Code variance requests considered

Special to the PRESS

February 26, 2015

Form Based Code has been up for much discussion in the past few months and came up again at this month’s Design Standards Review Task Force (DSRTF) meeting. John Ortiz, owner of Wingstop at 2404 Padre Blvd., came to the DSRTF to request a variance from the code-accepted color palette for accent paint on his renovated building.

Dr. Sungman Kim, development director for the city, gave a presentation to task force members showing the projected appearance of the building with the requested color, Dynamic Blue, being sparingly used as an accent color. Dr. Kim gave examples of previously granted variances on color including those at KFC and Whataburger and recommended that the DSRTF approve the variance based on staff review with the opinion that the design style and color had been tastefully done.

After the presentation, Chairman Gary Treharne said, “My own personal opinion is that we should not find fault with something like this. It’s corporate colors, and we are getting a recommendation from staff.”

Task force member Joe Logan rebutted, saying, “What do we do with our own local businesses?” He added, “I’ll be the first to admit, I think this is probably going to look really good. I think it’s unfair to our local businesses that come before us, and then we have to stay within the standards that are established within the DSRTF colors. Why do we have standards?” He commented that the purpose for establishing the parameters of color selection was to ensure conformity and consistency within the community and to prevent all developers from having to go through the city committees.

Other members as well as Dr. Kim argued that both local business owners and corporate developers have the option of coming to the board for consideration of a variance on a case by case basis. They added that the standards are in place to prevent, for example, an entire building being painted neon green without approval. Task Force members also argued that they do not want to prevent corporate development because of an issue with color or style, as was the case with Joe’s Crab Shack in the past.

Owner John Ortiz appealed to the Task Force that he is a local business developer with an interest in investing in the community he loves. City Council member Dennis Stahl dropped in to show his support for the variance saying that generating investment in the City is a priority to the City Council.

Based on the proposed building style, staff recommended approval, and Task Force member Gabriel Vanounou made a motion to approve the variance. After some concern about enforcing and abiding by the standards, the Task Force unanimously approved variance.

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