P&Z recommends UDC changes on duplexes, alcohol sales

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By SHELLY WILKISON

The City’s Planning & Zoning Commission paved the way Tuesday for more lenient permitting for duplexes within the city limits.

Following a public hearing where no one addressed the body, the Commission voted unanimously to recommend the City Council allow duplexes as a permitted use in the C-2 downtown district.

Currently, duplexes are allowed under a Conditional Use Permit, a more restrictive permit that requires prior approval by the City Council. Planning Director Jim Bechtol told the Commission Tuesday that lifting the conditional restriction will “encourage additional affordable, mixed-use density within the downtown area. We’re trying to take the subjectiveness out of duplex zoning.”

Bechtol said it appeared the conditional use permit requirement had been part of Liberty Hill’s Unified Development Code since the town was incorporated in 1999 and borrowed codes from another city as a starting place.

“Why go through boards and commissions to do a duplex when the UDC can give the staff the ability to make decisions,” he said. “This (change) will help us grow our population.”

On Monday, the City Council approved a preliminary plat for Liberty Place, a subdivision of 22 duplex homes on Loop 332 and Carl Shipp. Bechtol said the Commission’s recommendation to lift the conditional use permitting would allow the development to proceed without the additional permitting requirements.

He clarified that the change would not preclude developers from coming to Planning & Zoning for plat approval on proposed projects.

Prior to voting to recommend the change to Council, Commissioner Chris Pezold said he had some reservations.

“I’m all for letting people do what they want to do with their property, but this worries me a little,” Pezold said. “I’m pro-development, but a little apprehensive.”

The 4.05-acre Liberty Place site will have numerous duplex homes, which Pezold said concerned him.

Chairman Clyde Davis said as more apartments are built in the city, duplexes should also be an option.

“This is really a business decision in my opinion,” Bechtol said. “To get more people in the downtown area at night, especially if we want to create an entertainment destination in downtown. We’re trying to liven up downtown to make it a destination.”

Commissioner Bill Chapman questioned whether the change would allow a duplex to be built on a lot between two single family homes. Bechtol said it would be permitted.

“There are still building code requirements. This is not a free for all,” Bechtol said. “But this will help Liberty Hill be a walkable community.”

Also Tuesday, the Commission held a public hearing on a cleanup amendment to the UDC regarding sales of alcohol near schools, churches or hospitals.

While no one testified during the hearing, Bechtol said the proposed change removes language that is in conflict with state rules on the issue. He said the amendment is needed to alleviate current and future conflicts in the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code.

“This is about a business wanting to locate near a school,” he said. Commissioner Chapman, who owns property for sale near a school, recused himself from the discussion and the vote.

Bechtol said state law restricts the sale of alcohol within 1,000 feet of a school, church or hospital. The existing city ordinance has a 300-feet restriction.

Following the public hearing, the Commission voted 3-0 to recommend the Council accept the change.

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