The adoption of an ordinance to rezone approximately 1.39 acres from a residential area to commercial was denied on April 7 at the regular city council meeting. Residents around the area say it would not compatible with their needs as the area sees mounting traffic issues.
The last time city council considered rezoning the area was at a March 8 Planning and Zoning Commission meeting in order to make the area of the city compatible with the Denton 2030 plan. Residents have historically opposed efforts to build single-occupancy buildings in the area. They prefer multi-family units that are more favorable to pedestrians, will reduce traffic around a largely residential are and keep the culture of the area alive.
The most recent proposal by Park7 Development, a 640-bed single-occupancy apartment building, falls in line with past denials in the area.
History of attempted change
In Denton, residents have been outspoken about the building of apartment complexes or other student housing buildings in the historical Oak and Hickory streets.
Another student housing development was first purchased by EdR housing company in Sept. 2015, originally with 374 units, then scaled down to 300. When the project was first proposed to the Planning and Zoning Committee, there were less parking spaces than beds and it was higher than three stories.
On Dec. 6, 2016, the proposal was postponed again, agreeing on waiting another six months for the final proposal.
More apartments, more problems
Many residents who live along Oak and Hickory streets said they did not want any more traffic blocking their driveways and cluttering the neighborhood. As UNT and the city have grown, the amount of traffic in the area has skyrocketed, with many students and visitors of the area parking in front of residences along the historic streets.
Denton residents, like Donna Morris, spoke out about their concerns at the public hearing.
“Sometimes you feel like you’re standing on a railroad track with your arms out trying to stop the locomotive, that’s what’s happening in our neighborhoods over there, north of the square, west of the square,” Morris said. “How many times have we been here saying no to SROS? They bring in more traffic, cars, pretty pictures, with their designs saying they’ll do this and that and it doesn’t happen.”
Morris lives on Oak Street and said she’s had problems leaving her driveway in the past few years because of the traffic.
During the presentation, Paul Levine, a developer from the Park7 Development group, suggested that the distance to the UNT campus would reduce the need for cars and would in fact not cause more traffic.
A mixed commercial and residential zone would allow a 100-foot height barrier to the building, while if still zoned as a residential zone the building would have a 45-foot height barrier. The proposed building would have been 68 feet tall.
Minutes from the Planning and Zoning Committee stated that Devin Taylor, vice chair of the Planning and Zoning Committee, kept questioning the request.
He suggested that commercial zoning in the area would not be a good fit. The chair of the Planning and Zoning Committee suggested to approve the plan with an overlay district but then withdrew his motion.
A future land use plan was presented at the meeting, showing that the proposed zoning plans would be compatible with UNT and suit the needs of the students.
“The walking distance from the site to the blue line is a five-minute walk, and seven minutes to get to the academic core,” Levine said. “I want to point out that we believe that this will reduce the need for cars to get to campus and would certainly help with the congestion along Oak and Hickory.”
The Planning and Zoning Committee denied this request 5-2, and city council denied it 4-3.
Lee Allison, a local consultant for Park7, said that when he met with residents on Dec. 7, they were opposed because of concerns about insufficient parking, insufficient enforcement of parking, building height, locations of dumpsters, traffic, future improvements to scripture street, noise during construction, code enforcement, capacity of current existing infrastructure, and impact on surrounding businesses.
“Fry street would like it, the taco shop (Killer’s Tacos) would like it, and I think I would help surrounding small businesses that are struggling,” Allison said.
Featured Image: Voertman’s on Hickory Street in Denton, Texas is the location of a proposed new student apartment building. Jake King