City Council shoots down smart code zoning changes

Proposed Zoning Changes

EL PASO, Texas - It was the largest one-time proposed zoning change in the history of El Paso and after a more than two hour discussion Tuesday, City Council shot it down.

The idea was to change areas like Five Points in Central El Paso from conventional zoning to smart code, a zoning distinction that some believe makes it much easier to develop neighborhoods into live-able, walk-able and play-able areas around the City.

Meanwhile, opponents say it could increase traffic and make it more expensive to redevelop.

The proposal called for nearly 600 acres of proposed changes from conventional zoning to smart code Five Points, or the area around Piedras and Montana streets, and more than 500 acres of proposed changes to smart code in the Mission or Lower Valley, around the intersection of Zaragoza and Alameda.

In the end, council voted 7-1 to delete the item for the proposed smart code changes in the Five Points area, but did decide to bring back a proposal for a hybrid option in 90 days that would make it the choice of residents and businesses whether they want to use conventional zoning or smart code on a case-by-case basis.

Only Rep. Susie Byrd, who represents the area, voted against the deletion.
Meanwhile, Council voted 6-2 to completely delete changing the Mission or Lower Valley area in far East El Paso to smart code, with no hope for a hybrid option.

Byrd and City Rep. Steve Ortega voted against the deletion after hearing arguments on both sides of the issue.

"There are studies that have shown smart code would intensify the very problem its supposed to solve," said Larry Moreno, president of the Five Points Development Association, which passed a resolution in opposition to smart code. "Smart growth means traffic, because high density would increase traffic congestion."

Craig Peters lives in Manhattan Heights, next to Five Points, and wants to open a cafe just around the corner. City planners said with smart code, he'd had that cafe open in 24 hours, but now he'll have to wait at least three months

"I believe its self interest from the opposition," Peters said. "They're not concerned about the rest of us, the neighborhood, the residents, anybody else. They're preserving, self-preservation because they're afraid of what's going to come in to affect their business."

City planners added that the only other area where smart code is proposed is in the Kern area and that could come before Council in the coming months.

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