Planning & Development

8 steps you can take to weather the storm

By Debbie Stickles, Graduate Engineer, Planning & Development Services

With heavy rains from Hurricane Laura possible in our area, it’s an excellent time to review necessary safety precautions and take appropriate actions to protect your family and property.

  1. Determine your risk at noaa.gov or consult local media for updated storm information, including trajectory forecasts. It’s also a good idea to sign up to receive emergency notifications from Brazos County.
  2. Households may have different storm preparation needs. Essential supplies to gather include first aid kits, flashlights with extra batteries, non-perishable foods such as protein bars and canned goods, and a three-day water supply. For more information, go to ready.gov.
  3. Move your garbage and recycling containers to a safe area where storms won’t blow them away or knock them down.
  4. Be water smart, and turn off your landscape irrigation system. Irrigation systems are intended to supplement the rain and can cause problems if they operate during a storm.
  5. If you live near a creek or other water bodies, secure your outdoor furniture to prevent it from entering the storm drains and seek shelter elsewhere.
  6. Move brush piles to higher ground to keep vegetative waste from blocking stormwater drainage paths and creeks.
  7. Report public safety issues such as downed electrical lines and flooded or blocked roadways to the College Station Police Department’s non-emergency number at 979-764-3600.
  8. If you approach a flooded roadway or intersection, don’t attempt to drive through the water. Turn around, don’t drown.

College Station is no stranger to the effects of hurricanes and tropical storms. If you take a little time to prepare, you can successfully weather the storm once again.

 


About the Blogger

Debbie Stickles is starting her sixth year as one of the city’s graduate engineers. She previously worked as an engineering specialist in the Railroad Commission of Texas’ Oil & Gas Division from 2014-15. A native of Carrizo Springs, Debbie received a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering from Texas A&M-Kingsville in 2013.


 

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We need your input about College Station’s future

By Alyssa Halle-Schramm, Long Range Planning Administrator

As part of the City of College Station’s 10-year review of its Comprehensive Plan, we’ve created a virtual workshop to gather your input on our community’s future. The online Community Choices Workshop will be live from July 13 through Aug. 3.

A series of activities will help you make choices about how and where the city grows. To participate, go to cstx.gov/TheNext10 starting Monday. You can also join an email list to stay up-to-date with project news. 

The Next 10

The Next 10 is an extensive effort to evaluate the city’s Comprehensive Plan, consider recent growth and best practices, and identify city policies that need updating. The Comprehensive Plan is the strategic guide that expresses the community’s values and aspirations. It establishes a long-range vision for development, housing, transportation, parks, the environment, economic development, and other related topics.

College Station’s plan was adopted in 2009 and covers a 20-year horizon. It’s meant to be a living document that’s regularly evaluated and updated. Since we are 10 years into the plan, we need your input about how the next decade should unfold.

Last summer, the initiative began with the establishment of the Evaluation Committee and meeting with community leaders. We also conducted a series of public workshops and an online survey to get input about the existing plan. You can review that feedback at cstx.gov/TheNext10.

These efforts will result in an Evaluation and Appraisal Report — anticipated this fall — that recommends changes to the Comprehensive Plan. Once the city council accepts the report, we’ll begin drafting update amendments, which will be made available for public feedback and will go through the public hearing process at planning & zoning commission and city council meetings. Formal updates are expected to be made in 2021.

How to Participate

By living, working, attending school, or raising a family in College Station, you know our community. We encourage you to share your ideas and opinions to ensure College Station’s direction represents the community’s authentic voice. The input you provide will be an essential component of the Evaluation and Appraisal Report.

In one Community Choices Workshop activity, you’ll be asked about potential improvements to the Comprehensive Plan Future Land Use Map, which serves as a guide for how areas of the city may develop. Several updates are being considered, including renaming, simplifying, and refining the Future Land Use category definitions and changes to how land uses apply to various areas. You’ll be asked to react to examples of potential changes.

In another activity, you’ll be able to share your preferences on scenarios that illustrate potential options for six areas. The scenario planning activity uses performance-based criteria to depict trade-offs among possible outcomes. Please note that the alternatives are hypothetical scenarios meant to test options and solicit feedback.

You’ll be asked to choose one of three options — how the area is developed today, an anticipated outcome under existing policies, or what may be possible with policy changes. You can provide open-ended feedback about your likes and dislikes, and anything else you’d like us to know.

The future can unfold in many ways. Your participation in the virtual Community Choices Workshop will help us more accurately gauge the community’s preferences.

