North Richland Hills hoping to spruce up its “front door”

Posted Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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You only get one chance to make a first impression, or so the saying goes.

So, North Richland Hills city officials want to make sure motorists are impressed when they drive along Northeast Loop 820 and Airport Freeway in the near future.

“This is our front door,” North Richland Hills Senior Planner Clayton Comstock told the City Council at a recent meeting. “This is what people see when they come into North Richland Hills on Loop 820. We want to make sure it’s inviting, it looks nice.”

To put the city’s best foot forward, pawnshops, porn shops, bingo halls, most auto-related businesses, kennels and mini-warehouses would be banned from moving in under proposed zoning regulations. Existing businesses would be exempt from the restrictions being put together by city staff.

The proposed Freeway Corridor Overlay District would cover 200 feet on either side of the North Richland Hills sections of Northeast Loop 820 and Airport Freeway. In addition to restricting what businesses could move in, city officials are proposing to add extensive landscaping and native trees or those that can survive Texas weather.

Limestone planter walls — raised beds featuring trees and shrubs — also would be part of the plans.

Single-family homes would be exempt from any of the overlay district’s requirements.

The overlay district is being spurred on by the expansion of Northeast Loop 820 and Airport Freeway. The Northeast Loop 820 section will be expanded from four lanes — two lanes each way — to eight lanes. The Airport Freeway section will be expanded from six lanes to 10 lanes. The work is scheduled to be completed by June 2015.

At the same time, North Richland Hills is undergoing a building boom. The planned $70 million municipal complex that is scheduled to be completed in December 2015 is within a block of Northeast Loop 820. That project is projected to spur on a $500 million development of office buildings, apartments, stores and offices. Just north of that project, a 146,000-square-foot gun range is expected to open next summer.

A 123,000-square-foot Kroger Marketplace and 16,000-square-foot ALDI are expected to open over the next two years at the Davis Boulevard and Precinct Line Road commercial corridor, and new businesses are moving in at Precinct Line Road and Boulevard 26.

The highway overlay proposal is still in the preliminary stages. Residents and business owners have time to voice their opinions to council members and staff. A proposed ordinance is expected to be presented to the council in January or February, Comstock said.

At the Oct. 28 council workshop, council members nixed a proposal to require that at least 5 to 10 percent of the facades and sides of new businesses in the overlay district be made of limestone. The idea was to create a common thread throughout the district, Comstock said.

“I think that’s too much control,” Councilwoman Rita Wright Oujesky said.

Mayor Oscar Trevino concurred.

“I think we might be stepping a little too far,” he said.

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