Baytown council approved amending its Unified Land Development Code to restrict dollar stores in the San Jacinto Corridor area and add a non-residential use for travel centers.
Council first heard about the new proposal to amend the ULDC text for small box discount retail stores or dollar stores. The Baytown Planning and Zoning Commission turned down a proposal for this in February.
“The first proposal was roundly criticized,” City Manager Rick Davis said. “We heard they did not want to do it citywide. There are 18 such stores in Baytown and growing. We decided that at the very least, the new San Jacinto Corridor does not have this type of use. The reason is we are trying to inspire a different type of retail and use of land along the corridor. That is all this applies to right now is that corridor.”
Davis said his team received “frank and direct feedback,” and the proposal was modified.
Tiffany Foster, director of planning and development services, said she and her staff looked at trying to distance the stores from other areas and requiring them to have different types of products.
“P&Z asked us to look at it and restrict it from San Jacinto Corridor,” Foster said.
Both Councilwoman Laura Alvarado and Councilman Chris Presley were happy the restrictions on the stores would not be citywide.
“In my district, without some small box retail, we would not have anything in several of the strip centers,” Presley said. “P&Z got this one right.”
Council voted unanimously to approve the amendment after a public hearing.
Baytown Senior Planning Manager Nathan Dietrich spoke about the amendment to the ULDC concerning travel centers.
“To provide a new land use, we have been approached by applicants over the years and found we might be lacking in the area of what a gas station and a truck stop is considered today,” Dietrich said. “We chose to provide this new text amendment as a chance to show the use.
We are asking to define a travel center in our ordinance and add in some land use conditions and within that, restrict certain areas where travel centers can be.”
Dietrich said other restrictions they would add include having a minimum building size requirement of 8,000 square feet or more, and the sites should have a minimum of 100-feet of frontage along the locations.
“The travel center will need to have fueling areas for domestic vehicles and commercial vehicles, and those areas must be separated due to the fact trucks that come in would have interaction with domestic vehicles,” Dietrich said. “We would limit the number of commercial vehicles to eight fueling stations. This will allow fueling and also limit the number of trucks on site.”
Dietrich added when the centers are close to residential areas, they have to be screened appropriately.
Quik Trip Corporation is one of the applicants with a strong interest in setting up shop at Interstate-10 and North Main. Robert Costello, a project manager with the company, talked about the impact the centers will have on surrounding neighborhoods, one of the main concerns about changing the UDLC text.
“We sent 500 letters to West Meadows and held meetings in the neighborhood in February,” Costello said. “One homeowner showed up, we addressed their concerns.”
Costello also said on the issue of traffic, the effect would not be as much as some might think.
“The nature of a convenience store/gas station business is that almost 80% of the traffic generated is from pass-by trips,” he said. “They are already on the road and just decided to stop by. Traffic is minimal when you consider the net effect of what that traffic is.”
Costello said the centers would also bring sewer facilities to the I-10 and North Main area.
“We are confident and assuming a lot of risks, but we will control it and say yes or no to who wants to come in here,” he said. “Bringing sewer here will make it much more attractive than it is today.”
Councilman Charles Johnson said he met with Quik Trip representatives and suggested they meet with West Meadows and nearby residents. He also found out the company is willing to pay more for the sewer facilities if the cost turns out to be more expensive than originally thought.
“That showed me they are committed,” Johnson said. “With them wanting to come in and with the track record they have, I said show me how are you going to be a good neighbor? Are you going to build it and sell it to someone else?”
Costello said Quik Trip is a privately held and corporately owned company.
“We build facilities to last,” he said. “Within 10 to 12 years, we’ll spend money to renovate and remodel facilities.”
Quik Trip also hires locally, Johnson said.
“It will be an upgrade from the gas station that is there now,” Johnson said.