Commercial Design Standards

Important to note, this is merely a policy report and is not a reliable guide for Little Elm's development regulations. For development regulations, please see Chapter 106 (Zoning) of the Code of Ordinances.


The Commercial Design Standards report originated from multiple driving forces. The opening of Lewisville Lake Toll Bridge, the expansion of Eldorado Parkway, the future Town Center, the Eldorado Streetscape project, and direction from the 2008 Comprehensive Plan all pointed to the creation of an overlay district for Eldorado Parkway.

The goals of the overlay were to promote high quality and sustainable commercial development, a pedestrian oriented environment, a strong Little Elm image and identity, and development that relates well to public streets, Town Center, lake views, open spaces, and neighborhoods. Once the project commenced, the obvious question was why these special standards would only apply to Eldorado Parkway when other corridors were just as much of a gateway into Little Elm. Soon, it became apparent that the scope of the overlay project needed to expand to include all commercial properties.

Thus, the product of the nearly year-long effort was a report that detailed areas where existing commercial development standards needed enhancement, and areas where opportunity existed for the creation of new standards that promote Little Elm’s unique lakeside character.


After the formal adoption of the 2008 Comprehensive Plan, staff requested funds from Council to hire a consultant, Dennis Wilson of Streetscape, Inc., for the 2009 fiscal year and convened an Advisory Committee comprised of staff, developers, appointed and elected officials, business owners, citizens, and other key stakeholders.

After more than ten open meetings and three public hearings, the report was adopted by council on July 21, 2009. Staff began the codification process of implementing the report’s recommendation into the existing code of ordinances for application to new commercial development, in time for the opening of Lewisville Lake Toll Bridge in August, 2009.

Staff is still in the process of implementing the Commercial Design Standards report. Most of the report was implemented in a series of ordinances between Summer, 2009, and Spring, 2010, resulting in a complete re-write and re-organization of the Zoning ordinance. The primary remaining items are the over-haul of the Subdivision Regulations, expected to be completed in the near future, and the adoption of Green Building codes.


The report largely modernized Little Elm’s commercial design standards in relation to landscaping, architectural standards, pedestrian linkages, streetscape regulations, parking, and signage.

The more cutting edge recommendations included increasing the maximum allowed height of commercial buildings to 60 feet from the current 35 feet, the formation of mixed use building standards and form based codes, the creation of the Urban Tree category for use in Town Center and other urban areas, and a blanket 15% reduction in required parking for large multi-tenant shopping centers.

However, the truly distinctive component of the report is the required application of River Stone to all commercial developments to reflect Little Elm’s lakeside character and create a unique identity for the community. The use of river stone will be accomplished by its application to the exterior facade of buildings and its use in the hard-scape and on monument signs.

The report also implemented a formal site plan review process, consolidated and phased out obsolete zoning districts, employed numerous Smart Growth techniques, and even recommended the adoption of Green Building codes. For a municipality that has only been Home Rule since 2001, unifying competing stakeholders and achieving the requisite political will to codify modern design standards was a compelling journey.