For more information, visit cstx.gov/TheNext10 and watch the videos. You can also contact me at 979-764-3570 or aschramm@cstx.gov.

 


About the Blogger

Long Range Planning Administrator Alyssa Halle-Schramm has been with the city since 2018. She previously worked at Austin Community College, UT-Austin, and Hanover County (Virginia). A native of Wilmington, N.C., Alyssa earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies from North Carolina-Wilmington in 2010 and master’s degrees in public administration and urban and regional planning from Virginia Tech in 2013.


 

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3 steps to make sure you’re ready for a flash flood

By David Vaughn, Engineering Program Specialist

Did you know flash flooding is the No. 1 cause of weather-related damage in Texas? Sadly, our great state often leads the nation in flood-related deaths.

As part of Texas Flood Awareness Week, the City of College Station reminds residents to be prepared.  Heavy rain and coastal storms can overburden our drainage systems and structures and lead to flood events. Knowing what to do before, during, and after significant storms can prevent or limit property damage, injuries, and loss of life. 

Floods are the most common natural disaster in the United States. They can develop slowly or happen with little or no warning. In either case, staying informed and anticipating such events is essential. 

If you live in a flood-prone or low-lying area, preparing for such emergencies is even more crucial. Here are three steps you can take today to make sure you’re ready:

1. Stay Informed

  • Know your flood risk. Visit FEMA’s Flood Map Service Center online or call the Planning and Development Services Department (979-764-3570) and ask for a review engineer to learn more about your property. 
  • Learn and rehearse evacuation routes, shelter plans, and flash-flood response.
  • Monitor weather forecasts and be aware of signs of potential flooding, such as heavy rain.

2. Take Action

  • Purchase flood insurance if necessary. It usually takes 30 days for a new insurance policy to go into effect, so it’s important to buy well before a disaster occurs.
  • Make a photographic inventory of your valuables for insurance purposes.
  • Keep valuable documents in a waterproof container and make digital copies when possible.

3. Gather Supplies 

  • Have a potable water supply that will last at least three days. You need one gallon of water per day for each person or pet in your household.
  • Have enough non-perishable, ready-to-eat food to last at least three days. Examples include canned meat and beans, nuts, nut butters and spreads, dry cereals and granola, and protein bars.
  • Keep structural supplies on hand such as sandbags, plywood or lumber, and plastic sheeting.
  • Make sure your flashlights and lanterns have good batteries. 
  • Always have a well-stocked first-aid kit.

If you’re adequately prepared, you enhance your chances of staying safe and protecting your property. That’s what Texas Flood Awareness Week is all about.

 


About the Blogger

David Vaughn recently joined Planning and Development Services as an engineering program specialist. He previously worked as an environmental coordinator for FedEx Express from 2015-20. A native of Silsbee, David earned a bachelor’s degree in geology from Sam Houston State in 2016.


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Completing the census remains an essential civic duty

By Jade Broadnax, Staff Planner

A constructive and valuable way to serve our community during these uncertain times is to complete the 2020 U.S. Census — and remind others to do the same.

Lawmakers, business owners, and many others will use census data to make critical decisions in the next decade. The population count will show where our community needs improvements for schools, clinics, roads, and more services for families, older adults, and children.

The census has never been easier to complete, even for historically hard-to-count populations. You can help by not only participating yourself, but by encouraging your family, friends, and neighbors to take part, too.

Reply Sooner, Not Later

If your household is like most, you have received a mailed invitation that includes a code to complete the census online. But even if you haven’t received the request, you can still complete the form online, by phone, or by mail.

The deadline for you to complete the census online has been extended to August 14. Census takers will begin visiting those who have not taken the census to gather the information. If you complete the form now, you can help reduce the number of census takers going door-to-door, which is essential during the COVID-19 outbreak.

We encourage you to help ensure the disabled or elderly you know have the tools to complete their census. A complete count helps identify services that can directly benefit them. Give your neighbors a phone call, shoot them a text, or ask (from a safe distance) if they’d like help checking the mail for their census invitation.

Your Information is Protected

The U.S. Census Bureau is bound by law to protect your answers and keep them strictly confidential. The Census Bureau cannot release identifiable information about you, your home, or your business — even to law enforcement agencies — and includes no citizenship question. Every census employee also takes an oath to protect your personal information for life.

The law ensures your private data is protected, and that your answers can’t be used against you by courts or government agencies. Violating that law is a federal crime punishable by prison time and a fine of up to $250,000.

