Fort Worth

June 3, 2014

Developer drops TCU-area apartment complex

The project faced opposition from the Bluebonnet Hills Neighborhood Association.

The developer of a 175-bedroom apartment complex proposed along South University Drive near TCU is dropping the project after it faced stiff opposition from area residents.

Matthew J. Vruggink, a partner with Ojala Holdings, said the developers will not pursue the needed zoning change as proposed at Tuesday’s Fort Worth City Council meeting. He said it was “to be determined” if they will rework the plans to develop in the same spot.

The apartment complex planned two blocks from TCU had drawn opposition from residents in the Bluebonnet Hills Neighborhood Association who said it is too dense for the already crowded neighborhood.

“Although we felt and continue to feel strongly about the proposed project, we have little interest in engaging further in a protracted argument over what should or should not go on that particular block on South University,” Vruggink said in an email to the Star-Telegram.

The staff report on the case says the zoning change would have been consistent with the city’s comprehensive plan and with surrounding land uses.

“We agree with the assessment of city staff in that the project, as proposed, was/is compatible and consistent with the plan for the South University Urban Village, and look forward to pursuing other urban opportunities in Fort Worth,” he said.

Councilman Joel Burns said he could not support the project.

“They have not been able to calm the neighborhood’s concerns and fears. I think that increased density is something that is going to happen in this corridor, but this project, while I think there were some good parts to it, this project is not one that I can support,” Burns said.

The property owner, Shope & Ryan Management Inc., was requesting a zoning change from medium-density multifamily, which would allow for a maximum of 125 bedrooms at the 1.37-acre development, to urban residential, which does not have a maximum number of bedrooms but is limited by building height.

The apartments would have been in the Bluebonnet Circle Urban Village, one of the city’s 16 urban villages, which are small, dense areas zoned for multiuse development that are pedestrian- and mass-transit-friendly.

The master plan for the urban village calls for town homes along University Drive that are two to three stories, have unique facades, with a strong relationship between the building and the street, and promote the pedestrian environment.

The Fort Worth Zoning Commission voted 9-0 in March to delay the case so the developer and the neighborhood could resolve issues such as parking concerns, traffic congestion and the effect of a large apartment complex on the residential area. Because the conflicts were not resolved, the commission voted 9-0 in May to recommend that the council deny the case.

Vruggink previously said the developers had made concessions because of residents’ worries. They planned for 25 percent more parking than required, eliminated pools because of noise concerns, and quadrupled the side-yard and rear-yard setbacks.

The town homes were meant as a transition between the commercial development on Berry Street and the heavily residential areas to the west, Sandra Dennehy, chairwoman of the Berry Street Initiative, said in a previous interview.

The urban residential zoning, created in 2010, is meant to provide for that transition.

The problem, Dennehy said, is that the zoning designation is too broad, including everything from dense apartments to town houses and single-family homes.

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

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