An aerial photo shows a stretch of La Salle Avenue, looking north from near the Waco traffic circle toward Baylor University.

Signaling a desire for La Salle Avenue business owners to reach consensus on what the future of the area should look like, the city of Waco Plan Commission again tabled a proposal Tuesday that would call for new regulations on the types of businesses and buildings allowed there in the coming decades.

Discussions of the proposal, which includes the phasing out of automotive and manufacturing businesses found on La Salle Avenue now, will continue at least until the commission’s next meeting April 23.

In January, the Plan Commission tabled a vote on the matter, and supporters pledged to ensure all parties were informed of the proposal and given a platform to voice concerns.

An informal meeting of stakeholders that followed was not productive, city leaders have said.

Dennis Smith, owner of Bebrick Collision Care Center at 1515 La Salle Ave., said the meeting was a “catastrophe.” Smith, along with more than a dozen other La Salle advocates, attended the Tuesday meeting in opposition of the proposal.

“I hope it gets resolved,” Smith said. “I hope there can be a happy medium, but I don’t know where it’s going to be.”

David Mercer, who helped craft the proposal and owns Unlimited Self Storage at 1620 La Salle Ave., said another community meeting is scheduled for April 4, and changes to the proposed ordinance are expected to be discussed then.

The proposal is meant to usher in a new era for the South Waco thoroughfare. The vision includes new businesses and a walkable area that would attract tourists. Among other businesses, auto shops, manufacturing facilities and sexually-oriented businesses would be banned from the area. Current businesses of that type would not be affected, but expansion plans could be.

The proposal also includes updated building design standards and wider sidewalks for a more pedestrian-friendly area.

Opponents have said they worry about the futures of their businesses and confusion surrounding their abilities to expand.

Shipping containers

The Plan Commission also approved a slate of compatibility standards outlining regulations of shipping containers in residential areas.

City planning director Clint Peters described the proposed regulations to the city council on Tuesday. The council is scheduled to consider the standards April 16.

Under the proposal, structures that use shipping containers would be subject to height, width and architectural requirements based on characteristics of nearby properties.

Masonry, glass, wood, or siding would also have to completely cover the container. This adjustment was made since last week, when District 4 Councilman Dillon Meek said he would be OK with shipping container homes as long as containers are not visible.

Plan Commission Chairman Reggie Richardson said he believes the proposed ordinance would allow for creativity and innovation and address concerns about the exterior look of shipping containers.

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