18, council members, with much appreciation for the work by city staff, unanimously passed the development standards. Council members Ray Bryant and Brad Pickett were absent.

The development standards were intended to expedite approval of projects that conform to the general development principles outlined in the comprehensive master plan for I-35, according to city documents. These rules were planned to be concise and user-friendly.

City documents state that the development requirements put forth the vision, goals, policies and objectives outlined in the comprehensive master plan and ensure that new developments will not turn their back on the interstate and other major arteries, and in cases when the development has to do so, that it does so in the most attractive manner possible.

They also require developments to advance a connected network of streets and sidewalks, providing a variety of pedestrian and vehicular routes to any single destination in and out of the development; and also call for building facades that create visual interest through horizontal and vertical articulation with windows, multiple entrances facing streets and sidewalks, and the minimization of blank walls.

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