The Midlothian City Council voted Tuesday night after a pair of public hearings to deny a redesignation of an approximately 67-acre tract of land in the city’s comprehensive plan for future land use, and also came up one vote short in a follow-up motion to rezone the same property.
The property, located east of McAlpin Road and south of Mission Court and Timber Rock Lane, is called Stone Hollow Estates in its preliminary plat and was to be subdivided into lots of no less than one acre. However, the lot sizes run counter to the property’s present designation in the city comprehensive plan as Rural Module, which requires a minimum of three acres for development.
The denial vote was 4-2, with councilmen Wayne Sibley and Justin Coffman voting to change the designation and councilman Clark Wickliffe recusing himself.
The zoning matter, which is separate from the comprehensive plan, would have changed the tract from Agricultural to Single Family Residential. It received more council support but required a supermajority of six votes to pass, and councilman Art Pierard voted no and Wickliffe once again recused, causing the motion to fail.
A change of designation in the comprehensive plan from Rural Module to Country Module, which envisions lot sizes of 1-to-3 acres, was requested for the tract. The property adjoins two other neighborhoods under the Country Module designation, but at issue was where the line between the two modules should be drawn. City planning manager Marcos Narvaez told the council that the change in future-use designation was being sought to keep the comprehensive plan consistent.
Pierard raised the possibility of boundary “creep” where the dividing line between the two modules keeps getting pushed farther south, and expressed concern about setting a precedent.
Narvaez said the comprehensive plan, which was approved in 2018, was created with the idea of preserving a “green belt” to ensure that if the entire area were to be heavily developed, there would still be a buffer between it and the countryside.
Mayor Richard Reno came out in favor of preserving the green belt, saying the council needed to send a message that the green belt needed to be protected.
City attorney Ted Gorfida told the council that the comprehensive plan is a guide and is not related to zoning, which is the final determination of what a property will become.
“You would like your zoning to be in conformance with your comp plan, but if this does not pass, you can still move forward with your zoning case,” he said. “Zoning is what is going to be on that property, although it may be in conflict with a provision of your comp plan, there’s no cause of action or legal argument or law that states you must change your comp plan.”
After the city notified nearby residents and received in response 15 letters in opposition to the requested change, the city Planning and Zoning Commission voted 5-1 to deny the change on Sept. 17.
The land is owned by Mack Seeton, who addressed the council. Seeton said he was having to sell his land because of his recent health, but is keeping his house adjoining the tract and is granting an easement to allow access to McAlpin Road.
All council members were present.
The council unanimously passed its consent agenda, which are items that council members consider non-controversial.
Those items included: a resolution approving the Waxahachie Daily Light and Midlothian Mirror as papers of record for the city for fiscal year 2019-2020 and resolutions authorizing the Fall Wine and Arts Festival Nov. 9; the city Christmas tree lighting ceremony Dec. 2; the Southern Star Christmas Celebration and Parade on Dec. 7; and Merry Movie Night on Dec. 13, all in accordance with special event permits.
The investment policies for the City of Midlothian, Midlothian Economic Development, Midlothian Community Development Corporation and Midlothian Development Authority were approved in the consent agenda as well.
The council also OK’d a temporary concrete batch plant for Azalea Hollow for the purpose of paving public roads.
In other items
• The council heard a quarterly update from Patterson and Associates on the city’s various investment portfolios and learned the city has gained about $2.347 million in total interest and dividends over the 2018-2019 fiscal year, an increase of about $851,000 from the previous fiscal year due to higher interest rates;
• The body voted unanimously to purchase a vacuum unit for the city’s water and sewer department at a cost of $430,258;
• The council voted to submit Tom Abrams, Ken Marks, Joe Pitts, John Tabor and Jan Davis as nominees for the Ellis County Appraisal District board of directors foro 2020-2021;
• The council recognized Public Works employee Thurman Ross for his service to the city;
• Reno announced that Tuesday’s meeting was being recorded as a test run for future live broadcasts and that the next meeting may be the first to be webcast live;
• No action was taken following an executive session.