Industrial districts in New Braunfels may no longer be homes to new homes under a proposal the city will be studying.

During Monday evening’s City Council meeting, Chris Looney, planning and community development director, announced planning staff had several recommendations designed to help preserve industrially-zoned areas for industrial use. 

“That would not only protect the industrially zoned properties, ... but it would also protect the residential from being built in close proximity to uses that may impact them,” Looney said.

These recommendations come after a January joint council meeting with the planning commission during which the two bodies discussed the current short-term rental ordinance and industrial zoning protection.

Looney said to understand the need to protect industrial zoning, it’s important to know a brief history of zoning.

“The early practice of zoning was to create cumulative zoning districts,” Looney explained. “Where residential might have been allowed in residential districts, and commercial allowed residential and commercial, and for the industrial everything was allowed.” 

Later, when the automobile became bigger, there was more concern about industrial impacts on residential, he said. 

“It became apparent that some sort of separation of use was needed,” Looney said.

In New Braunfels specifically, the city had some industrial districts that allowed everything.

There are approximately 1,600 acres of land in New Braunfels that are zoned industrial but are undeveloped, Looney said. 

“So they’re available for industrial use — but they’re also available for those other uses that I mentioned; industrial, commercial, and residential,” Looney said. “Of those 1,600 only 468 of those acres do not have residential uses within 500 feet.”

That proximity is an issue for some industrial businesses that don’t want to be located near homes.

In other words, that’s bad for business for New Braunfels. To have a flourishing economy, it’s important to be able to attract industrial businesses.

Based on the joint workshop, planning staff recommends amending the city’s industrial districts to remove residential as an allowed use, Looney said. 

“We can prepare that with a simple code amendment, that we could take to the next planning commission meeting and then follow that up with City Council,” Looney said. 

Staff also recommends re-examining the city’s non-annexation agreements sprinkled throughout the area, Looney said.

“There are some areas in here that are ‘donut holes’ that are close to industrial zoned properties as well as our burgeoning industrial areas that also happen to be close to a lot of residential development, residential growth in our community,” Looney said. 

These areas are considered outside of the city limits. Whenever annexation occurred around these sites, non-annexation agreements were offered to these properties because they had yet to develop and the state requires extending non-annexation agreements, Looney said.

“So we’d recommend examining those non-annexation agreements, seeing if they’ve expired and what are the terms of the expiration,” Looney said.

Additional items staff recommends may take more time. 

Those include things such as requiring larger landscape buffers and setbacks.

In terms of annexation, staff recommends taking a look at areas outside the city that are adjacent to industrial districts because outside the city limits, they could be developed with anything, Looney said.

“If they’re close to industrial they may be concerned about residential developing in those — so should there be some annexation considerations,” he said. 

Perhaps a new zoning district like a business park district could be created, Looney suggested, or the city could rezone some existing locations within the city limits that are not zoned appropriately.

“And then finally just identifying new areas for industrial zoning whether those are newly annexed areas or other areas that haven’t developed yet and see whether or not it would be consistent with the comprehensive plan to be zoned industrial,” Looney said.

After Looney presented these recommendations to council, he offered a chance for questions. None were asked, and no actions were taken. 

“Thank you Mr. Looney, we certainly appreciate the direction,” said Mayor Barron Casteel.

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