Beginning in March 2017, City Council set a Strategic Plan goal of “Redevelopment of Downtown” during their annual retreat. Within that goal, the Council also established the creation of a comprehensive Downtown Master Plan as one of the goal objectives. In April 2017, the Council appointed a Downtown Steering Committee (DTSC) comprised of a number of Downtown stakeholders, tenants and city staff to begin work on the master plan. The consulting firm of Freese and Nichols was hired to work with the DTSC and associated subcommittees on the master plan development for Council consideration and approval. The DTSC and city staff worked with Freese and Nichols for over a year, and recommended the 13-point plan to the City Council in August 2018.
In September 18, 2018, the Wichita Falls City Council approved recommendations of the DTSC and directed staff to begin implementation of those approved recommendations. One of the recommendations approved by City Council included enhanced property maintenance in the defined greater downtown area. Upon City Council approval, staff was directed to seek a greater downtown property maintenance code (PMC), which ultimately included the development of a Vacant Structure Registry Ordinance (VSRO) as a key element, from among various alternatives presented to help establish a higher level of property maintenance in the greater downtown area. This enhanced maintenance is designed to help prevent further deterioration and neglected maintenance of buildings and properties that have plagued downtown for decades.
Initial committee/staff work on the PMC/VSRO began in February 2019, but due to a vacancy in the Development Services Director position beginning shortly thereafter, progress on the code stalled. Additionally, in September 2019, the DTSC charge from City Council of developing a Downtown Master Plan had ended, and the committee effectively “sunsetted”.
Following the hiring of a new director in September 2019, staff re-established a working group of Downtown property owners, the Director of Downtown Wichita Falls, Inc., Planning Commission members and city staff to review previous work on the PMC/VSRO and finalize an ordinance for Council consideration and future implementation. The new working group began work in January 2020, but public meetings to discuss the proposed ordinances stalled due to the COVID-19 crisis. On December 1, 2020, staff and the working group held a virtual forum to present the ordinance and answer any questions from downtown property owners and/or the general public. Questions from the forum and subsequent feedback following the meeting was generally positive and questions were minimal.
The Wichita Falls City Council adopted the Ordinance on February 2, 2021, which establishes a Downtown Property Maintenance District by adopting portions of the 2015 International Property Maintenance Code for the greater downtown area. The ordinance will begin implemented on October 1, 2021.