Weatherford City Council and the Planning and Zoning Commission gave direction to city staff on development preferences during a joint meeting on Tuesday evening.
The meeting follows up on topics related to residential development and density that the two bodies discussed in an October work session. Weatherford Development and Neighborhood Services Director Kaleb Kentner led the two groups through the discussion of five topics — a housing inventory study, parking, landscaping, zoning and de-emphasis on garages.
Ultimately, the council and the commission agreed to prioritize removing cars from parking on the streets, lengthening driveways and considering garage entry through alleys and rear-entry for small lots; increased tree caliber, including a list of preferred species, tree location and shrubbery; deemphasizing garages by putting more focus on front doors and porches; and updating the general plan map and zoning maps, with focus on lot sizes in districts.
Zoning district options would be available for consideration in about 90 days, Kentner said.
Council and the planning commission decided to proceed with a housing inventory study, which takes into account the city’s housing options and characteristics about the housing. The city will also pursue a housing market study that looks at the monetary value of homes. The studies are expected to be complete between six months and a year, Kentner said.
“It’ll actually tell us the breakdown of where our markets are, in value-wise, and then we can look at our housing inventory, and we can see how many houses we built this past year, and that’ll help us determine where we need to go in the future,” Kentner said.
Mayor Pro Tem Heidi Wilder pointed out that Weatherford’s minimum lot size for a property zoned R1 one-family residential is significantly smaller when compared to Hudson Oaks, Willow Park and Aledo. R1 homes in Weatherford are currently supposed to be a minimum of 6,500 square feet while minimums for the neighboring cities range from 10,000 to 40,000 square feet, though these cities also have higher median incomes than Weatherford.
Kentner said it is possible that when the zoning regulations were changed in about 2005 that city leaders didn’t expect developers to build homes at the smallest size.
“I think the optics of how we’re looking at things as city leaders is different in 2020 than it was in 2005,” Mayor Paul Paschall said. “We were trying to attract growth to our community and so sometimes when you’re in that position, you maybe decrease size requirements and other things to draw that market here, and now we are in a situation or environment where it’s a bit different, and that’s the reason we’re here.”
Wilder said she would like to see an appropriate increase in one-family and two-family residential zoning lot sizes that is more comparable to the neighboring cities.
“Those are who our competitors are,” Wilder said. “It’s presumptuous to assume that the builder is going to use every available space to build a big house. You can build a nice medium-sized house. To me, a backyard for my dogs is more important than a house almost.”
Council member Jeff Robinson said the city should have a variety of lot sizes, and smaller ones may appeal better to the younger generations.
“What we see so often is the ones with smaller lots wind up being a more simple basic home, lower-income, and it doesn’t have to be that way,” Robinson said. “If we can put some of these things in that we can get a nicer project on a smaller lot, I think it would be attractive to some.”