High rises could be the future for Kyle

by Moses Leos III 

 

The city of Kyle may start thinking taller. At least, that is a topic of discussion in the city’s Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commission. 

Some Kyle leaders believe modifying height restrictions could be a catalyst for development. 

“Maybe we’re to a point in our town’s growth where it makes sense for us to take [height requirements]away and start thinking bigger,” Kyle Planning and Zoning Commissioner Michael Rubsam said on Jan. 27. 

Discussions on the subject began at the Jan. 27 Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commission meeting. All seven commissioners supported the idea of adjusting the maximum height restrictions in the Retail Service District (R/S). 

That discussion followed the Kyle City Council’s 7-0 vote on Jan. 6 to change height restrictions to 75-feet in the Plum Creek Employment District. 

According to Assistant City Manager James Earp, a precedent was set when council approved Plum Creek’s Planned Unit Development (PUD) request. 

In addition, Earp said a prospective economic development opportunity – which he declined to name -– would need a variance to existing height restrictions to develop in Kyle. Meaning a firm wants to move to town but height restrictions are a factor.

Earp said amending restrictions would be easier than providing a variance.  

“This is something that can be real and very quick, because we need to make a decision, because these guys need to decide if they’re coming to Kyle or not,” Earp said. 

How to implement such a change, and the zoning issues that follow, continue to be discussed. 

Commissioners David Wilson and Michele Christie okayed amending height restrictions. However, both voiced concerns over how future businesses should be zoned. 

“I don’t want a big manufacturing plant that you can see from everywhere in Kyle,” Wilson said. “You have to think what you’re putting in retail sales, and if we want all of those types of buildings.” 

An additional concern extended to developing high-rise structures next to communities. 

Councilmember Shane Arabie said the city is prepared for such concerns. He said safeguards, such as height limitations near residential development, help limit development that doesn’t “sync up.” 

With relaxed height restrictions come concerns about fire safety. Kyle Fire Department / Emergency Services District #5 does not have a ladder truck in its current fleet.

Kyle Mayor Todd Webster said many of the city’s current height restrictions are based on fire safety. 

But according to Fire Chief Kyle Taylor, a ladder truck still wouldn’t be effective. He said ladder trucks wouldn’t reach a building at or above 75-feet. Instead, the city’s use of the 2009 International Fire Code would provide assistance. 

Per the 2009 International fire code, buildings three stories or higher must install standpipes and sprinkler systems. 

“We have a need for [a ladder truck]in town, but its for residential purposes, and not for commercial or tall buildings,” Taylor said. 

Ultimately, Arabie believes changing height restrictions can provide more opportunities for Kyle. He said it could make the city more attractive to outside development. 

“At the same time, we don’t want to give them (developers) free rein,” Arabie said.

Also on board was Webster, who stressed the need for cognizance in order to avoid disrupting “the character of the community in any way.” 

However, he was unsure if or when discussions on height limits would make its way to council. 

Webster hopes to focus on more office space, along with “new urbanism,” which includes mixed-use lofts and retail space. He also wants the city to focus on the Interstate 35 corridor.

“The idea of taller buildings along the highway or arteries doesn’t offend me, particularly if it brings jobs,” Webster said.

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