Stealth Dorms? Historic District Neighboring TCU Wants to Limit Cohabiting College Co-Eds

 

On Sandage St. near TCU, two large, zero-lot-line homes have been built next door to one another. To curb the trend of investors tearing down homes to build "stealth dorms," residents are supporting greater restrictions for the number of co-habiting adults in these homes. (Photo: Max Faulkner/Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

On Sandage St. near TCU, two large, zero-lot-line homes have been built next door to one another. To curb the trend of investors tearing down homes to build “stealth dorms,” residents are supporting greater restrictions for the number of co-habiting adults in these homes. (Photo: Max Faulkner/Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

This is an interesting story out of Fort Worth, as some neighborhoods push back against big, zero-lot-line homes full of college kids by proposing an overlay to limit unrelated adult residents to three per single-family home instead of the current five. The overlay, which in its current version would not grandfather existing properties, is facing some stiff opposition from investors. They’re pooling their funds and preparing for a legal battle, according to the story in the Star-Telegram:

“We did it how they said to do it,” Kyle O’Keefe, an investor and resident in the overlay, said of the homes they built. “If they go back and change it, that is a break of trust. That is saying, ‘Hey, you guys come in and invest in our city make it a great city and then we are going to screw the hell out of you in a couple of years.”

This is interesting, because while the restrictions are aimed toward protecting the integrity of the neighborhoods surrounding Texas Christian University, they’re targeting a specific group of homes: Large four- and five-bedroom houses in districts surrounding TCU, that are usually rented to college students and dubbed “stealth dormitories.” Residents are mostly concerned about noise, trash, and traffic.

Since 2004, 66 residential demolitions have been approved in Frisco Heights, another neighborhood near TCU, the story claims. Fort Worth city officials say that only a few nearby homeowners are OK with the existing properties being grandfathered.

Greg Jackson, president of the Berkeley Place Association, said area residents are “overwhelmingly in support of the overlay” to protect the historic integrity of the area.

“We have a concern that as the university grows and as there are less options for housing, that either more of the existing homes within our neighborhood would start to be leased to students or have a situation where an older home is torn down and one of theses stealth dorms built it their place,” Jackson said.

So, what do you think? Does the proposed ordinance go too far? Is this overlay unfair to homeowners who already built homes under the existing regulations?

The FWS-T editorial board has come out in support of the overlay including a grandfather clause:

Tim Latta looks out the window of her single-story 1950s home and sees a towering two-story, five-bedroom home recently built next to her property line.

“That is not really a single-family house,” she said, “that is a dormitory.”

The proposed overlay would cover the neighborhoods of Frisco Heights, University Place, Paschal, Bluebonnet Place, Bluebonnet Hills, West-cliff, Westcliff Village, Colonial Hills, Tanglewood, University West, University Place, Park Hill, Park Hill Place and Berkeley Place.

The city must “try and maintain the integrity of our single-family areas,” says Mayor Pro Tem W.B. “Zim” Zimmerman, whose City Council District 3 includes part of the TCU area. “We have to try and see if there is a solution.”

There is a solution, and the overlay district is a good one.

It has its difficulties. Primarily, developers who have bought properties in the area with plans to build on them have made investments that are entirely within current city zoning and other ordinances.

They can’t be punished by a mid-stream policy change. The best thing the city can do is make the change as quickly as possible to prevent further damage, including a grandfather clause where investments have already been made.