STAFF WRITER JARED FIELDS
MARBLE FALLS — Almost 2,500 Marble Falls property owners will begin receiving notices this week about an overhaul to the city’s zoning code and map that has been 10 years in the making.
The city’s comprehensive plan in 2009 prioritized a new zoning code. However, it wasn’t until the 2015 update that it was considered again. The same priorities emerged during that process, so the city began addressing changes in 2017.
“We started the update process and have been working on it ever since,” said Caleb Kraenzel, assistant city manager.
That process has led to an entirely new system unlike any city in Texas. The city is not merely taking existing districts and changing language in the ordinances. All current districts are going away, to be replaced with an entirely new system.
Kraenzel said the credit for the new system goes to the project manager for the consulting firm Halff Associates. As development director for a city in Georgia, he brought the idea to city planners.
“It came to us though to figure out what are those zones and how identical do we make them to what’s on the ground today,” Kraenzel said.
After internal planning, open meetings with the public, and constant feedback, those changes have been put into a number of documents for the public to view. An overview of the entire zoning code update has been put together on the city’s website.
The current draft of the zoning code and zoning map also can be viewed on the city’s website. However, the most useful comparison is a slider tool that shows an address’s current zone then the new proposed zone.
The attached city chart shows the names of existing zoning districts and new zones. The far-right column stands for “Existing Neighborhood Zone.”
For example, a property currently in RE-1 “Single-family Estate District” is proposed to go to RE “Rural Estate District,” or it could be in ENZ.1.
“The ENZ.1 zone is meant to reflect the existing RE-1 regulations; however, not always will land that was zoned RE-1 be rezoned to ENZ.1,” Kraenzel said. “For example, undeveloped areas of land that are around the perimeter or abutting other zones may have transitioned to one of the new zones versus ENZ.1.”
The new zoning code, Kraenzel said, helps developers know exactly what is allowed in an area and where to find property that suits a specific need.
“In the old (code), if I want to operate this business, the problem is which definition am I? And, if that definition fits, you have to hunt and peck and see which zones you’re allowed in,” he said. “The new code addresses that situation.”
Instead of scrolling dozens of pages of ordinances and codes, a simple table summarizes all that text and makes determinations simple.
One zone that is going away will be the current MU-1 “Mixed Use District.” As the name implies, residential and commercial properties ended up next to each other. It began as one district and, as it grew, “caused long-term problems,” Kraenzel said.
“It got to be where it wasn’t commercial and it wasn’t residential,” he said. “It was a hybrid.”
Moving forward, properties in the current Mixed Use District will fall into either Downtown Residential or Neighborhood Commercial District.
Property owners can review the city’s plans and attend the Oct. 2 public hearing. Two items will be on the agenda: one for the zoning code and the other for the zoning map. City Council is not obligated to take action that night, although it is possible.