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Council contracts business district to expand business

The Central Business District in Jacksboro just got a lot smaller. The Jacksboro City Council voted to reduce the restrictively zoned area at a special called meeting Tuesday evening.

The Planning and Zoning Commission has been weighing the option for months. The area of the CBD encompassed several more blocks prior to the vote Tuesday creating a smaller district bordered by North, East, South and West streets around the courthouse square.

“The Central Business District is our most restrictive zoning district in the city,” said City Manager Mike Smith. “Almost a year ago, the Planning and Zoning Board began to meet to look at changing the zoning in most of the town with the goal of trying to expand areas for commercial zoning and make it less restrictive and easier if you want to bring a business in. The first step in this is to shrink down what is the Central Business District and change the permitted land uses.”

Smith explained the proposed ordinance during a Planning and Zoning Commission public hearing Thursday, Sept. 1 and again for a city council public hearing Tuesday.

The properties leaving the Central Business District will be rezoned light commercial or thoroughfare commercial. 

“It will not force a business to change if you already have a business within that area today,” Smith said. “Say if it becomes light commercial and if that particular business does not fit what is zoned for light commercial, it’s not going to impact that business owner. We’ll make exceptions for that. The only way it would change is if that business sold or shutdown and somebody came in later to open a different type of business in that same building.

P&Z’s Lynda Pack said because the rezoning is less restrictive businesses that do not fit in the uses allowed for the CBD would be helped by the change.

“There is nothing that currently exists that would be impacted,” Smith said.’

Jim Whitsitt, P&Z commissioner, said the board wants to maintain the historical aspects of downtown Jacksboro.

“That’s certainly one of the things we want to do. We also want to encourage businesses to get around the square and want to stay open past 5 o’clock,” Whitsitt said. “If you think about Granbury and Weatherford and some of those places like that, that have businesses that are open at night, especially when you’re right on the thoroughfare like it is here, main highways coming in. We want it to be enticing for people to stop in town after 5 o’clock. We’re not wanting to change downtown that much, but we’re too restrictive for some businesses.

“It’s really a better deal all the way around for everybody.”

Smith explained that the zoning for the CBD made permitting for a business to open a cumbersome process taking a minimum of 4 to 6 weeks to approve.

“Based on our current laws and ordinances, if you want to open a business that does not necessarily meet the criteria that is in our old zoning ordinances, and they are old, you have to go through this whole process of requesting a change, requesting a variance which takes time and money and we have to send letters out,” Smith said. “We have to post it for a certain period of time and ... for the most part, the board has been very open to approving those changes and recommending those changes. But we still have to go through that process, so we’re trying to reduce the timeline, reduce the challenge as much as possible and still meet our legal requirements.”

Smith said this was just the first step the P&Z is taking to expand possible commercial properties within the city. Its members are also looking at expanding commercial zoning on West Belknap Streets, the areas within the city limit signs on Main Street and potentially some areas on East Belknap, as well as, other areas for manufacturing/industrial zoning. 

“They will consider areas for those so that if the EDC were able to bring some businesses in we’re not having to jump through these hoops to try and rezone stuff,” Smith said.

“We’re actually trying to work with people to get things done,” Whitsitt said.

About a half-dozen residents or property owners attended the P&Z public hearing concerning the matter.

“Personally, I’m glad you’re doing that and it’s not etched in stone , ‘That’s the way it is and that’s the way it’s got to be.’ Any of us in business know it doesn’t work that way,” said property owner Ronald Fitzgerald.

Smith said the Planning and Zoning Commission has also been looking at the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction for possible manufacturing locations.

“If property owners wanted the city to annex at some point in the future, what would make sense if we wanted to set up a manufacturing/industrial area,” he said. “That way as the EDC, or anybody, is out talking to businesses and trying to recruit them to come to Jacksboro, it’s real hard to bring a manufacturing or fabrication business to a city that does not even have a zoned area to do that. Part of the next step in this will be to establish those areas that we would like to see for manufacturing, industrial, fabrication, a laundry list of other items.”

The city council approved the adoption of the ordinance unanimously Tuesday.

It also approved an ordinance updating the land use chart listing types of businesses that could be located in each of the commercial zoning categories.

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