Commercial development has been a hot topic in the city for many years. Over the past three years, there has been a lot of concern expressed over a proposed congregate care facility. I’ve been asked about my thoughts on this topic and feel it is important to dive into our city code as I explain my reasons for opposing this project.
When making decisions on development, the city needs to follow the General Plan, Zoning Ordinance, and Design Guidelines. According to our zoning map, the area in question is zoned SC-1 Commercial. Our zoning ordinance states:
The SC-1 zone is established to provide an area in which the primary use of land is for commercial and service uses to serve the needs of the community and surrounding area and is located in the portion of the city most appropriately suited for the purpose. It is intended that development within the zone shall be characterized by a harmonious grouping of commercial stores and shops and essential ancillary uses (parking, signs, landscape features) architecturally designed and functioning as an integrated unit.
Our General Plan states:
This zone [SC-1] provides for commercial and retail uses within the community…The zone allows the community to better balance the tax base, and provides residents with employment opportunities, retail goods, and office space….Cedar Hills will encourage commercial development which will directly benefit the residents of the community.
Looking at the Design Guidelines shows this area is divided into subzones:
The portion of the proposed congregate care facility is located in the Mixed-Use Office/Retail subzone. According to the Design Guidelines:
The Mixed-Use Office/Retail designation is intended to accommodate less intense uses than found in the Neighborhood Retail designation. The lower intensity may be due to size, scale, and height of the structure or due to less-intense land use.
The Design Guidelines also state:
The City of Cedar Hills values the tranquil environment that currently exists and would like to preserve the small town atmosphere.
With regards to development, it states that:
Considerations shall include density, diversity, and design.
My concern with the proposed congregate care facility is that I don’t believe it meets the intent of the zone, or the ordinances and guidelines in place that clearly indicate what type of development is allowed in that zone. As it is a residential facility, the property will be taxed at the lower residential rate of 55% of the value of the building instead of the commercial rate of 100%. It does not meet the intent of balancing the tax base and providing retail goods or services to the community. The height and density of the building do not meet the definition of less intense use as the developer is proposing 300 units, which has the potential for 600+ residents.
I feel our zoning ordinances, General Plan, and Design Guidelines are very clear as to what type of development should be permitted on this property. I believe that any proposed development should meet the intent of the zone and our ordinances. While I recognize it may take some time to get the type of commercial our zoning laws intend, I also believe we should be patient and do it right so that our community benefits from the development.