News

Knauf new city manager; city still working on complex zoning issue

Rezoning effort will involve hearings, public input, time

Knauf Knauf Kelvin Knauf, 54, of Conroe, is Rockdale's new city manager and the chances are 100 percent one of his first big tasks will be dealing with a zoning issue that won't go away.

City council members, after a Monday executive session, agreed to offer the job to Knauf. He accepted Tuesday morning and will be on the job June 29.

Also Monday, the council made some headway in a zoning issue that's dominated sessions for more than a month.

On a 3-2 vote, with Mayor John Shoemake breaking the tie, the council upheld a Planning & Zoning Board (P&Z) recommendation that Elaine Van Horn be denied a zoning change which would allow her to open an antique store at 614 Ackerman.

But the council immediately instructed the city staff to begin working on a plan to re-zone FM 487 (which includes Van Horn's proposed business),

FM 908 and East Belton Avenue to commercial. City manager From 2004-2008, Knauf was assistant city manager of Baytown, a large Houston suburb. He was previously city manager in Port Aransas (one year), Corinth (one year), Lago Vista (four years) and Spearman (six years). Knauf was previously assistant administrative analyst for

the City of Fort Worth, assistant city manager in Grapevine and support services administrator for the City of Arlington.

A native of Scott City, Kansas, he has bachelor of arts and masters of public administration degrees from the University of Kansas.

New business vs. process A 4-3 P&Z vote to deny Van Horn's request to change zoning for 614 Ackerman from single family residence to commercial was before the council as members worked their way through philosophical differences to hammer out some common ground.

Lon Williams, code enforcement of f icer and P& Z board member, said he felt the P&Z vote did not reflect a desire to hinder a business but to avoid "spot zoning, zoning changes by individual case," in the city.

"The majority voted to 'protect the process' while the minority voted to change it in favor of getting a new business for the city," Acting City Manager Randy Holly said.

Williams hinted the P&Z might see things differently if there was some direction from the council. "We weren't necessarily voting against business," he said. "We just didn't know what the plan was."

The P&Z sent out input forms to 16 persons owning property within 200 feet of the proposed antique store asking for input. Williams said five responses were received, one positive, three negative and one neutral.

Van Horn said she contacted all 16 persons and has now gathered 9 positive responses, including hers.

Shoemake said those responses could not be considered by the council because they were received after the deadline established by the city's planning and zoning process for public hearings.

Shoemake, Mayor Pro Tem Allan Miller and Councilman Tom Fisher said they were under the impression all of FM 487 (Ackerman) north to the city limits had been zoned commercial earlier in the decade.

"That's just not in the final map," the mayor said.

"There's not a more pro-business person on this council than me," Shoemake said. "But I've got to come down on the side of protecting the process. Any time we vacate that we're going to go back where we were four years ago."

Miller ultimately agreed. "I think we should preserve the integrity of the process," Miller said. "If we don't we're just asking these people (P&Z board members) to waste their time serving this city."

Miller made the motion to accept the P&Z board recommendation and deny the zoning change. Council member Gerry Offield seconded.

The motion tied 2-2 with Miller and Offield voting yes while Fisher and Griffin Rogers voted against. Councilman Willie Phillips was absent and Councilman J. T. Talley abstained as he lives within 200 feet of the proposed new business.

That left it up to Shoemake. "I've already told you how I'm going to vote," the mayor said.

Miller immediately tried to make a motion to begin re-zoning any areas the council felt needed to be addressed.

Holly pointed out re -zoning was not an agenda item for Monday's special session but the council could direct the city staff to immediately begin work on re-zoning with the matter to be placed on the next council agenda.

Williams said the process would probably take 30 to 45 days, would require hearings and input letters mailed to all persons in the areas which might be designated as new commercial zones.

"You, of course, can still have residences of all kinds in a commercial zone," he said. "But you can't have a business in a singlefamily zone."


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