Students: Follow the 3 C’s

With the recent closures of Texas A&M and Blinn College, we expect students to leave their off-campus housing and go “home” to another city. Under the Census Bureau’s residence criteria, in most cases, students living away from “home” at school should be counted at school, even if they are temporarily elsewhere due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you’re a college student, follow the 3 C’s:

  1. COMPLETE the Census: If you live in College Station most of the time while attending school, you should complete the census according to your physical address here. Even if you are on an extended spring break in Colorado or went “home” to Houston and don’t have access to your mailed census invitation, you can complete the census online, by phone, or by mail.
  2. COORDINATE with roommates: If you live with roommates in College Station, coordinate with them to ensure that one roommate completes the census for everyone at that address. 
  3. COMMUNICATE with families: Talk with your family to ensure you are counted at the address where you live most of the time. Your family has the option to include you in their census count but should answer “Yes, for college” when asked, “Does this person usually live or stay somewhere else?”

It only takes a few short minutes to complete the census, so why are you waiting?

For more information, go to 2020census.gov. The site also includes updated timelines due to COVID-19.

 


About the Blogger

Jade Broadnax is in her third year as a staff planner and project manager. A native of Chicago and Houston, Jade earned a bachelor’s degree in Urban Planning and Development from Ball State in 2017.


 

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Proposed amendment addresses impervious cover

By Anthony Armstrong, Engineering Services & Construction Inspections Manager

Driveways, parking, and accessory areas are a necessary part of any residential development. Unfortunately, if they cover too much ground, these water-limiting – or impervious – surfaces can often wreak havoc through flooding and erosion.

Impervious surfaces are any materials or construction that limit the absorption of water by covering the natural land surface. Materials used for landscaping in non-loadbearing areas aren’t considered impervious surfaces.

In College Station, the problem has emerged as the city has grown, especially in the redevelopment of lots in older neighborhoods that lack modern drainage and retention capabilities. Existing city regulations don’t limit impervious surfaces, which means residential lots can be completely or mostly covered.

A proposed amendment to the Unified Development Ordinance would provide a maximum percentage of a lot that may have an impervious cover. The percentages vary and would be implemented and assessed based on the zoning district, or a detailed engineered design.

The Planning and Zoning Commission will consider the amendment at its next meeting on Thursday, Feb. 20, followed by city council action on March 9. Both meetings will include a public hearing.

Newer neighborhoods with detention assume a certain amount of impervious surfacing when designed. The proposed amendment would allow them to abide by those assumptions.

The regulations would apply only to residential zoning districts and would not include multi-family and mixed-use zoning designations. Those zoning districts and commercial/non-residential districts would still require a detailed drainage analysis of individual lots as part of the permitting process.

Here are the proposed redline changes in the UDO:

 


About the Blogger

Anthony Armstrong PE has been with the city since 2016 and is in his first year as Engineering Services & Construction Inspections Manager. A native of Bulverde, Anthony served as an engineer with CME Testing and Engineering after earning a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Texas A&M in 2015.


 

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Survey another way to express views on city’s future

By Justin Golbabai, Long-Range Planning Administrator

In late September, the City of College Station conducted a series of four public workshops as part of the 10-year update to the city’s Comprehensive Plan. Since the topic was about College Station’s development road map for the next decade, we expected a strong turnout.

We asked for enthusiastic public input, and that’s what we got.

More than 200 residents participated in the workshops, providing essential insights on our present and future growth patterns. The gatherings also generated vital feedback on how residents think the city should develop.

We offer our sincere gratitude to all who attended the workshops, but if you weren’t able to attend, don’t worry.

An online survey — in English and Spanish — is open through Oct. 16. If you missed the workshops, the survey is a meaningful way to contribute your input about our community’s present and future growth patterns.

The workshops and the survey play a crucial role in the city’s evaluation and reassessment of its 2009-30 Comprehensive Plan, our policy roadmap to plan, anticipate, and guide growth and development over 20 years. The Next 10 process is considering current conditions, recent trends, and best practices, and is involving the community in shaping our growth and development.

Your valued input will lead to changes and updates to the Comprehensive Plan and Unified Development Ordinance, the policies and regulations that affect new development. We hope to have the evaluation process completed by late next summer.

For more information and to sign-up for email updates, go to cstx.gov/TheNext10.

 


About the Blogger

Long-Range Planning Administrator Justin Golbabai, AICP CNU-A has been with the City of College Station since 2016. He previously served the City of Austin for nine years in various capacities, most recently as Neighborhood Partnering Program manager. Justin has also worked for the cities of Savannah (Ga.) and Overland Park (Kan.). A native of Windsor, Conn., he received a master’s in public administration from the University of Kansas in 2006, and a bachelor’s in economics and sociology from The University of Notre Dame in 2004.


