City hopes residents in 3 neighborhoods will accept smart code

EL PASO, Texas - The city of El Paso hopes residents will accept smart code for parts of Kern Place, Sunset Heights, and Downtown El Paso.

The proposed rezoning area extends from the west edge of Downtown El Paso at Wyoming, Rio Grande and Prospect to Kern along Stanton to Mesita and parts of Sunset Heights through Prospect and Los Angeles.

Smart Code, according to the city, would make streets more conducive for pedestrians and public transportation.

In fact, the area extends all the way to downtown so that it includes the proposed trolley and the bus rapid transit system routes. The rezoning would allow some light commercial properties.

City Rep. Ann Morgan Lilly said rezoning the closest neighborhoods to Downtown is part of the bigger picture. "This adds to the vision because people can actually live in their stores or live upstairs and their stores can be below and I think it will make a more walkable community."

The proposed zone does not include the residential portion of Kern Place.
That's because the Kern Place Association formed a committee and amended the city's proposed code  with their own suggestions for their area. That smart code would not allow commercial properties.

"There were some things they didn't agree with - for example, if you lived in a 3-story house and it burned down, you could only build a two story house back," said Lilly. Also, Kern residents added an amendment that would prevent big houses that are overscaled for lots. They're also making sure the front of homes align and that there's still flexibility to use different materials on homes.

Chuck Horak, a Kern Place resident and a member of the Association's ad hoc SmartCode Commitee, said they plan to take the input of their neighbors and filter it back to the code."We took this as an opportunity to not just oppose what the city was doing - but to find common ground and build a better code. Perhaps Kern Place should be the model if they work with us and allows us to customize the code to our liking," he said.

Horak said the original code proposed by the city was generic and Kern residents proposed having an addendum to the code that is prescriptive and unique to each neighborhood. The ad hoc committee is still amending the code. The city's consultant, Dover Kohl will then evaluate the committee's changes and council will vote on the proposal. The process could take all year, said Horak."We're taking our time and doing it right because these codes have all sorts of unintended consequences."

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