Salado Planning & Zoning Commission will conduct a public hearing 4 p.m. Jan. 22 at the Municipal Building on a proposal by the Village of Salado to change the zoning designation of 137.505 acres of the Mill Creek golf course from Single Family Residential to Private Recreation.
Village aldermen added the Zoning Designation Private Recreation to the Zoning Ordinance on the recommendation of Village administrator Don Ferguson. In November, the P&Z Committee voted against adding the new Zoning designation to the Zoning Ordinance on a 3-2 split vote with K.D. Hill, Susan Terry and Ronnie Tynes in opposition to the new designation and commissioners Larry Roberson and Tom McMahan in favor of the new designation.
The new Zoning designation of Private Recreation allows the following usages by right (permit): Amusement Services (Indoors); Country Club (Private); Dinner Theatre; Driving Range; Golf Course (Miniature); Golf Course (Private); Health Club (Physical Fitness); Membership Sports; Museum; Park (Private or Public); Swimming Pool (Commercial); Tennis Court (Private/not lighted); Theater (non-motion picture); Antenna (Non-commercial); Church/Place of Worship; Civic Club; Fire Station; Fraternal Organization, Lodge, or Union; Franchised Private Utility.
The following Land Uses are allowed in property zoned as Private Recreation by Conditional Use Permit: Cemetery and/or Mausoleum; Electrical Transmission Line; Gas Transmission Line (Regulating Station); Hospital (Acute Care/Chronic Care); Sewage Pumping Station; Utility Distribution/Transmission Lines and Water Supply Facility (Elevated Storage).
The property in question is currently zoned Single Family Residential, which does not allow Amusement Services (Indoor), defined as “An amusement enterprise that is wholly enclosed within a building which is treated acoustically so that noise generated by the enterprise is not perceptible at the bounding property line, and that provides activities, services and instruction for the entertainment of customers or members, but not including amusement arcades. Uses may include, but are not limited to, the following: bowling alley, ice skating rink, martial arts club, racquetball or handball club, indoor tennis courts or club, indoor swimming pool or scuba diving facility, and other similar types of uses.
The new Zoning designation Private Recreation does not include Amusement Services (Outdoors), which would include “entertainment or games of skill to the general public for a fee wherein any portion of the activity takes place outdoors and including, but not limited to, a golf driving range, archery range, miniature golf course, batting cages, go-cart tracks, amusement parks, and other similar types of uses.”
No residential uses are listed for the Private Recreation designation, which has led some residents to believe that this would prevent the property owner from subdividing the property to develop into residential real estate. For the property that is inside the Village limits, the property owner would have to request a rezoning of property to subdivide it into residential lots. For property outside the Village limits, no zoning applies. The owner would need to meet other standards of the Subdivision ordinance, however, to develop the property into residential lots, houses or other uses.
Village officials stated in their announcement to move forward with rezoning the golf course that it was “unclear exactly why the golf course property was originally zoned for residential use. The Future Land Use Map, found in the Village of Salado Comprehensive Plan, labels the future use of the golf course property as Private Recreation (PR).”
“The Mill Creek Golf Course has been in existence for more than 30 years,” stated Salado Mayor Skip Blancett in the announcement concerning the rezoning of the golf course.. “The reasonable and right thing to do is to change the golf course property’s zoning to match its current and historic use and the designated land use for the golf course property found in the Village’s Comprehensive Plan.”
“The discovery that the golf course property was zoned residential came after the Village was approached by the owners of the golf course about the Village possibly purchasing the golf course approximately six (6) months ago,” said Blancett.
The Comprehensive Plan was adopted in April 2004 and amended in June 2008. The Zoning Ordinance and Zoning Map were first adopted in 2003. In the years since, the Zoning Ordinance has been amended seven times.
During none of those Zoning Ordinance amendment discussions did the necessity of aligning the Future Land Use Map and the Zoning Map come to the forefront.
However, during negotiations with the Mill Creek owners early in 2018, the Board of Aldermen discovered that the golf course is zoned as Single Family Residential on the Zoning Map. However, the golf course property is designated as Private Recreation land use on the Future Land Use Map.
“Once the discovery was made, the Board of Aldermen directed the Village staff to develop a plan to rezone the property in accordance with the Village’s Comprehensive Plan.”
Billy Helm and Ron Gravette, spokesmen for the Mill Creek ownership group said that the first they heard of the move by the Village to rezone the golf course was just before an Aug. 9 town hall meeting to discuss the possible purchase of the golf course by the Village of Salado.
Village administrator Don Ferguson announced the plans to rezone the property during the town hall meeting when he said “They (Mill Creek owners) will get the opportunity to stand up at the zoning hearing because the city is about to zone the property golf course.”
After announcement by Ferguson during the town hall meeting, Helm and Gravette informed him that they were withdrawing the offer to sell the property to the Village.
In an Aug. 10 email to aldermen and copied to Gravette, Ferguson stated, “Helms and Ron Gravette just left my office after telling me that they were pulling their offer to sell the golf course to the Village. They were extremely upset to hear last night at the meeting that the Village was moving forward with rezoning of the golf course property. They claim the Village is negotiating in bad faith by doing so.”
“I reminded them that I had previously advised them of the Village’s intent to rezone the property to reflect its current use,” Ferguson said. “Mr. Gravette indicated he was unaware of such. Mr. Helms said he remembered discussing it but thought we would be doing that if we acquired the property.”
“Mr. Gravette contends we have no right to rezone private property without the owner’s permission but I advised him that was not the case and that the Village can initiate zoning on any property,” Ferguson stated.
Zoning is a legislative tool that most cities use to determine the lawful uses and specific development standards for a property. A municipality can zone a property on its own or at the request of the property’s owner. A property’s zoning is subject to change at any time. Typically, properties are zoned in accordance with the land uses set forth in a municipality’s comprehensive plan, which serves as a blueprint or vision intended to guide future growth, development, and land use decisions for a community.