 

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Help plan College Station’s Next 10 at workshops

By Justin Golbabai, Long Range Planning Administrator

Planning for the growth and development of a city is similar to planning for any journey – it begins with knowing the starting point and the final destination. Based on those points, you can make appropriate plans and preparations and then set out knowing that adjustments will be necessary along the way.

The 2009-2030 Comprehensive Plan is the city’s policy roadmap to plan, anticipate, and guide growth and development over 20 years. It’s been 10 years since the plan’s adoption, and it’s time to reassess and discuss where the city should go in the next decade. We’re calling this process The Next 10.

Focus on the Future Workshops

Community input is an essential part of The Next 10. Next week, we will conduct a series of four identical workshops at locations across College Station to gather your input on the city’s present and future growth patterns. We encourage you to attend the most convenient session.

The 90-minute meetings will consider the conditions and trends facing our community and feature small groups to generate insight about your desired outcomes. Whether you are living, working, attending school, or raising a family in College Station, your perspective is vital to the plan’s success.

Here’s the meeting schedule:

Monday, Sept. 23

>> 7-8:30 p.m., Southwood Valley Elementary Cafeteria (2700 Brothers Blvd.)

Tuesday, Sept. 24

>> 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., CSU Meeting & Training Facility (1601 Graham Road)

>> 7-8:30 p.m., Forest Ridge Elementary Cafeteria (1950 Greens Prairie Road)

Wednesday, Sept 25

>> 7-8:30 p.m., Oakwood Intermediate School Cafeteria (106 Holik St.)

If you plan to attend, RSVP on the workshop Facebook page.

College Station is committed to updating its policies to address the issues of today and prepare for those that may arise in the future. By participating in the process, you can help evaluate the city’s direction in light of current trends and community values and to proactively address topics that are important to you.

You don’t have to be an expert, either. You only have to care about your community.

We’ll start analyzing the data we’ve gathered in December and start laying out the plan in the spring. We hope to present a final draft to the city council next summer.

For more information and to sign-up for email updates, visit cstx.gov/TheNext10.

 


About the Blogger

Long Range Planning Administrator Justin Golbabai, AICP CNU-A has been with the City of College Station since 2016. He previously served the City of Austin for nine years in various capacities, most recently as Neighborhood Partnering Program manager. Justin has also worked for the cities of Savannah (Ga.) and Overland Park (Kan.). A native of Windsor, Conn., he received a master’s in public administration from the University of Kansas in 2006, and a bachelor’s in economics and sociology from The University of Notre Dame in 2004.


 

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Let’s work together to resolve neighborhood integrity issues

By Justin Golbabai, Planning Administrator

College Station’s brisk population growth has had plenty of positive effects, including new economic opportunities and an expanded tax base. But that growth has also come with challenges, creating a strain among developers responding to the real estate market and residents who want to maintain the quality of life in their neighborhoods.

In many conflicts — at least in the popular culture — you have clearly defined good guys and bad guys. That’s not the case here, where developers and neighborhoods generally have honorable intentions. The challenge is the find an appropriate balance between healthy growth and preserving the integrity of neighborhoods.

That’s the driving force behind the City of College Station exploring possible revisions to its Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) in response to neighborhood integrity concerns. The catalyst for positive, productive changes is a gathering of stakeholders from the development community, neighborhood associations, and the general public.

On Monday, the city’s Planning and Development Services Department will conduct two come-and-go community meetings at city hall. The first will be from noon-1:30 p.m., and the second — covering the same topics — will be from 5-6:30 p.m. The meetings provide an optimal setting for you to contribute to the development processes in our community.

Another vital component is an online survey that will be active through May 14. The survey covers the same information as the meetings and presents an additional way to gather public feedback. You can complete the survey starting Monday at cstx.gov/DevServices.

The meetings and the survey will focus on these concepts:

  • Allowing accessory living quarters — also known as garage apartments or granny flats — to be rented similar to other housing units.
  • Requiring single-family houses to provide one parking space per bedroom, no longer capping it at four spaces.
  • Altering how single-family height and distance protections are applied to non-residential properties.
  • Allowing increased flexibility for neighborhoods seeking to create Neighborhood Conservation Overlays.
  • Creating a new Middle Housing zoning district that allows for a variety of housing types such as triplexes, fourplexes, and live-work units that are between the existing single-family and multi-family zoning categories.

