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A large crowd was on hand at the Rockport Planning & Zoning Commission meeting Monday, July 19 to air their thoughts about the City’s proposed new Comprehensive Plan. The P&Z will recommend approval to the Rockport City Council - with two major changes.

Two hours and 15 minutes after the Rockport Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commission began its meeting Monday, July 19, the five commission members present voted unanimously to recommend the Rockport City Council approve the City’s amended Comprehensive Plan (CP) – with two major exceptions.

Those two exceptions, that received joyous approval from a majority of those in attendance, included the removal of all references to “mixed use” and “co-living”.

The full council will make its decision about the CP at its regular meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 27.

A large number of residents spoke against provisions in the CP, and a few spoke in favor of it.

(Note: Most of the points made for and against the CP as a whole, or parts of the CP, were similar to ones aired at the July 13 public hearing. That hearing lasted about one hour. A story about that meeting was published in the Saturday, July 17 edition of this newspaper.)

The development of the CP began shortly after Hurricane Harvey.

The biggest sticking point in the plan is mixed-use designations on the Future Land Use map. There is no mixed use zoning at this time, and those airing opposition to mixed use designation feared it would, in fact lead to such uses in the future, or if denied, lead to lawsuits the City would not win.

Two of the more controversial parcels of property designated mixed use - in South Rockport, and near the Harbor Oaks Subdivision - were removed from the CP prior to Monday’s P&Z meeting.

The P&Z is making the recommendation that all references to mixed-use designations be scrapped.

Members of the P&Z were somewhat divided regarding the mixed-use designation.

P&Z Chairman Ruth Davis said, “This (CP) is a roadmap. It will change.”

P&Z Commissioner Kim Hesley sought clarity in definitions, and assurances that the CP didn’t mean automatic rezoning. She also wanted to know how often the CP will be revisited, and when the first look at revisions will take place.

Rockport Director of Public Works and Development Services noted several times the CP does not mean the automatic rezoning of any property.

“All rezoning must go through the normal process,” he said. “There are no backdoor deals (with developers).”

Before the motion was made, that eventually passed, it was clarified all mixed-use designations had not been taken out of the CP. Only the ones in South Rockport and near Harbor Oaks had been removed prior to the P&Z meeting.

P&Z member Jim Rester asked how the Future Land Use Map comes into play (in future zoning decisions).

Donoho noted it identifies were residential and commercial corridors are most likely to be in the future.

He said the City, in its zoning practices, “transitions” between business zoning and residential zoning via other zoning designations, which serve as a buffer.

Kathy Kane said developers will use the CP to force undesirable change and growth.

“It is a binding guideline for how the city plans to grow,” she said. “Understand this plan will change our landscape. It is the starting point for all conversations between staff and developers. Do the right thing and recommend Council develop a plan that represents Rockport.”

There was also discussion about the designation of some areas for denser housing on smaller lots, providing areas where more people cold afford housing.

Jeff Hutt said cities that have high-density housing are not providing workforce housing.

“Look at the places that have high density (housing). Most of the people (workers) live outside the city and transport in,” he said.

City Manager Kevin Carruth said most City employees can’t afford to live here.

“Again, this document (CP) is what our residents said they wanted (working through the year-plus process),” he said. “Higher density and smaller houses is one way to get affordable housing.”

One man said his experience has been that changes in zoning correspond with an entity’s CP.

“You can’t just ignore the CP,” he said.

P&Z Member Warren Hassinger said he is concerned mixed-use zoning is not offered by the city at this time, but it is designated in the CP.

“Would it not make better sense to, when we modify the CP, then accommodate mixed use designations?” he asked.

Donoho told P&Z members, “If you want to make the recommendation to the council to take out all mixed use (in the CP), you can certainly do that.”

Hesley said she has a problem with the co-living designations, as well.

Donoho noted co-living meant shared amenities.

It became very apparent before the vote was taken that mixed use and co-living designations where not only unpopular to those in attendance, but also not well defined.

Prior to the motion being made, seconded, and approved unanimously, Donoho reiterated that nothing in the CP constitutes zoning, and nothing in the CP constitutes permission.

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