Tablet Local

Arlington Heights neighbors divided over proposed zoning change

A zoning changed backed by some Arlington Heights residents that would keep new duplexes out of the southwest Fort Worth neighborhood has sparked heated opposition from other property owners.

Bret Starr, who lives on one of the few blocks in Arlington Heights that is still zoned to allow duplexes, has been working to get the 1900-2300 blocks Carleton and Western avenues restricted to 5,000-square-foot single-family lots.

“We are not asking for anything that the rest of our neighborhood doesn’t already have,” he said. “We are just asking for rights and to protect our rights just like the rest of the neighborhood.”

Eliminating the multifamily option, Starr believes, would lead to less density, more stable occupancy and better neighborhood preservation and would cut down on the uncertainty of what developers might decide to do.

Not everybody sees it that way, however.

David Claire, who lived in Arlington Heights from 1977 until August and owns duplexes there as investment properties, said the proposal does not make sense because limiting the possible land uses limits future investment and would be difficult to reverse.

“I would like to sell these [duplexes] to my children someday,” he said. “But I don’t want them to be stymied with what they can do with the property in the future.”

“I think we have a diverse neighborhood, and I’d like to keep it that way,” he added.

The City Council was scheduled to hear the case Jan. 7, but Councilman Dennis Shingleton, who represents the area, voted to continue it so the he could correct misinformation that had been circulated in the neighborhood by both sides.

“I will not adjudicate a case in front of City Council,” he said at a neighborhood meeting Thursday night that was called to clear up the misconceptions. “I will not go to council and not have some idea of where the case is going and have other council members look at me for some sort of response on where to go with this.”

The zoning application was started by a petition from the neighborhood. For it to be considered, at least half the property owners in both number and land area must support it.

Some 69 percent of them backed the petition when it was submitted in November, but that number had dropped to 54 percent as of Wednesday.

The issue is set to come back before the council Feb. 4.

Beth Knight, a senior planner with the Planning and Development Department, presented facts about zoning at the meeting, saying that zoning does not affect the amount of money paid toward taxes and that current duplex owners would be allowed to continue to run them as long as the lots don’t become vacant for more than 24 months.

The zoning change would mean, however, that no new duplexes could be built.

Part of the conflict about the zoning, Knight said, is because Arlington Heights was built in the first part of the 1900s, about 40 years before zoning laws were established.

“This has led to a great deal of controversy with where do we go from here,” Knight said. The city’s comprehensive plan shows the area to be single-family neighborhoods, she said.

Thursday’s tense meeting, which had many residents scoffing and or shaking their heads as the other side spoke, helped clarify the issue, said Shingleton, who does not yet know how he plans to vote on the issue.

“You can see this [issue] has developed not just in this neighborhood but throughout Arlington Heights and it is going to continue with developments on Montgomery Street,” Shingleton said. “I don’t want to impugn anyone’s rights and I don’t want to show favoritism . . . but I’m going to tell you that I look at this these things as a neighborhood, or maybe even more than that — maybe as a section of the city as a whole.”