For more information or to supply feedback on these concepts, contact me at 979-764-3826 or jgolbabai@cstx.gov.

 


About the Blogger

Planning Administrator Justin Golbabai, AICP CNU-A has been with the City of College Station since 2016. He previously served the City of Austin for nine years in various capacities, most recently as Neighborhood Partnering Program manager. Justin has also worked for the cities of Savannah (Ga.) and Overland Park (Kan.). A native of Windsor, Conn., he received a master’s in public administration from the University of Kansas in 2006, and a bachelor’s in economics and sociology from The University of Notre Dame in 2004.


 

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Beware opportunists taking advantage of hail damage

By Brian Binford, Planning & Development Services Building Official

Weather-rated calamities seem to bring out the best in most folks. We saw that up close when Hurricane Harvey devastated the Texas coast last summer.

Unfortunately, these situations can bring out the worst in a few people, too.

While Sunday’s hailstorm certainly wasn’t a large-scale disaster, it did enough damage to set opportunists and scammers in motion. An elderly College Station resident received a suspicious call this morning from a roofing company that offered to evaluate her home for damage.

If you get such a call, check with the Better Business Bureau to make sure the company is legitimate and has a good reputation.

Roofing contractors must be registered with the City of College Station and are required to obtain a building permit to roof or replace shingles and decking on residences. Homeowners who do the work themselves don’t need to register as a contractor, but they must apply for a permit before construction.

To obtain a permit, click here or contact Planning & Development Services at 979-764-3570.

 


About the Blogger

Brian Binford is a certified building official and has been with the City of College Station since 2008. He’s a graduate of Sam Houston State.


 

Photo Copyright: studiodin/123RF Stock Photo

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4 ways to fight illegal dumping and keep our city clean

By Debbie Stickles, Engineering Programs Specialist

You’ve seen the eyesores.

The piles of garbage, tires, paint cans, and appliances that someone carelessly dumped by the side of the road or in an open field. The practice is illegal, but it still happens far too often, despite the threat of substantial fines and even jail time.

Many of the dumped items are not just a blight on the landscape — they can be hazardous, too.

Illegal dumping is the disposal of a large quantity of rubbish or large items on either public or private property. Due to the low visibility created by high brush lines, local streams typically take the brunt of the mess. A few discarded shopping carts or a heap of tires can pollute waterways, increase flood hazards, and destroy wildlife habitats.

Here are four ways you can help us be friendlier to our environment and keep our community clean:

1. Household Hazardous Waste Collection.

When it comes to recycling or disposing of medications, computers, televisions, gasoline, oils pesticides, herbicides, antifreeze, paint, batteries and more, Brazos Valley residents should take advantage of free Household Hazardous Waste Collection events every spring and fall. The next one is Saturday, Oct. 21 from 7 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Texas A&M University Services Building located on Harvey Road east of Veterans Parks & Athletic Complex.

2. Recycling and solid waste programs.

The City of College Station’s single-stream recycling program allows you to place your recyclables in one container. The only item you need to bag in clear plastic is shredded paper. Visit cstx.gov/recycle to learn about the city’s solid waste and recycling programs.

Other resources may include private companies which can recycle or dispose of certain types of waste such as tires or construction materials. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality offers a list of statewide resources for recycling or special waste disposal.

3. Clean-up events and stewardship organizations.

The City of College Station offers several volunteer programs to get you directly involved in helping our environment:

  • Adopt-A-Street enhances the appearance of our community by beautifying and maintaining a street or section of a street.
  • Adopt-A-Greenway helps residents and businesses play an active role in cleaning up and beautifying our open spaces, creeks and multi-use paths/trails. The City of College Station partners with Keep Brazos Beautiful to coordinate the program.
  • Only Rain down the Drain Campaign encourages individuals or groups to place decals on neighborhood storm drain inlets that read “Don’t Dump. Drains to River.

4. If you see it, report it!

If you come across illegally dumped materials or see someone dumping illegally, report it by contacting Code Enforcement at 979-764-6363 or codeenforcement@cstx.gov, or use the popular SeeClickFix mobile app.

 


About the Blogger

Debbie Stickles is starting her third year as the city’s engineering program specialist. She previously worked as an engineering specialist in the Railroad Commission of Texas’ Oil & Gas Division from 2014-15.  A native of Carrizo Springs, Debbie received a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering from Texas A&M-Kingsville in 2013.


