Courtesy City of Tomball
Tomball City Council met with the planning and zoning commission and the Downtown Advisory Committee at a special meeting June 4 to discuss public comments on the city's Downtown Specific Plan.
A draft of the plan was made available to community members for review toward the end of 2011. The most common suggestions were identified and discussed at the open meeting.
City officials agreed to several alterations, including extending the Historic Main Street zoning district to include the south side of Commerce Street and the north side of Market Street. The change would allow a wider range of developments along Commerce and Market, which were previously a part of Mixed Use and Old Town Plaza districts.
“There's a real difference in the type of development that can occur in each district,” said Peggy Fiandaca, president of Partners for Strategic Action, the firm hired to help develop the plan. “Developers would have the ability to build higher, put in a vertical mixed use development and a number of other things they can't do today that follow with what we're trying to achieve in the downtown area.”
Officials agreed to several other changes that would provide more flexibility to developers in areas of commercial significance. Buildings can be built up to five stories along Historic Main Street and there will be more leeway when it comes to awnings and streetside furniture, such as trash receptacles. However, these developments will only be made available through conditional use permits, meaning Council will have the final say in whether or not something is allowed.
The city also decided that no multi-use pathways would be developed behind residential houses, as the draft originally permitted. Several residents expressed concerns in their comments over people walking around and loitering behind residences.
“I'd much rather just let people keep walking in front of my house than in alleyways behind it,” said councilman Derek Townsend, Sr. “You don't have patrol cars going up and down alleyways. Security is an issue.”
Commercial and pedestrian walkways in busier commercial areas will remain part of the plan.
In early 2011, the city embarked on the Downtown Specific Plan effort to guide long-term development and redevelopment of downtown Tomball. The plan will tackle regulatory policy, including providing specific zoning and design standards for downtown.
Changes based on feedback are still being considered and have not yet been drafted into the plan. The next step will involve creating a new draft based on the feedback and eventually holding a public hearing. No timeframe has been finalized at this point.