P&Z rejects electronic sign on U.S. 67 North

Commission denies proposal for large electronic billboard despite outspoken support from business community

Bill Spinks
Midlothian Mirror
This rendering shows an electronic message center that was proposed at 1630 North U.S. Highway 67. The Midlothian Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously denied the request last week.

Two items took up the majority of commissioners’ time during last Tuesday’s meeting of the Midlothian Planning and Zoning Commission at Midlothian City Hall.

An amendment to a planned development ordinance for a property at 1630 North U.S. Highway 67 was denied unanimously; while a specific-use permit for Gerdau Steel’s heat treatment facility at 3351 South Wyatt Road was approved unanimously with added conditions.

The U.S. 67 request was for an “electronic message center” located on the grounds of a mini-warehouse and storage facility to be used as a billboard for off-premise concerns. A previous request for a billboard sign at that site was denied in 2014. The proposed height for the latest ask was 35 feet, with 429 square feet of signage.

City planning director Trenton Robertson said any sign located on property within the city must be used for advertising for the business on that property. The proposed sign violates numerous city specifications and staff recommended denial, Robertson said. One non-conforming static billboard still exists in the city that was grandfathered-in. Robertson confirmed.

Storage owner Doug Hunt pledged that the message center would be restricted to local businesses, but Robertson said there are no ordinances to that effect guaranteeing that restriction. Midlothian Chamber of Commerce CEO Laura Terhune and Chamber member Ross Weaver also spoke in support of Hunt and the message center.

On the Gerdau matter, the facility falls wholly within the city’s “industrial module” in the city’s comprehensive plan and is already zoned as Heavy Industrial. City planning manager Marcos Narvaez said the facility will operate 24-7 and will expand in the future to include four total buildings on site.

South Wyatt Road would need to be improved between the northernmost entrance and the U.S. 67 access road. A 35-foot-tall monument sign is planned for the entrance, but provisions restrict signs at 25 feet.

In its approval, the commission excluded staff recommendations including sidewalks along rights-of-way, a total of 56 parking spaces and fencing that is consistent with the zoning ordinance (masonry or wrought iron). Gerdau seeks to use 8-foot cyclone fencing that matches the surrounding solar farm under construction.

All existing buildings on the site will be demolished, including the former Safe Tire facility that famously caught fire in December 1995 and again in January 2015 and is still listed as a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site.

All seven commission members were present.

Other items

• A preliminary plat of a 43.06-acre property on the northeast corner of the intersection of Walnut Grove Road and U.S. 287 was approved.

• The commission adopted a list of 2022 regular monthly meeting dates, and postponed the planned Dec. 21 regular meeting date so as not to conflict with the Christmas holiday. Meetings will continue to be held on the third Tuesday of each month.

• Two special exceptions at 2010 Starwashed Drive for drive access onto a major collector (Walter Stephenson Road) and allowance of not meeting minimum driveway spacing requirements were granted. The property is an existing single-family home that will be repurposed into a youth center for Harvest Hill Church across the street.

• An urban village planned development district at 417 West Avenue F was amended to allow a newly-remodeled carriage house on the property to be used for office space. A related hold-harmless agreement for parking space along 20 feet of right-of-way on West Avenue F will move on to the City Council for approval.

• A specific-use permit for mini-warehouse storage uses for a 3.057-acre property located 300 feet south of U.S. 287 between Shady Grove Road and Plainview Road was approved. Narvaez said the 3-story structure will have 90,000 square feet of storage space, and conforms with the city’s “regional module” under the comprehensive plan. Narvaez said the facility will only be accessible from the eastbound lanes due to the Texas Department of Transportation’s desire to eliminate all crossovers in this area.

• A development and use ordinance for a 167.3-acre tract on the southeast corner of Gifco Road and Quarry Road was continued by request to the January P&Z meeting.

• The city comprehensive plan was updated to remove four proposed thoroughfares: a portion of Weatherford Road from its intersection with U.S. 67 on the south to its intersection with Miller Road on the north; a portion of north/south Wyatt Road between East Wyatt Road on the north and U.S. 67 on the south; a portion of Frances Lane; and a portion of the north/south alignment of Skinner Road from its intersection with FM 875 to its intersection with the east/west alignment of Skinner Road.