BEEVILLE – Those funny-looking buildings that keep popping up in places where they probably should not be in the city may be a lot harder to bring in if Beeville’s Planning and Zoning Commission has its way.
That was the topic of conversation when commissioners Louis Longoria Jr., John Salinas, Jody Alaniz, Erie Head and Shelia Poorman met at City Hall Monday evening.
City Manager Jack Hamlett introduced a former associate, retired Seguin zoning director Don Smith.
Smith said he had dealt with the problem of non-conforming and mobile homes inside Seguin for years before he retired.
Smith said it is easier to keep such structures out of the city than it is to get rid of them once they have been moved into town.
Currently, if someone wants to move a non-confirming or manufactured home into the city, there is little to prevent that from happening.
A change to the existing zoning ordinance, No. 1114-B, could allow non-conforming buildings into the city but keep those structures out until they had undergone some renovations.
Smith showed commissioners a photo of an example of a non-conforming building. It was a boxed structure with no windows and no porch.
Smith recommended amending the ordinance to require that anyone wanting to move a building into the city present detailed plans for making improvements to the structure.
He said it also would be important to make sure that at least 80 percent of the improvements, like foundations, wiring and steps to the porch, be completed before the city issues a permit to allow the building to be moved into town.
Hamlett said the ordinance could give the property owner a set period of time, probably six months, to complete the improvements, or the owner could be taken to municipal court.
The punishment for disobeying the ordinance would be up to the municipal judge.
He suggested that the judge could impose a fine on the violator, possibly on a daily basis until the improvements are made.
Hamlett also recommended that the city establish a building standards commission to assure compliance.
The city manager said an amendment to the existing ordinance would give the city staff a way to prohibit double-wide mobile homes or manufactured homes and non-conforming structures from being moved into the city.
As for mobile or manufactured homes, those structures already can only be moved into the city if they are to be located in one of a few places in town zoned for such structures.
Hamlett and Jones pointed out that the city staff plays an important role in keeping non-conforming structures out of the city.
When the buildings are set up on property in town, the owners must have water, sewer and electric connections made to the structure.
That gives the building inspector and code compliance officer an opportunity to take action. In most cases, the owner can be made to remove the structure from the city because bringing it into town would be a violation of an ordinance.
Commissioner Longoria made a motion to work up an amended ordinance and send it to the City Council for final approval. The motion was seconded by Head, and it passed unanimously.
Before adjourning, Smith told the commissioners that they need to consider changing their zoning laws to correct a flaw in the existing regulations.
He said the existing document allows a “pyramid effect” whereby structures zoned for more restrictive parts of town are allowed to be located in zones that are not as restricted.
For instance, a business cannot be located in a residential zone, but a residence can be located in a business zone.
“In the 1920s and ’30s, when zoning laws were first being passed, that was popular,” Smith said. But that creates problems, most often with parking.
“Most commercial businesses don’t want residences right up next to them,” Smith said.
He recommended amending current ordinances to “create a clear dividing line between districts.”
Smith said it is often common to find professional businesses, like architects, attorneys and others, working out of their homes.
Also, Hamlett pointed out that neighborhood day care centers are allowed to locate in residential areas if they keep fewer than six children.
“So you think right now Beeville’s in the ’20s and ’30s?” Alaniz asked Smith.
“Right now you are,” Smith answered.
And he reminded the commissioners that it may take a while to bring the city up to date because so many non-complying structures are grandfathered.
However, he assured the commission that once a property changes hands, the city can force the new owner to comply with the zoning laws.
“Beeville’s not a tiny, little town,” Smith said. “I mean you’ve got what, 14,000 people?”
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.