The city's first citizen forum was held Thursday night and moderated by Planning and Building Services Director Judy Miller and Building Official Tom Heap. The brand-new forum provided an avenue for residents of Stephenville to voice concerns and offer suggestions to city officials at the SPARD Recreation Hall. The meeting was well attended by between 75 and 100 people.

“I’m among those city officials who feel that less government regulation is a good thing,” Miller said. “We’re here to serve, not to obstruct and that’s the purpose of this meeting. We welcome your input so we can serve the people of the city of Stephenville better.”

The evening’s primary focus of discussion was the required minimum house/structure size in the residential zoning districts as well as the central business and downtown districts as required by the zoning ordinances.

The city council and planning and zoning commission have been working on ways to loosen restrictions to allow smaller, more affordable housing particularly single-family housing, often referred to as “starter homes,” for young families that are purchasing their first home.

“There are about the same number of Texas cities that have no minimum square footage requirements as those that do," Miller said. "Stephenville has those requirements but the Planning and Zoning Commission has recommended that the city council drop those in some areas and let the market dictate what needs to be built.”

The primary concern about loosening the minimum house size restrictions came from homeowners of larger homes who do not want smaller or multi-family homes built in their area that will decrease property values.

Miller emphasized that final decisions about zoning must be made by the city council.

“This is good testimony,” she said, “and I would encourage anyone who wants to give the city council input on this or any other matter to attend the next council meeting on Tuesday, May 5th.”

At the suggestion of city councilwoman Sherry Zachary, the council tabled the topic of loosening minimum home size restrictions at its April meeting to allow citizens more time to consider the idea.

Traffic congestion at the Harbin and Overhill area was also discussed with Stephenville Police Chief Jason King and City Administrator Pat Bridges addressing questions regarding possible speed reduction methods – such as signage and speed bumps and other traffic control solutions.

King said his officers will look at any concerns people have but that the question is always the overall effects of implementing new traffic control in a location.

“It’s a question of whether what you do will make something better at that location but then cause problems on either side of it. We have to look at the whole picture, but we’re certainly always willing to work with people to try and make things better.”

Bridges pointed to the cost of installing speed bumps, which he estimated could run as high as $6,000, and would also require approval of the residents in the area that would be affected by such an action.

Several citizens also commented positively regarding overall performance by the city’s police force.

Miller says that such meetings will be repeated at least once a quarter and more often if residents feel they are needed.