Amid recent growth, the city of Denison is weighing the possibility of rezoning for properties zoned commercial and industrial in areas that are overwhelmingly developed as residential.
Planning and Zoning Manager Steven Doss said the discussions come amid record growth in the city in recent years that was spurred by infill development. This growth in housing, in part, was due to city programs aimed at filling vacant lots across Denison, city officials said.
“I think what ultimately brought it up was the successes of the renovation, infill and infill overlay programs,” Doss said. “But realistically, I don’t think there are a lot of lots available now.”
With the successes of these programs, Doss said the city has filled most of the lots that were immediately ready for development, leading city staff and developers to look for the next wave of developable lots. In many cases, these lots include those that could be developed, but are not zoned for residential uses, he said.
Among the areas highlighted as possible candidates for rezoning include areas east of Austin Avenue and north of Woodard Street, areas just east of the railroad on Main Street, and western portions of Chestnut and Main Street.
The discussion of land use today dates back to the early days of Denison before modern zoning, Doss said. At the time, many areas of the city were designated for residential uses, and platted with that scope and need in mind. If a commercial development was proposed in these areas, it likely would be situated on two to three of the platted lots, Doss said, describing the mixture of commercial, residential and industrial uses in these neighborhoods.
As modern zoning standards came into practice, this shifted the zoning for some of these areas. This ultimately culminated in 2009, when the city effectively went through a large-scale zoning reform that changed the zoning of many neighborhoods to reflect what the city expected future use to be. In some cases, these rezoning efforts included buffer areas between different uses.
“At Woodard and 5th Street, there is commercial zoning to the west and duplex zoning to the east, for example,” Doss said.
However, in many cases, this commercial development did not develop.
In areas that are mainly residential in nature, this rezoning left some properties non-conforming, but grandfathered in under the current standard. Under this classification, the buildings could be repaired and maintained, but could not be expanded or rebuilt if more than 60 percent of the structure was destroyed.
This became an issue earlier this year, when a property in the 2200 block of Woodlawn was added to the city’s demolition list. At the time, the owner of the residential property, which had experienced a major fire, wished to rebuild, but was told that his home was out of compliance with zoning.
Under the recommendation of the commission, Doss said he is focusing on rezoning all of the areas to residential, but noted this would simply switch which developments are non-conforming. As such, Doss said he wants to also present other options, including possible amendments for these commercial developments that might allow them to rebuild in the event of a disaster.
Other options include taking the case to the zoning board of adjustments for a variance or special exception.
“We have a couple different options and we are absolutely looking for the best option for all properties,” Doss said.