 

Photo Copyright: antpkr / 123RF Stock Photo

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City seeks public feedback on revisions to UDO


By
Justin Golbabai, Planning Administrator

Have you ever wondered why even new neighborhoods in College Station have so many trees? Or how commercial properties can be compatible with adjacent residential neighborhoods?

The city’s Unified Development Ordinance governs the development of land in College Station and to an extent, within our 3½-mile extraterritorial jurisdiction. The UDO’s purpose is to promote your health, safety, and general welfare.

College Station’s UDO is under review, and changes could be on the way to create more flexibility for development in our growing city.

A pair of public meetings on Wednesday, Aug. 30 at College Station City Hall (1101 Texas Ave.) will provide residents and developers two opportunities to provide input about possible UDO revisions. The first meeting will be from noon-1:30 p.m. A second meeting covering the same material will be from 5-6:30 p.m.

The meetings will focus on these topics:

  • Suburban Commercial Zoning Districts: How to increase the development viability of the Suburban Commercial zoning district in a way that’s compatible with surrounding neighborhoods.
  • Non-Residential Landscaping Requirements: Feedback on the city’s landscaping requirements, including streetscaping and buffer standards, and on ways to provide more options to conserve water.
  • Requirements for Redeveloping Non-Conforming Properties: How to provide more flexibility to redevelop properties that don’t comply with the UDO.
  • Streamlining the Preliminary Plan Process: How we can effectively streamline the preliminary plan process.

For more information, contact me at 979-764-3826 or jgolbabai@cstx.gov.

 

 


About the Blogger

Planning Administrator Justin Golbabai has been with the City of College Station since 2016. He previously served the City of Austin for nine years in various capacities, most recently as neighborhood partnering program manager. Justin has also worked for the cities of Savannah (Ga.) and Overland Park (Kan.). A native of Windsor, Conn., he received a master’s in public administration from the University of Kansas in 2006, and a bachelor’s in economics and sociology from Notre Dame in 2004.


 

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Is the color orange really banned in College Station?

By Lauren Hovde, Senior Planner

Have you heard the one about the City of College Station not allowing businesses to have orange on their buildings? Or that we require establishments with predominantly orange accents to add Aggie maroon to their facades?

Those rumors about our architectural regulations are common – but false.

As much as we love Aggie maroon, College Station doesn’t prohibit orange. We don’t require the addition of maroon to comply with our architectural standards, either.

In other words, Whataburger wasn’t forced to add the famous maroon roof panel that proclaims its support for Texas A&M.

The City of College Station has an approved color palette from which businesses may choose the hue of their choice. The palette is anchored by semi-muted tones to maintain cohesiveness throughout the community.

Each building is allowed to use a limited percentage of accent colors so businesses can exhibit individuality and flair. That’s where you see vibrant colors come into play.

Next time you hear someone say College Station has banned the color orange, you’ll know the real story.

 


About the Blogger

Senior Planner Lauren Hovde started her second stint with the City of College Station this spring after serving as a staff planner from 2008-13. She was regional services planner for the Brazos Valley Council of Governments from 2006-08. A native of Josephine, Lauren earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Texas A&M.


 

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Podcast: Who says College Station has 109,857 residents?

By Jay Socol, Public Communications Director

Senior Planner Jessica Bullock was born and raised in Boston, attended school in Philadelphia, and experienced an awakening that led her to become a city planner — a fascinating story.

Among Jessica’s responsibilities: Every month, she calculates College Station’s estimated population. How? And is she even qualified to do it? Jessica answered those questions and more in this edition of the podcast.

Click below to listen. If Soundcloud doesn’t play in your older version of Internet Explorer, click here to hear the audio file from your system.

 

Podcast Archive


SocolAbout the Author

Jay Socol (@jaysocol) is in his eighth year as College Station’s public communications director. A 1991 graduate of Texas A&M. Jay has also been communications director for the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service, public information officer for the City of Bryan, and news director at several Bryan-College Station area radio stations. He’s a native of Breckenridge.


 

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Flood insurance premiums lower in College Station

By Donnie Willis, Environmental Engineer/Drainage Inspector

In July, the Texas Water Development Board evaluated the City of College Station’s floodplain management ordinances and enforcement practices to determine their effectiveness in meeting National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) regulations.

The report found that College Station is one of the few communities with no issues.

In 1968, Congress created NFIP to help provide flood insurance to homeowners, renters, and business owners. Participating communities agree to adopt and enforce ordinances that meet or exceed Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) requirements to reduce the risk of flooding.

