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P&Z a buzz over Wildflyer Mead site plan

May 17, 2023 - 00:00
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After lengthy discussion about exterior materials, Navasota’s Planning & Zoning Commissioner approved the preliminary site plan application submitted by Wildflyer Mead & Beer Co. for the development of a retail/ bar/restaurant at 221 S. Railroad Street. The motion at the Thursday, May 11, meeting approved the application “as presented” but required a metal sample be provided to P&Z for approval. It also identified the project as a renovation, as opposed to new construction, based on interpretation of City’s Central Business District design standards.

Development Services Director Lupe Diosdado opened the meeting explaining that a request for proposals to sell the former Public Works metal building at the corner of S. Railroad and Holland was conducted in late 2022. Wildflyer Mead was awarded the sale of the property with a special warranty deed requiring it be operational within 18 months of closing (June 2024) and be in compliance with the design standards. Wildflyer Mead is currently located at the 100-plus year old BeeWeaver Honey Farm at 16481 CR 319.

All in the interpretation Wildflyer Mead’s site plan includes ample landscaping, rainwater collection, screening of service areas, an outdoor patio, outdoor lighting, tasting room and kitchen/dining area as well as a bee observation room. Murray added there will be no loss of existing parking areas.

The City’s development standards require new buildings be compatible with adjacent development and include a masonry finish.

Wildflyer Mead developer Jeff Murray addressed the limitations of applying masonry to the 80-year-old building saying, “Structurally, it’s intended to be a metal building and so structurally it’s really more suited to keep the metal facade. Technically sound engineering design was done but everybody I talked to about actually putting up that brick, there was always a concern about the support in the structure for it. It’s not really what it was made for...Being on the south end of downtown, it ties in with the buildings farther south…that older metal is still representative of the older downtown.”

While portions of the design standards specifically address new buildings (an example used was Baylor Lumber), the section addressing Facades did not specify old or new, and applying that interpretation, Wildflyer Mead’s metal building would be nonconforming. Responding to questions about siding materials, project architect Baker Goodwin described it as unfinished corrugated metal siding which, according to Murray, would develop a patina over time.

P.A. Smith Hotel owner, Steve Scheve, spoke in support of Murray’s application and pointed to the numerous references to “new” construction in the standards as well as inconsistencies which could render other local businesses as nonconforming.

Speaking on behalf of several downtown business owners, Scheve said, “We don’t see it as degrading anything we’ve done. We think it adds character. It adds a bit of diversity.”

Commissioners also discussed the dilemma of setting precedent, but their final consensus was that the design was “not out of character for downtown.”

Before adjourning, commissioners approved the April 13 meeting minutes.

The meeting may be viewed in its entirety at planning-zoning-commission.