The fight over housing development in Colleyville has reached a tipping point, as some residents grow more frustrated and angrier at the direction the city has taken.
At issue: Picturesque estate lots and open spaces targeted by developers for tightly packed subdivisions, some with average lot sizes of less than 8,000 square feet.
Faced with market pressure, Colleyville’s City Council has approved many of these projects and rejected a few.
The fight over housing density came to a head Tuesday, when hundreds of Colleyville residents filled Town Hall to voice opposition to the city’s Comprehensive Plan: Destination Colleyville. For three hours, residents spoke against the plan, saying it opens the door to more high-density developments.
They pleaded with the council to put the item on the ballot or at least delay the vote so they can work out differences. They even suggested having a council of neighborhood associations take a look.
At 11:40 p.m., the council voted 5-2 to approve the plan, though one of the most controversial items — the extension of McDonwell School Road from Pleasant Run Road to Westcoat Drive — was removed by Mayor David Kelly.
The vote sparked outrage among the large crowd still in attendance. Many shouted that the council members who supported the plan would be voted out of office.
Councilman Christ Putnam and Councilwoman Carol Wollin were the lone dissenters.
Putnam has voted against many of the higher-density projects and has led the charge against the comprehensive plan. He also organized a citizen meeting earlier in the week attended by hundreds of residents who wanted to get more information about the plan.
“Developers are coming in and seeing remaining open space and seeing remaining large lots,” Putnam said. “They’re really pressuring the city and the residents around there to accept these higher developments. Unless the residents say, ‘We’ve had enough and we need to roll back some of this behavior that we’re doing in terms ignoring our own standards just so we can make some people money,’ then it’s going to continue.”
The Northeast Tarrant County bedroom community has been known for bucolic neighborhoods, narrow streets and country lifestyle. Earlier this year, some residents fought back against the city’s plan to improve Glade Road with 10-foot sidewalks saying it disrupts the city’s rural character and requires seizing too much private property. They lost that fight at the ballot in May.
Voters were able to stop plans for a TEX Rail passenger station in the city and continue to protest having the Fort Worth to Grapevine train go through the city at all.
A symptom of a larger problem
In East Colleyville, Sue Reed and her neighbors are fighting a zoning change for 12 homes on 8 acres on Pool Road just south of Glenhope Elementary School. The minimum lot size is 20,000 square feet.
The proposal was approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission Monday and will go to the City Council in January. It will require a super majority vote, or three-fourths of the council, to pass.
“That stretch of Pool Road has a beautiful balance of these kinds of properties and mature neighborhoods,” Reed said. “All of these trees would be gone, the pond would be gone and the wildlife would be gone.”
Commissioners urged the developer to meet with residents who have concerns.
In West Colleyville, Joel Stanley opposed plans for 15 homes on 5 acres on Lavaca Trail over concerns it would flood the land where he raises cattle.
Neighbor opposition triggered a super majority vote and, when it was clear the project wouldn’t pass, the council unanimously denied it in October. But it could be hollow victory, because the council gave the developer the option to bring the project back.
Just days after the vote, city staff organized a meeting with the developer and Stanley to work out details.
“The developer is trying to pressure Joel to remove his opposition to get the deal done,” Putnam said.
Reed called the zoning changes a “tragedy” that will leave the city without any true open space.
“Our little zoning issue is really a symptom of what’s happening all over town,” Reed said. “Anytime there’s any kind of open space that comes up for a zoning change, the first thing the city’s going to do is see how many homes they can cram into it.”
Why the rush?
The comprehensive plan will guide the city through 2035. The city’s current comprehensive plan was approved in 2004 and lasts through 2025. Opposition to the 2035 plan earlier this year prompted the city to rewrite it, dropping many references to high density.
The latest version still sets a target of 1.8 units per acre. Putnam argues that the way the number is calculated still allows for higher density.
The revised version was released the day before Thanksgiving with the vote set for Dec. 1.
Some residents complained that the holiday didn’t give them enough time to review the 200-page document so they pushed for it to be tabled. The Dec. 1 meeting became highly contentious, with Kelly ordering Stanley removed from the meeting.
Wollin and Putnam got the plan tabled until the Dec. 15 meeting.
Then, Kelly said there would be no public hearing at the Dec. 14 meeting, which made some residents even angrier. Other council members agreed to allow the public hearing.
The whole process gave the appearance that the city was rushing it through during the holidays, many residents argued.
“It would have been better to engage the public earlier,” said Chris Cantarella, a Colleyville resident.
“The appearance of a lack of transparency would be greatly reduced. We hate perceptions of even microtyranny. That’s why we separated from King George,” Cantarella said.
Claudia Bevill said the council has approved 90 percent of the requests for residential zoning in the last 12 years.
“Numbers do not lie,” she said. “I believe these developments degrade the appearance of our city. We have already allowed too many of these developments in our community.”
A handful of speakers supported the plan, saying retirees want to downsize in Colleyville so the homes on smaller lots are ideal.
Kelly said there are references within the comprehensive plan that preserve the rural character of the city.
“That has never changed. It will never change,” Kelly said. “All of us came to Colleyville for the same reason you are. None of us here want to change that.”
Nicholas Sakelaris: @ReporterNick1