How to Plead My Case on a Re-zoning
(Bell County, TX)
Visitor Question: There are 7 property owners with 8 lots in our subdivision (we are all on 6-8 acre lots). One of the property owners wants to develop his property with duplexes.
In our deed restrictions it allows the majority of the property owners to make changes.
He has already gone to the P&Z (planning and zoning commission), and they have given him approval, but the City Council has not met yet to rule on it. (They have 2 readings on this.)
We as the majority land owners do not want this and have drafted up an Amended Deed Restrictions. I have been told that he will be grandfathered into this and it will not affect him, so it might be a mute thing.
We though, have one lot that could be effected, since it could be developed later down the road.
What words of wisdom can we bestow on the city council so they could see it our way?
The city is planning to widen the rest of our road in the near future to be a major artery, but has not done so as of yet. The road has been torn up due to all the traffic of trucks and heavier traffic that usual. Our area was primarily farm land and has exploded with new homes being built all around us. Down the road a half mile is a new subdivision of 100 new homes being developed as we speak.
I know they say that you can't use traffic as an argument because of growth of a city but how can we be safe if the roads can't handle it. And besides I/we do not want duplexes and the crime that comes with it. If he would build larger homes that would be a different because of pride of homeownership is usually better that being a renter. This developer bought land next to us years ago and developed it into homes and now they are being rented out. We have more crime now.
Sorry to ramble on but he has really gotten to all of us.
Editors Comment: If your city council is enlightened, wise, and fair, they would respond to arguments of two types, we would think:
1. Neighborhood character. We're guessing based on your comments that the rest of you have single-family homes. If so, you could argue that duplexes are out of character with your own homes.
Being objective, we think that's perhaps a weak argument when it comes to duplexes, but it is effective all over the country with city councils.
2. Density. We also suspect, reading between the lines, that the rest of you have only one single-family home on a six to eight-acre lot. You say that the person proposing the rezoning wants to build duplexes plural, so we would argue on the basis of what is called density.
Density means either the number of housing units per acre, or number of persons per acre. If your one property owner in question is proposing to develop duplexes on quarter-acre lots, and he owns six acres, we could estimate that is 24 housing units on his lot as compared to one housing unit on the rest of your lots.
Density too is a very respectable, time-honored, and often successful argument in zoning cases. In the example such as the one we posed above, though, density and neighborhood character become one and same thing.
In many situations, traffic is an effective and totally legitimate argument. I don't know who told you it isn't all right. But since your road is proposed to become a major artery, the council may think they have solved that problem.
We should point out that we have an entire page on this website about how to oppose a rezoning effectively, so you should read http://www.useful-community-development.org/re-zoning-opposition.html also. (For that matter, there's one on neighborhood character as well.)
Lastly, we wanted to comment on the deed restriction aspect of this. Yes, it is worth amending the restrictions to prevent the same fate on the one remaining lot. If you can do this very quickly, we think the property owner contemplating the duplexes might not be able to do anything about it.
Owners are subject both to zoning and to deed restrictions, you know. Again, local knowledge will be best; for instance, whoever told you that the owner would be grandfathered might have been thinking about a judicial doctrine called "vested rights." Under "vested rights," certain courts interpret that developers have the right to proceed after they have passed a certain point in the development process. Just make sure that whoever you are listening to is an informed expert in the matter at hand.