In October, City of Round Rock Planning and Development Services Department staff accepted the Current Planning Award at the 2014 American Planning Association Texas Chapter State Planning Conference in Frisco, Texas. The City received the award in recognition of its new Downtown Mixed-Use Zoning Districts, which were adopted in July 2013.
For the past several years, the Round Rock City Council has made revitalization of downtown a primary strategic goal. This process started with the adoption of the Downtown Master Plan in 2010, which served as a guide for future growth but recognized the possibility of changing market conditions.
The Council’s desire is to create an authentic downtown that is an exciting community destination. To fulfill this goal, the City adopted the new zoning districts to allow for mixed-use development so that residents can live, work and play in an active, pedestrian-friendly environment. The creation of the regulations was an extensive process undertaken by staff that involved significant public outreach and input prior to adoption.
Prior to the implementation of mixed-use zoning, downtown consisted of a mixture of traditional commercial, office and single-family residential zoning districts. This permitted incompatible uses like used car lots and gas stations next to or across the street from homes. On top of that, the development regulations of commercial and office zoning districts made new projects extremely difficult. Required components such as on-site parking, landscaping, compatibility buffers, and setbacks occupy a lot of land, and most downtown lots are very small.
For City planning staff, the goal of the project was to make user-friendly zoning regulations that combined the form-based design standards recommended in the 2010 Downtown Master Plan with the City’s traditionally formatted zoning districts within the City’s Code of Ordinances. Staff created new mixed-use zoning districts to encourage sensible, compatible downtown redevelopment. The new zoning allows only those uses appropriate for a compact, walkable downtown; prohibits the less pedestrian-friendly ones; and establishes development standards that maximize lot usage while maintaining compatibility with neighboring properties.
The project resulted in the adoption of three mixed-use districts of varying intensities and with varying design standards. City Council simultaneously rezoned over 400 parcels downtown to one of these districts. These three comprehensive mixed-use districts work together to facilitate the development of a vibrant and inviting downtown. The new zoning, combined with significant public investment, has dramatically increased interest in private downtown development. To date, more than 20 development projects have utilized or are proposed under the new standards thanks in large part to the flexibility of use and design afforded to downtown property owners.