For the second time in two months, Fort Worth zoning commissioners voted Wednesday to recommend that the City Council approve adding language to the city’s zoning ordinance to define what constitutes a “single housekeeping unit.”
In July, the commission approved the definition — but also four presumptions — without discussion or public input. This time, the 8-0 vote was taken after a nearly two-hour public hearing and about two dozen speakers, to approve only the definition and not the presumptions. The city staff also said it received more than 100 comments by email, mostly opposed to making any change. There were few responses from neighborhood associations citywide.
The Zoning Commission reconsidered the case after the City Council decided in August to send it back after receiving many residents’ comments. The staff also admitted it did not properly send notice about the proposed changes to neighborhood associations and other groups. The council will vote Oct. 13.
What you are treading on is extremely thin ice. The tide is on the side of getting rid of these stupid presumptions.
Joe Shannon, former Tarrant County district attorney and real estate investor
The zoning ordinance for a family uses the term single housekeeping unit. The staff asked for the definition to better interpret the ordinance, and the zoning commissioners agreed. Opponents said the language was too restrictive and would make it difficult to rent houses in the city.
Commissioner Gaye Reed said the current ordinance is too subjective. With a definition, “everyone knows what the rules are,” she said.
Mark Langford, president of the 2,800-member Greater Fort Worth Association of Realtors, disagreed and said the definition and presumptions are discriminatory, violate private property rights and are unnecessary.
“This would apply citywide and steps beyond any reasonable land use regulations,” Langford said. “The unintended consequences would be many and would restrict the ability of Fort Worth residents to own and rent property in the city without intrusion by this unreasonable ordinance.”
The timing of the proposed ordinance change, though, came months after adoption of the TCU Residential Overlay ordinance, which restricts the number of tenants renting single-family houses in several neighborhoods surrounding the university. The lack of a definition was a concern to a mediation group handling the TCU case.
Maddie Reddick, a senior TCU student and student body president, handed over a petition signed by more than 1,800 TCU students that supported the city’s need for a definition. “It’s very apparent TCU students are willing to work with the city,” she said.
Linda Cozzen, representing the Westcliff and West Westcliff neighborhood associations, said the groups want a stricter ordinance.
“We feel that this ordinance is our last, best defense,” Cozzen said. “We want staff, code compliance and the Zoning Commission to have every tool necessary to protect our neighborhoods. We realize there are powerful forces working against us. Give us something to work with. I implore you.”