The city’s zoning ordinances are getting a makeover, despite last-minute concerns about how the changes might hurt hotel developers.
The League City council late Tuesday approved a series of eight changes to the zoning code that administrators say will simplify the process for commercial applicants ranging from microbreweries to hotels.
But while the zoning changes will affect a wide variety of different commercial developments, much of the conversation Tuesday centered around the proposal’s plan to group all types of hotels into one category, while simultaneously increasing the size and number of rooms required.
The change is necessary to stay competitive in a bid to attract a convention center and full-service hotel as proposed in the Epicenter League City development, said David Hoover, the city’s director of planning and development.
The city groups hotels into three categories — full, limited and residential, Hoover said. But under the new rules, they will all fall under one category, and must have a minimum of 250 rooms and each room must be a minimum of 375 square feet.
“It truly is a numbers game,” Hoover argued. “The market is currently overrun by limited service hotels. They are cheaper to build. But this is a game-changing opportunity, and the time is now.”
The city council in October reached a predevelopment agreement with a group called Epicenter of League City LLC on a $450 million project that could one day bring four hotels, a convention center, arenas for a hockey and a baseball team, restaurants and shops and other businesses to town, but little information has emerged about the project since.
Developers looking to bring in a full-service hotel are discouraged because of the number of limited-service hotels, Hoover said.
But some members of council, led by Councilman Larry Millican, opposed the measure, arguing the market would have already led to a full-service hotel if conditions were right.
“If the market thought this was a desirable location, we would have it already,” Millican said. “The only thing waiting is going to do is eliminate opportunities for commercial development.”
In the end, the council approved the measure with the idea that administrators would have two or three years to lure a full-service hotel and, if unsuccessful, they would change the rules again to allow limited-service to return.
Councilman Hank Dugie made a motion, and the city council passed an amendment, which would sunset the new rules after Dec. 31, 2022.
The zoning change will not affect limited-service hotels already in existence or in development, Hoover said.
While city administrators have been considering the changes since at least March, when they told the council they were hoping to streamline parts of the ordinance that were confusing, members of the council weren’t willing to move ahead with the proposal without a few changes.
The proposal recommends several new definitions, such as one for microbreweries, that would allow for businesses to apply for permits.
League City does not have any microbreweries, Hoover said.
Some of the other recommended changes, meanwhile, would eliminate two different districts that aren’t being used.