The Denison Planning and Zoning Commission returned to recent discussions on preferred materials for new external construction Tuesday ahead of consideration of a possible ordinance on the topic in the coming months. The recent talks have outlined what materials the commission feels the city should allow for new construction while outlining what qualifies as masonry under the city’s building code.

This month’s discussion focused primarily on construction along many of the city’s highway corridors while eliminating a possible loophole made by recent proposed amendments to the code. These discussions included areas along U.S. Highway 75, Spur 503 and portions of State Highway 120, which all fall within the city’s highway oriented overlay district zoning.

“Basically, we are really similar to a lot of other cities in the area where along our major thoroughfares, or highways or expressways, we have higher standards for masonry and construction materials,” Planning and Zoning Manager Steven Doss said.

In its July meeting, the commission focused its efforts on creating a list of approved building materials for non-residential construction that included brick, stone, glass stucco and cement panel. This eliminated cementitious paneling, also known as hardie board, and Exterior Insulation finishing system, commonly known as EIFS.

While most non-residential construction would require 75 percent masonry, Doss said buildings within the highway overlay district are held to a higher standard and must include 100 percent masonry for external construction. However, Doss said this created a possible loophole for buildings of lesser quality to be built as the material list for the district had yet to be determined.

As an example, Doss said a building along Hwy. 75 could be built fully from hardie board under current guidelines.

Doss recommended the requirement stay at 100 percent, but noted there have been cases recently of new construction that used variances to allow for non-traditional materials to be used.

As an example, Doss said a recently-approved Panda Express location included a fiber panel material for accents and architectural features. In total, only 82 percent of the building was made of the approved materials, he said.

Doss said he was hesitant to make the requirement 80 percent, noting it was only marginally higher than areas not along the highway.

Commissioner Mary Karam noted she had some issues with leaving the requirement at 100 percent as it limited the kinds of architecture that could be used. Many larger companies, including restaurants, have a set look and design to their buildings, Karam said, and strict requirements may limit which businesses will build in Denison.

Doss recommended that a 10 percent allowance be added for trim and other minor architectural features. Doss said this would not lead to an entire side of a building being made of these materials, but would allow for some artistic elements.

Conversation then returned to the topic of non-residential buildings outside of the highway corridors. While Doss said the current recommended percentage of required masonry is 75 percent, he asked for clarification on what this meant. As an example, Doss asked whether this would mean all sides must be 75 percent masonry or the total of the entire building.

Karam noted she has seen buildings where the public-facing sides were made of masonry, but the rear was made of other materials and did not have the same quality that the other faces did.

Conversely, Matt Looney noted most developers would likely use full masonry for the front-facing side, leading to increased development costs if the 75 percent was needed on all sides.

“I don’t know about you guys, but at some point you have to think you are grabbing for too much,” he said.

Doss said city staff will move forward with drafting regulations based on the 75 percent of total exterior wall recommendation. The commission is expected to hold a hearing on the proposed ordinance at an upcoming meeting.

Doss said staff originally expected to hold conversations on building materials within the Austin Avenue and Morton Street Overlay Districts, but noted these areas are likely to see changes under the upcoming update of the city’s comprehensive plan. As such, he said both areas likely would need additional studies to determine appropriate regulations regarding building materials.