The program rates the City of College Station as a Class-7 Community, which results in lower flood insurance premiums. Our flood insurance rates are reduced 15 percent for structures in Special Flood Hazard Areas and 5 percent in 500-year areas. Preferred Risk Policies are already at reduced rates and don’t have additional premium reductions.

Flood insurance basics

Anywhere it rains, it can flood. And it only takes a few inches of water to cause major home damage. Since standard homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover flooding, it’s important to know your flood insurance options.

Many people are under the misconception that they are ineligible for flood insurance because of where they live, or their mortgage status. But the truth is, most can get flood insurance if they live in or outside a floodplain, their property has flooded before, and even if their mortgage broker doesn’t require it.

The law requires flood insurance for property owners in high-risk areas, or Special Flood Hazard Areas, with a federally-backed mortgage. Also, if you’ve received a federal grant or loan for previous flood losses, you must have a flood policy to qualify for future aid.

For more details about flood insurance, visit FloodSmart.gov. To learn more about local floodplain management, visit cstx.gov/floodplains.

 


Willis_DonnieAbout the Author

Donnie Willis is in his 12th year as the City of College Station’s environmental engineer and drainage inspector. After 23 years in the U.S. Army, he served as the safety and environmental compliance manager at Trajen, Inc., from 2000-04. A native of Evans, La., Willis earned a bachelor’s degree in aeronautics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in 1987 and an associate of science degree in occupational safety and health for Texas State Technical College in 1995.


 

Photo Credit: lightwise / 123RF Stock Photo

 

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Councilwoman Brick: What makes a great city?

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By Blanche Brick, Place 1 City Councilwoman

After serving on the College Station City Council for the past four years, I would like to offer my reflections on what makes a great city.

College Station has been experiencing a vigorous rate of growth. This experience has led the city council, city staff and the community to think long and hard about how to respond in a reasonable and sustainable way.

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Live Blog: Monday’s city council meetings (Nov. 23)

College Station City Council

Welcome to our live blog from the College Station City Council’s workshop and regular meetings on Monday, Nov. 23. It’s not the official minutes.

The meeting is being broadcast live on Suddenlink Channel 19 and streamed online. An archive of previous council meetings is available on the website.

The workshop will start about 5:30 p.m., followed by the regular meeting at 7.

5:40 p.m.

The workshop has started.

Elected Mayor Pro Tem

The council voted unanimously to elect Place-4 Councilman John Nichols for a one-year term as mayor pro tem, which acts as mayor if the mayor is disabled or absent. Nichols replaces Place-1 Councilwoman Blanche Brick in that role.

5:41 p.m. (more…)


You can be properly insured ─ even in a floodplain

14877773_lBy Donnie Willis, Environmental Engineer

A flood can happen anywhere it rains, and only a few inches of water can cause major damage to your home.

Since standard homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover flooding, it’s important to know your options. Despite common misconceptions, all homeowners, business owners and renters can get flood insurance regardless of whether they live in a floodplain or if their property has flooded before.

The City of College Station participates in the National Flood Insurance Program and is rated as a Class-7 Community, which means our residents pay lower flood insurance premiums. Rates are reduced 15 percent for structures in Special Flood Hazard Areas and 5 percent in Non-Special Flood Hazard Areas.

Flood insurance is required for property owners living in a high-risk area ─ or special flood hazard area ─ with a federally-backed mortgage. If you’ve received a federal grant or loan for previous flood losses, you must have a flood policy to qualify for future aid.

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Podcast: The perplexing profession of Planner Prochazka

By Jay Socol, Public Communications Director

While the work of our Planning & Development Services professionals may not be high-profile, the results of their labor sometimes are. They facilitate and implement College Station’s growth – including the monster-sized developments – based on codes, ordinances, and visionary plans.

In this podcast, Principal Planner Jennifer Prochazka discusses the challenges of her profession, the continuing urban legend of why we don’t have a Joe’s Crab Shack, and how her kids have no idea what she does. (more…)


Five things to watch at Thursday’s city council meetings

By Colin Killian, Communications Manager

The College Station City Council gathers Thursday at city hall for its workshop (5 p.m.) and regular (7 p.m.) meetings. Here are five items to watch:

