In recent months, residents of Von Ormy have witnessed increased traffic, especially that of 18wheelers passing through not only IH-35, but also our neighborhood roads. The increased freight and passenger traffic can be attributed to many things, but perhaps most responsible is the increasing activity in the Eagle Ford Shale directly to our South. As the City’s traffic numbers continue to increase, it makes sense that businesses will continue to look to Von Ormy’s way to capitalize on a consistent market: motorists. This has already been evidenced as the City has within the last 2 months landed 3 new businesses (Pilot-Flying J’s, Subway and Borrego’s Café) each of them placed along IH-35 frontage and each highly dependent on pass-through traffic. Von Ormy has every reason to incentivize and push for additional economic growth due to its positive impact on City revenue. However, planning and zoning is an administrative/legislative tool which allows Von Ormy to encourage the growth of a commerce sector while still ensuring a desirable quality of life for its residents.
In the past the City has taken steps to deter certain businesses from operating within our City Limits, but not prevent. While Von Ormy has adopted an ordinance banning sexually oriented businesses within a certain distance of churches and schools, businesses such as these are still able to operate within 95% of Von Ormy. This past summer the City adopted an ordinance requiring a highly expensive, renewable salvage yard permit with setback requirements, but such a permit expense pales in comparison to the profits to be made from a salvage yard; particularly because of Von Ormy’s location affixed upon a major highway and between Loops 410 and 1604. A major salvage operation like Pick-n-Pull would hardly bat an eye at Von Ormy’s permit requirements. And what about noisy operations such as trucking or concrete storage? The City is currently incapable of regulation outside of miniscule permitting requirements in these areas as well. Zoning, on the other hand, is able to identify, define and prevent each of these activities from adversely affecting residents in their neighborhoods.
An effort to zone would require City officials to define where commercial activity will be allowed within the City limits and, moreover, what types of commercial activities are acceptable. Take retail sales for example, namely the Wal-Mart’s, Target’s, and HEBs of the world. Granted, these types of businesses do not draw the same scorn from citizens that a City-dump would, but it would be best if these types of stores were kept out of neighborhoods to minimize traffic and instead kept on the highways to also ensure visibility. The City is able to restrict the development of retail stores highway frontages through zoning those land tracts as “commercial/retail.”
Now consider living near a business operating incredibly noisy machinery: depending on operating hours many a sleepless night could be had, not to mention environmental concerns that may accompany the business. Knowing that future-residents would not seek out homes abutting machine operations, nor would current residents welcome such a neighbor, the City could zone land at least 2, 3, etc. miles away from Von Ormy neighborhoods to ensure quiet living.
What about housing developers? As economic growth continues with Eagle Ford Shale, housing developers will begin to look to Von Ormy as a strategic housing market for those wishing to live away from the fracking. Housing in Von Ormy would be far more marketable if it can be guaranteed that less-desirable businesses will be distanced from the community; zoning allows this.
As was mentioned above, Von Ormy has already experienced new business growth thanks in large part to Eagle Ford Shale. By implementing a zoning plan, City leaders will be able to grow the City in a way beneficial to business and residents alike. Knowing where businesses and residents will be located the City can strategically plan to provide road improvements, water and sewage lines, and necessary electric utilities. Whether the City is prepared or not, the development will continue to crop up throughout our City Limits, with a zoning plan in place the City is at least placed in a better position to provide for and protect the interests of all those within its jurisdiction. Will Von Ormy be proactive in controlling its development? Only time will tell.