Weatherford Planner Lidon Pearce highlighted city corridor recommended improvements during a public meeting last week.
“In 2010 they started a corridor plan for Fort Worth Highway, so I looked at this to see where we’re at in 2020 — it’s been 10 years — and see where we want to go in the city,” Pearce said during the joint public meeting between the Weatherford city council and planning and zoning commission.
The overall recommendations were to restrict uses within three zones of the U.S. 180 corridor; create a separate zoning district, Corridor Commercial, for U.S. 180 east to Bankhead Highway, Palo Pinto Street west to Bowie Drive and South Main Street to Interstate 20; reduce front setbacks to move parking to rear areas and encourage foot traffic; require 12-foot monument signage instead of pole signs; and utilize parapets/western style facades for buildings in the U.S. 180 corridor.
“I think anybody that drives down [U.S.] 180 sees a lot of automobile uses, so we can deemphasize that by moving parking to the rear or the side of the building, moving setbacks and buildings forward closer to the road to hopefully encourage foot traffic, provide nicer landscaping and maybe put more of the less desirable view stuff kind of in the back,” Pearce said. “We want to encourage retail, where people are going to come, and restaurants — a destination place — promoting public art murals to promote not only a business but to beautify Weatherford as well.”
Weatherford Mayor Paul Paschall said they will need to be careful with murals.
“I would be real careful about that because I can promise you, what I paint or draw I may think is wonderful but nobody in here is going to like it and so I think we need to be really careful on where that’s allowed, how those people are approved — does the rendering have to be approved? What’s the qualification technique?” Paschall said. “Of course we don’t want to take away people’s ability to market their businesses and be successful, but we also have to be respectful.”
In revitalizing some of the vacant areas along the corridor, Weatherford’s Director of Development and Neighborhood Services Kaleb Kentner said food trucks could be a good idea.
“We’ve had communities that have allowed a food truck to come in and they’re wildly successful,” Kentner said. “Then they move into a brick and mortar, often times they’ll move into that block they were on that’s vacant and dilapidated because they already have their customers coming to that location and so it’s a good way to reactivate some of those areas that right now are badly neglected.”
Kentner said they could also implement a registration process to keep buildings from becoming dilapidated to which Planning and Zoning member Allison Baker said it would be wonderful to look into.
“I’ve actually done a lot of research on making building ordinances and registration and I think that’s a fabulous idea,” Baker said. “It’s keeping expectations for any of those buildings — you can’t just put boards over the windows, you can’t have knocked out windows and you have to actually replace them, and if you don’t there’s a fine associated with it for so many days — and then registering it specifically to police or fire so we make sure there’s no vagrancy. If we could look into that, that would be wonderful.”
Because of the passing of House Bill 2439 in 2019, which prohibits a city from limiting the use of certain building materials or products in residential or commercial structures, Pearce said the city will have to be creative in setting a tone for new construction. He said one way to accomplish that could be to establish a minimum building height where new businesses could have a front facade with a squared western style via parapets — a protective wall along the edge or a roof or balcony — or an architectural arch or design.
“That would be one way that as staff we could kind of keep the design fluid throughout the corridor as we develop new businesses,” Pearce said. “The goal is to make the corridor nice and it’s not only going to create a better name for Weatherford, but also help the businesses that are there.”
On the topic of sidewalk connectivity to increase foot traffic, Weatherford City Manager James Hotopp said the construction of the new police station, which will be on U.S. 180 across from the Parker County Sheriff’s Office, will help in the continuation of sidewalks.
“It’s no secret that we’re in the process of designing and building a new police station on Fort Worth Highway, we’re going to continue that sidewalk straight across that site, so there’s other pieces of sidewalks and it is sometimes fractured when you move through there, but as things redevelop we’re going to do the same thing there [with sidewalks],” Hotopp said. “The plan is to move forward with the plan, so that’s the reason we’re going through and doing things like this is to have a plan and move forward.”
Pearce said the decision to be made is whether to create a new corridor vision plan or to incorporate the recommendations into the zoning.
“The biggest thing as a city is do we want staff to update the 2010 to a 2020 corridor plan? Or do we want to put this into the zoning regulations? And then the next question is really do we want to include additional corridors,” Pearce said. “I think in 2010, Fort Worth Highway was a great place to start but we have Main Street, Palo Pinto, somebody mentioned Santa Fe, [and] you could even talk about North/South Bowie.”
At least two public hearings on the U.S. 180 corridor vision will take place at future council and planning and zoning commission meetings.