  1. Possible Projects for Bond Election: The council will have a workshop discussion on the Citizen Advisory Committee’s recommendations for facilities projects to include in a possible November bond election. The council will also talk about other funding options for the transportation projects.
  2. Gateway Marker Design: The council will receive a workshop presentation on the design of markers for the city’s gateways.
  3. CSPD Recognition: In the regular meeting, the council will recognize the College Station Police Department for achieving compliance with the Texas Police Chiefs Association’s best practices program.
  4. Francis Drive Changes: As part of the consent agenda, the council will consider three items related to Francis Drive: an all-way stop at the Walton Drive intersection; a yield sign for the free right-turn bay from southeast bound Walton; and a prohibition on left turns into the driveway at College Hills Elementary School during drop-off and pick-up times.
  5. Rock Prairie Road Development: The council will consider a performance-based agreement to facilitate the development of 232 acres on the south side of Rock Prairie Road at the future Bird Pond Road intersection. The action is another step in the implementation of the Medical District Master Plan. The council will also look at the creation of the related Rock Prairie Management District No. 2 and its board of directors.

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A closer look at CS’s oil and gas ordinance update

Copyright: wamsler / 123RF Stock PhotoBy Alan Gibbs, City Engineer

The oil and gas boom has made the United States the world’s top oil producer, thanks largely to oil extraction from shale formations in Texas and North Dakota. Brazos County sits on the eastern edge of one of the country’s largest shale formations, the Eagle Ford, which stretches from the Mexican border to Leon County.

Balancing economic interests with environmental concerns and neighborhood impacts has made drilling and fracking a major issue across the nation. With local oil and gas production thriving, the City of College Station is looking at ways to amend its existing oil and gas ordinance (Sec. 4-13), which hasn’t been updated in more than two decades.

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Consider the consequences before renting your home to football fans

Home of the 12th Man

By Lance Simms, Director of Planning & Development Services

The buzz around Texas A&M has never been greater, and last week’s season-opening win against South Carolina only added to the excitement. College Station’s population surpassed 100,000 in January, and we’re rushing to keep up with new development and accommodate thousands of Southeastern Conference football fans.

Existing hotels — and even the new ones nearing completion — were booked as soon as A&M’s 2014 schedule was announced. Those who couldn’t reserve a hotel room are searching near and far for a place to stay.

Some local property owners have found a remedy to the room shortage by renting their homes – or even single rooms — on football weekends. That’s prompted dozens of College Station residents to call us. Some want to know if it’s okay to rent their homes, while others don’t want it to happen in their neighborhood.

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Back to School: What you need to know about rental regulations, parking and code enforcement

IMG_2123Neighborhood integrity concerns are a hot topic in College Station, and rental development in our neighborhoods has raised several questions. Here’s what you need to know as we head into a new school year.

What’s considered a family?

The city’s Unified Development Ordinance defines a family as “one or more persons occupying a single dwelling unit, provided that unless all members are related by blood, adoption, guardianship, marriage, or are part of a group home for disabled persons, no such family shall contain more than four persons.”

As an example, four friends living together in a home are complying with the ordinance. Four siblings living together are also complying with the ordinance, but if an unrelated friend moved in, it would be a code violation.

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Protecting our water supply during the oil and gas boom

IMG_3349[1]With Brazos County attracting keen interest from the oil and gas industry, many of our residents have become concerned about the environmental impact this activity will have on our area, especially our groundwater.

We sit on the eastern edge of the Eagle Ford Shale, which stretches across South Texas from Laredo to Huntsville. Based on capital invested, industry analysts claim Eagle Ford is the largest oil and gas development in the world, and that Texas could produce more oil by the end of the year than all OPEC countries except Saudi Arabia.

At last count, Brazos County had 515 oil wells and 98 gas wells.

“What you’re seeing unfold in the Eagle Ford (Shale) is probably the greatest energy success story of the 21st century,” ConocoPhillips exploration official Greg LeVeille said last month. He added that the drilling activity will likely continue for many years.

That bustling activity will undoubtedly have a positive economic impact, but how can we limit the impact to our environment and ensure a safe, high-quality water supply?

Is our water supply at risk? (more…)


Why you should care about the city’s Comp Plan checkup

ShowImage[5] “I have always found than plans are useless, but planning in indispensible.”
— Dwight D. Eisenhower

When a successful strategic planner such as Gen. Eisenhower speaks, you’re compelled to listen. But how do you reconcile his statement?

What Gen. Eisenhower meant was that a plan isn’t simply a static to-do list. Plans have to be flexible enough to adapt to changing conditions.

The City of College Station’s Comprehensive Plan is no different.

When the Comp Plan was adopted in 2009, College Station’s population was just a tad more than 90,000, and Texas A&M had a enrollment of about 49,000, thanks to an enrollment cap of 50,000.

Just five years later, the local landscape has changed significantly.

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