The process

Compromise of sorts should yield better thought-out zoning plan

It's been a frustrating couple of months for a Rockdale woman who in good faith has been trying to open a high-quality antique business on a North Ackerman Street (FM 487) location.

It now appears Elaine Van Horn is at least another couple of months away from being able to do that but after some tough decision-making and more than a little soul searching by the Rockdale City Council, there's a clearer picture of just what the zoning process will eventually be.

Mrs. Van Horn's proposed antique shop is literally just two doors away from a part of Ackerman that's already zoned commercial. In fact, much of the city council thought all of the street had already been made a commercial zone all the way to the city limits.

Not so. And since it hadn't, the city's process (remember that word) kicked in. The Planning & Zoning Board (P&Z) contacted close neighbors, as required by the city's regulations. Only five of 16 responded, with one in favor, three opposed and one neutral.

The P&Z board had to decide whether to "spot zone" (change its zoning regulations on a case-by-case basis) or turn down the application and "preserve the (zoning) process," a phrase that was heard a lot when the matter came before the city council last week.

The board voted 4-3 to preserve the process and deny the zoning change.

When the matter came up before the full council it was obvious most of members were conflicted, wanting to accommodate a new business—who wouldn't in 2009 Rockdale?—but were wary of torpedoing what they see as the first process to ever bring some order to zoning.

The council backed the P&Z board but it did something else, too. It instructed the city staff to immediately begin the "process" to re-zone all of FM 487 (including the site of Mrs. Van Horn's proposed store) and FM 908, along with East Belton Avenue, which intersects US 77, to commercial.

That's the way it should have been all along and there certainly appears to be a majority of the council ready to tackle what won't be an easy process to make it happen. Good for them.

Where does that leave Mrs. Van Horn? Still waiting, through no fault of her own. Let's hope she can wait a while longer.—M.B.

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2009-06-25 digital edition

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