City of Waco approves overlay expansion for Baylor University

Editor’s note: The original report of this city council meeting published Wednesday was inaccurate. The Baylor Lariat regrets this error. Below is the correct information.

Waco City Council unanimously passed Ordinance 544 on Tuesday night, which will expand the college and university overlay to the area bound by University Parks and East Loop 340 Access Road.

The College and University Neighborhoods District Ordinance will expand zoning restrictions to impede student housing development in that area. The new zone, called Zone Three, expands upon the housing restrictions currently in place in the areas bound by Third Street and Oakwood Avenue and 18th Street and Jack Kultgen Expressway. The new regulations will restrict building height, architectural features and parking requirements.

Council members held a work session meeting before the voting took place in order to discuss the piece of legislation. The ordinance has propagated a great deal of concerns from residents and businesses of Waco. City Council members discussed these issues and possible resolutions.

The expanded overlay and addition of Zone 3 will include 12th Street in its regulations. The Planning Department is suggesting an exemption to be put in place for non-student housing for industrial and agricultural infrastructure.

“Fourth and 12th Street show no obvious boundary line, but there is a lot of development along 12th Street that is not associated with student development,” City Planning director, Clint Peters said.

One exemption that may be extended to industrial buildings is the stipulation of the number of openings on new development. The newly passed ordinance will require that 30 percent of newly constructed buildings to be made up of window and door openings. Peters said that since the 12th Street area stretches so far from campus, the regulations on industrial buildings just doesn’t make sense.

Another specific problem addressed during discussion of the ordinance was the recent complaints brought forth by Waco city residents.

At a Plan Commission meeting discussing this piece of legislation in August, residents introduced a long list of complaints regarding Baylor students’ living habits. The residents specifically criticized the many trash cans left rolling in the streets when students left town for summer break. Homeowners challenged the council’s lack of student etiquette enforcement.

Council member Alice Rodriguez reminded council members of this issue, and the need to address the problem.

“The trash cans in the middle of the streets is true. I went down Second and Third Street and those streets are narrow. When those trash cans stay out there you have to pull over to let someone pass you by,” Rodriguez said.

Another Council member, Wilbert Austin Sr., also confirmed Rodriguez’s experience when driving down Third Street. He said he was over there a month ago while school was still out of session and had to pull over to let another car pass due to a trash can in the middle of the street.

“Because they [students] just didn’t take them in,” Austin said.

Both Rodriguez and Austin questioned Peters as to who would be enforcing the collection of trash cans and tidy streets in that area.

City manager Dale Fisseler assured both members that they have departments looking into the problem and developing solutions.

“Solid waste and code compliance will have to work together in order to enforce these issues,” Fisseler said.

Council Members unanimously agreed that they would pass the current ordinance as is written but revisit the legislation in the next meeting to include specific and needed exemptions via resolution.

“We didn’t do a good job in zone one and two because it got ahead of us, and what we are trying to do now is stay ahead of the development and protect homeowners in that area,” Rodriguez said.