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TCU mediation group approves complete grandfathering in contentious meeting

After a contentious and confusing three-hour meeting Wednesday, the mediation group appointed to hash out the details of a proposed occupancy overlay near TCU approved a proposed ordinance that includes grandfathering existing rental property.

The proposed ordinance is an attempt to curb what some call stealth dormitories, or large houses typically rented to college students, and the plan to allow owners of existing properties to continue to rent to four or five unrelated people initially faced steep opposition from area residents.

During the meeting — which included multiple calls for civility from Assistant City Manager Fernando Costa — the group of neighborhood leaders, TCU administrators, investors and student government leaders approved a proposed ordinance 18-3. They approved reducing the number of unrelated tenants of a single dwelling from five to three and approved complete grandfathering in perpetuity, as already exists in the city’s zoning ordinance.

“I have heard rumors of some folks who have indicated they are going to vote for something tonight and then work to undermine that consensus before the zoning commission or the council,” Costa said to start the meeting.

“I would ask that once you agree and vote for something, that you honor that consensus.”

In what was supposed to be their last meeting, the members did not get to the other items on the agenda, including a proposed TCU Good Neighbor Program to teach students how to live in family-oriented areas, rental registration, definitions of key zoning terms and neighborhood character.

Another meeting was set for next week to hash out the details of rental registration, which would be necessary to enforce the grandfathering.

Several residents at the meeting Wednesday said their neighborhoods still oppose grandfathering, especially as presented in the proposed ordinance — with the existing rental properties grandfathered in perpetuity unless the property’s use is found to be nonconforming for two years.

The ordinance approved by the mediation group is scheduled to go the Fort Worth Zoning Commission next week and then to the City Council on Dec. 2. On Oct. 8, the Zoning Commission delayed a decision on the proposed ordinance, after both sides engaged in about three hours of heated discussions, hoping the two sides could come to an agreement.

The overlay includes the single-family-zoned neighborhoods of Frisco Heights, University Place, Paschal, Bluebonnet Place, Bluebonnet Hills, Westcliff, Westcliff West, Colonial Hills, Tanglewood, University West, University Place, Park Hill, Park Hill Place and Berkeley Place, as well as parts of Overton Park.

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

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