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Fort Worth committee moves toward agreement on TCU-area overlay

🕐 2 min read

By Scott Nishimura

A community committee moved Wednesday night toward a compromise on a controversial proposed TCU-area overlay, generally in agreement on reducing the number of permissible unrelated adults living in single-family homes, while grandfathering existing properties in perpetuity.

The committee members, in their second meeting since being formed by the city to try and reach a recommendation on the overlay, generally expressed agreement to one that reduces the number of permissible unrelated adults to three from the current five.

The overlay is aimed at combatting so-called “stealth dorms,” large single-family homes leased to TCU students by the room. Investors on the committee said they could live with the reduction if it came with indefinite grandfathering.

“I think we’ve made significant progress tonight,” Fernando Costa, the Fort Worth assistant city manager who is moderating the meetings, told the group.

“We support this compromise to help the neighborhoods move foward,” Michael Dike, an investor and committee member, said.

Paula Deane Traynham, a committee member representing the Frisco Heights association, said she didn’t believe there should be an overlay. But if there’s to be one, it should allow grandfathering.

“It’s the only fair thing,” she said.

Jon Samson, executive vice president of the Greater Fort Worth Builders Association and a committee member, maintained the grandfathering provision could prompt landlords to discriminate against families.

Under typical grandfathering, property owners who discontinue a use for two years lose the right to resume that use. Landlords may reject qualified families in favor of maintaining their grandfathered uses, Samson said.

“You put them in a position where they do discriminate,” Samson said, who maintained in an interview after the meeting that the builders continue to oppose any overlay unless it’s citywide, arguing it’s an unnecessary infringment.

Costa and the city’s deputy planning director, Dana Burghdoff, said they still need to work on the proposed language concerning what happens if a grandfathered property owner discontinues renting to five unrelated adults for a period.

Greg Jackson, a committee member representing the Berkeley Place neighborhood association, asked whether it was possible to cap grandfathering instead of allowing it in perpetuity.

“i think (Berkeley) would support general grandfathering,” Jackson said. But he asked, “Is there any grandfathering short of infinity that would be acceptable?”

Alex Cohen, a committee member representing the TCU student body, said he could support the reduction to three unrelated adults with grandfathering in perpetuity.

“It seems a very fair compromise,” he said.

He also proposed a conservation overlay for the affected neighborhoods, to help preserve their historical character.

The committee is scheduled to hold one more meeting next week to approve a recommendation. The Fort Worth Zoning Commission is scheduled Nov. 12 to consider the recommendation. The City Council would consider it Dec. 2.

Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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