Annetta tables building ordinance changes after public speaks out

The Town of Annetta City Council and Planning and Zoning Commission held a special meeting Thursday night and heard from Planning Consultant Karen Mitchell., left, as well as the public about changes to its building ordinance. The council tabled the motion for further review. 

The Town of Annetta City Council and Planning and Zoning Commission held a joint special called meeting Thursday night.

After reading the documents and hearing from residents in a public hearing, council tabled a motion to make revisions to zoning ordinance 192 in relation to accessory buildings until they can review it further and make some adjustments. 

The changes were for accessory dwelling units and accessory structures on size, location and construction material. 

“Like any other city, you start looking and finding what the glitches are as you start administering that ordinance and in this particular case, people that wanted to build storage buildings, storage sheds and accessory structures came in to city hall in order to do that and the red flags started going up because the maximum square footage you were allowed to have was 450-square feet,” Annetta’s Planning Consultant Karen Mitchell said. “So the question was, if I have 10 acres am I only going to be allowed to have 450 square feet? I was directed to start working with the planning and zoning commission and the city council and we have had numerous meetings and work sessions since March [2018] and we’ve gone back and forth.”

The structures are broken up into two categories — accessory dwelling units and accessory structures.

A dwelling unit includes a small, independent residential unit located on the lot as a stand-alone, like a guest house or tiny house.

“Accessory dwelling units would be located behind the primary structure and can be no larger than 500-square feet or 25 percent of the the lot, whichever is less,” Mitchell said. “On lots greater than two acres, the town council may grant an increase to the maximum square footage of the structure. Accessory dwellings shall be constructed of the same material as the primary structure and shall have the same roof pitch. They shall not exceed one-story in height, nor shall they exceed 35-feet in height.”

An accessory structures are barns and stables, which can only be granted on properties with more than two acres; detached garages; storage buildings; hobby shops; swimming pools; and cabanas, if they don’t have a kitchen or bathroom. 

“All properties shall adhere to the maximum impervious coverage requirement [25 percent of the lot or 500 square feet, whichever is less; and a structure that water cannot get through] and shall not be permitted without a primary use or structure with the exception of agriculture buildings and structures only on lots and tracts with an area greater than 10 acres,” Mitchell said. “In such case, a minimum of 100-foot setback is required from all adjacent street frontages.”

According to the ordinance, all accessory structures will not be allowed to be in front of the primary structure unless there’s an approved Special Use Permit.

“We’re trying to look at every circumstance and provide a procedure if they don’t fit within the laws and if they don’t, they can come in and request and SUP,” Mitchell said. “We’re trying make sure this doesn’t go to the Zoning Board of Adjustment and in every circumstance it would be able to come before the planning and zoning commission and city council.”

Materials to be used depend on whether the structure can be seen from the roadways. 

However, residents expressed concerns about the requirements during the public hearing. 

“I think a lot of people moved out here with the idea that if I don’t have deed restrictions, then I don’t have to worry about a lot of these very limiting guidelines that you’re putting forward today,” Mike Brasovan said. “The last time I was here it was talked about that there would be different rules for five acres and different rules for 10 acres and that made a lot more sense to me. I should have kept a better eye on it, but now that I’m aware of it I’m here to voice my concern.”

Resident Tim Pierce strongly suggested the council not vote on the changes at this time and asked to tweak some of the revisions and then come back and approve. 

Additional residents spoke out about size requirements, materials that have to be used and other changes being proposed within the ordinance.

“If you want to build the town the way you want it, you have to give information, you have to participate so we don’t have these explode at the end and I’m saying P&Z approved all of this, everyone was unanimous on this. They did it on their own because there wan’t a whole lot of feedback,” Council Member Place 3 Mark Wohl said. “We make the best decisions we can based on Texas law. You people can design the city how you want, but you have to do it by being here. All of this has been going on for years and now everybody shows up.”

Ultimately, it was decided the council should table the motion until they could review the changes closer and possibly make some adjustments. 

“[Thursday] night, everybody won. The citizens had an opportunity to see the challenges in adopting zoning regulations and hear of the complexities of effective zoning law as applied across a town rather than just how certain aspects might affect them personally or for their own, unique properties,” Mayor Bruce Picknard said. “That was a great accomplishment for me personally and although disappointed that it took innuendos, accusations and complaints from uninformed residents on social media to actually gather a crowd and come participate, the bottom line is that they were there and the discourse was generally respectful for everyone.”

Picknard said tabling the items will allow for more participation, but due to the timing requirements of the planning and zoning commission, the next public hearing will be held at the March 14 meeting. 

“The draft language will be discussed openly with input from the citizens received and hopefully with some consensus for incorporation,” Picknard said. “This would then move to a public hearing at the planned March 14 combined planning and zoning/city council meeting. At that meeting, an attempt will be made to adopt these changes. Again, these things take time and state law sets the schedule for notice requirements.”

Picknard said zoning law is very complicated and they spend “incredible amounts of time studying and absorbing the materials in order to remain compliant with the law and still be effective in any application of ordinance.”

The planning and zoning commission will discuss the item at their next meeting at 7 p.m. on Feb. 14.