Westover council unanimously approves ordinance to establish Planned Unit Development District

WESTOVER — Westover city council members unanimously approved an ordinance establishing a Planned Unit Development District after a recommendation by the city planning commission.

According to the adopted ordinance, the Planned Unit Development District would be “an area under single ownership or control to be developed in conformance with an approved development plan…” that would consist of a map showing the area and all the proposed changes, a “text which sets forth the uses and the development standards to be met, and exhibits setting forth any aspects of the development plan not fully described in the map and text.”

Council members voted on the ordinance at the Aug. 6 city council meeting, held at 6 p.m. at the Westover City Building.

Council members Al Yocum, Ralph Mullins and Leonard Smith were not in attendance.

Westover mayor David Johnson said the planning commission had been discussing the change for six to eight months.

“What we have are some areas in town that would be advantageous to the city to have them developed,” he said. “What that allows, is it allows us to change some of the lot sizes, move some of the areas.

“We have one in particular area that is in question at the end of Riverview, where Grant Street starts and turns and comes back up toward … Fairmor Drive. There’s an area in there that would be a very good candidate for that, and we’ve discussed it with different people.”

“We’ve discussed it several times in planning, and now we have an ordinance and recommendation from the planning commission,” he said.

Johnson said, after the meeting, that the discussions in the planning commission had begun after residents who had heard of the program came to the meeting to propose the change after they bought a piece of undeveloped property.

“What started it was we had a couple people who bought ground, and they wanted to talk to us about it, so they came to the meetings, and we talked about it,” he said. “We put it together, and we copied some other ordinances and put things together the way we wanted. Some people wanted to make sure there was still enough green space and things like that.”

Johnson said the planning commission had worked hard to take care of concerns in developing the ordinance.

For those concerned about green space, the ordinance states in general provisions that the development will “enhance the appearance of the city by conserving areas of special natural beauty, step slopes, ecological importance, flood prone areas and natural green spaces where appropriate, while understanding the land within urban areas is best suited for urban densities and development patterns.”

Other objectives in the ordinance include implementing the “goals, objectives and strategies of the comprehensive plan specific to where the PUD is to be located” and permitting “the application of current best practices in the design principles to new development within the city.”

The ordinance also states the plan will “counteract poor urban design and mitigate congestion on the streets … promote design principles that allow different types of land uses to coexist while preserving property values and minimizing potential negative consequences,” and protect the environmental integrity of the site and its surroundings.

City Attorney Tim Stranko told council members and Johnson this ordinance was different than other ordinances because it had already been read and recommended by the planning commission.

“Mr. Mayor, subject to an objection from council, because this is a recommendation from our planning commission, it was a public agenda item in their agenda, this ordinance could be read by title only unless the council would prefer the mayor read the whole ordinance,” he said. “The difference between this and a regular ordinance is that this has been recommended by our planning commission.

“What this ordinance will do is allow our city staff and members of the planning commission to work with the developers, so they can have an intermittent negotiation, as opposed to just strict rules. We still have to follow all of our rules, but it’s a better opportunity to work with the developers.”

Johnson said the ordinance would end up helping residents and the city to further develop and grow.

“We are going to end up with properties that probably would have never been developed without this,” he said. “So, what that does, it raises everybody’s property taxes because once you develop a property, once you improve a property, you may have been paying $100 a year in your property, but now you are paying $800-900 a year, and that helps everybody.

“It’s not where we are going to put in right in the middle of an existing neighborhood. We have just a few spots where this would be beneficial for everyone around. The land would be pretty much worthless without this type of opportunity. It’s happened throughout the country. It’s a pretty popular way to do things.

“So, it’s good. It’s good for everybody. It’s good for the city especially.”

Riverview Avenue (left), in Westover, intersects with the dirt road, Grant, where city officials hope to declare a Planned Unit Development District.
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