Sherman could soon see a major overhaul of its planning and zoning ordinances to accommodate large scale, multi-use development projects.

The Sherman Planning & Zoning Commission recently recommended a new development ordinance that would facilitate development of large, multi-use projects over 200 acres. The ordinance would allow for certain exceptions for smaller projects but set a minimum of 100 acres. It would also establish a base fee of $10,000 plus $20 per acre for projects under the new plan. The proposed ordinance will next be considered by the Sherman City Council.

Commission Chairman Clay Mahone said the whole purpose of the ordinance is to provide a framework for the city and developers to work within that is compatible with the city’s existing master plan, while also streamlining some of the processes.

“As it stands, if you wanted to develop a large, multi-use development, it would be very cumbersome,” Mahone said. “You would have to ask for a lot of exceptions, special use permits and variances. It might be prohibitive enough to push some major developer to move elsewhere.”

In order for a project to be considered a planned development, it would need to meet the basic criteria. The first of those requires the development to contain at least two types of housing. The options are single family, attached housing, townhouse or a multi-family with a retail, office or business. It must also include a public destination in the plan. That could be a large park, public plaza, town center, school, library or similar public gathering place.

The developers would also be required to plan for all water lines and roads as part of the projects.

The purpose of the planned development ordinance would be to facilitate the development of mixed use projects. For this reason, the criteria are strict and must be followed. Once a conceptual plan has been approved under the ordinance, a detailed site plan must be submitted within two years on a minimum of 20 percent of the proposed project area. If the detailed site plan is not submitted within two years or no progress towards the completion of the project is made within five years, then the concept plan and development plans would expire.

At that time, the land within the boundaries of the planned district would revert to whatever zoning district was in place before the district was approved. The city council would have the authority to approve extensions of projects if there are sufficient reasons to do so.

Mahone said the proposed ordinance came about as city staff began to notice an increasing number of exceptions in order for new multi-use projects to come into the city.

“They (city staff) didn’t have a good framework in place to easily handle those,” Mahone said. “It was suggested other cities have done similar plans. (City Manager) Robby Hefton hired a firm with experience in writing these ordinances. That firm helped develop an ordinance specific to the needs of Sherman.”

Any development approved would have to conform to the larger city plan, Mahone said. The plans would also need to be consistent with the look and feel of neighboring areas, as well as comply with city requirements on things such as facade, parking and signage similar to the existing city ordinances.

Mahone said it wouldn’t affect any projects currently in development as any project under the ordinance, if passed, would need to be approved at the start of the project.

“The city has a plan that outlines the areas of growth it anticipates,” Mahone said. “The city wants to plan for the most efficient use of the space we have available. This ordinance would allow developers to create those areas while requiring them to plan them out well within the city.”

Mahone called the proposed ordinance a good tool the city can use to bring new multi-use development while maintaining the integrity of the neighbors involved in the projects it might attract.