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Coalition wants review of UDO

Coalition wants review of UDO

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A local coalition wants the College Station City Council to reject proposed changes to the Unified Development Ordinance, changes the group says came about through lack of public comment and possible conflicts of interest.

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The Brazos Progressives will hold a news conference at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday at College Station City Hall to voice opposition to proposed changes to the city's Unified Development Ordinance.

Members of the Brazos Progressives say they'd like to see the city's planning staff start anew and carry out the annual review of the UDO with more imput from a cross section of the community. The Progressives say the development community wielded too much influence in shaping the language of the revised document.

"What we're taking issue with is the process," said Krista May, chair of the Brazos Progressives. "While we certainly think developers should be involved, we don't think they should be to this degree. We're asking that the whole revised UDO be rejected and ... recognize that the process is flawed."

Members of the Progressives, joined by former mayors Lynn McIlhaney and Gary Halter and former councilwoman Anne Hazen, will hold a news conference at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.

A city official closely involved in the proposed changes to the ordinance disputes the charge that the public was shut out of the process.

Public works director Mark Smith said opportunities for public input have been available since May. But few residents have taken advantage of the chance to voice their opinions about the proposed changes to College Station's subdivision guidelines and Unified Development Ordinance, he said.

Smith acknowledged that developers have been more involved than other interest groups during the rewrite process, which began in the spring, because they're the ones who have shown interest and attended public meetings.

"If the developers are the only ones to show up, that's all that gets heard," Smith said. "The reality is when the City Council goes to vote on the UDO, the first question that will come back is, 'How does this impact the developer?' I met with developers because I was preparing to answer those questions.

"I want [developers'] input so I can pass it along to council. I have not watered down or edited the content of the proposal based on [developers'] comments. I have kept it the way it was. But in presentations, I'll let [the council] know how the development community feels about certain parts of the proposal."

Two public meetings have been held on the ordinance - one city-sponsored event on May 23 and one sponsored by the Business and Land Development Forum last week. About a dozen people attended each meeting.

May said that she hasn't attended any public meetings and would like for the city to postpone final action until later next year after gathering more feedback from citizens.

"I think it's really unfortunate [that there hasn't been more public input], but that shouldn't be an excuse for this going through," May said.

The UDO is to be discussed at 4 p.m. Wednesday at a joint meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission and City Council. The commission is to make its recommendation after a public hearing at its Jan. 5 meeting, and final adoption is scheduled after another public hearing at the Jan. 26 City Council meeting.

The Brazos Progressives promotes itself as a coalition committed to building a progressive community through "networking, encouragement of grassroots involvement, resource acquisition, and promotion of activities," according to its Web site, www. brazosprogressives.org. The organization has about 50 dues-paying members.

• April Avison's e-mail address is april.avison@theeagle.com.

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