Arlington Citizen-Journal

August 31, 2014

Southwest Arlington residents oppose plans for small subdivision

A developer wants to build 22 homes near the city’s border with Dalworthington Gardens.

Fifty years after Sid Fisher built his home a country block west of Dalworthington Gardens, the bucolic setting that attracted him to the area has changed very little. Other families have followed him to the greenery along the quarter-mile Curt Drive, but the houses have kept their distances from one another.

“There’s not a lot of vacant land around us,” Fisher said. “There are houses here, but they’re not all jammed up like a lot of housing developments are.”

Now he and his neighbors are worried that a proposed 22-home subdivision on 6.5 acres might spoil their coveted atmosphere.

The preliminary plat for the project, which has ping-ponged between the developer and the city staff for months as drainage and other issues were addressed, now goes to the Planning and Zoning Commission for a hearing Wednesday.

The Witte Place addition would be built along its one planned street, which would run south from Curt Drive and end in a cul-de-sac, according to plans submitted to the city’s planning staff. Curt Drive’s west end is at Indian Summer Lane and its east end is at Kelly Perkins Road, which forms part of the western border of Dalworthington Gardens.

“They’re small homes,” said Bernhard Fritz, a professional engineer who has lived on Curt Drive for 2 1/2 years. “You’re trying to fit a large number of homes in a very small space, and it’s definitely not characteristic through the entire neighborhood.”

The harmony with surrounding properties could have been better argued during the zoning part of the process, but residents didn’t get the chance. The zoning for the subdivision site and a larger surrounding area that includes the Curt neighbors’ lots was approved back in 1973, said Gincy Thoppil, the city’s development planning manager.

Even though residents along Curt chose to build larger homes on larger lots — averaging almost 2 acres each — they all have the same zoning as the proposed subdivision property, Thoppil said. That includes minimum lot size of 7,200 square feet, minimum lot width of 60 feet, with homes as small as 1,500 square feet, although the average homes and lots in the subdivision would be larger.

Neighbors say the proposed homes will crowd the street, with setbacks as little as 21 feet. The closest existing neighborhood home is 41 feet from Curt, and the average is 90 feet, they said.

“It’s not in character with the neighborhood, but they are meeting the zoning requirements,” Thoppil said.

Residents said they also are concerned about increased traffic.

“There’s going to be a huge pile of cars on that little street,” Fisher said. He contends that the asphalt, two-lane, shoulderless Curt Drive already carries enough before- and after-school traffic to pose a risk to students. “It makes it extremely dangerous for kids walking home from school.”

Thoppil didn’t see it that way. “A traffic study was not warranted, based on how many houses they were putting in,” she said. “It was not generating that many trips.”

The developer, Bayley Yandell of Southlake, has had particular difficulty finalizing a flood study for the drainage and stormwater, which is collected by a small creek that crosses the property. The study was submitted 11 times to the staff and was sent back to the developer 11 times.

“But I do understand it’s a very challenging site,” Thoppil said.

A Bayley Yandell official who his shepherding the Witte Place plans through the process couldn’t be reached for comment.

Thoppil said the plans include a wrought-iron fence with masonry columns along the front, as well as a perimeter fence along the rest of the property, which is not required.

The platting process generally ends with the Planning and Zoning Commission, although an applicant whose plat has been rejected can appeal to the City Council.

The neighbors turned out in force for the Aug. 20 commission meeting — 23 people representing all 11 homes on Curt, resident Kathy Benda said.

But after hearing commission members’ comments during a work session immediately before the public meeting, Thoppil said, “the applicant decided to request a continuance.” That sets up the meeting Wednesday.

“We’re not trying to stop progress,” said Benda, who has lived with her husband, B.J., on their 3 acres for 22 years. “We just want something that is more consistent with the neighborhood.”

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