City of College Station holds final public input meeting for proposed Restricted Occupancy Overlay

Published: Feb. 23, 2021 at 11:25 PM CST
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas (KBTX) - The City of College Station held the last of its three public input meetings Tuesday that could change the number of unrelated people who can live together in certain neighborhoods.

The city’s proposed Restricted Occupancy Overlay (ROO) would allow single-family subdivisions to ask for an overlay zoning that restricts occupancy to no more than two unrelated persons. It would need approval by a certain percentage of property owners within that subdivision’s boundaries to be enacted.

But the specifics are still up in the air, like an appropriate percentage for the petition’s approval and terms for a grandfathering clause.

“If occupants of a home are found in violation of over-occupancy, how long would they have to find alternative housing or to come into compliance?” one meeting participant asked. City staff responded saying that would probably depend on how the grandfathering clause is ultimately structured.

City staff took many questions throughout the meeting to clarify definitions and took polls on criteria that will mold the ROO’s terms.

“For me personally, I’d just like to share 51% is a problem,” another meeting participant said of the proposed threshold needed for a neighborhood to adopt the ROO in their subdivision. “This is not an election between the choice of two people. This is about restricting people’s property rights.”

The city also explained its new definition of “family.” In December, the city removed the word “related” to modernize its definition. Some expressed concern the old definition could adversely affect minority or LGBTQ communities.

Amy DuBose is the Association Executive of the Bryan-College Station Association of Realtors. She is against the ROO moving forward.

“It’s a very difficult position because if the city puts this forth, then you’re relying on industries to essentially enforce discrimination in some ways,” DuBose said.

Shirley Dupriest is the secretary for the College Station Association of Neighborhoods. Her organization is one that supports the passage of the ROO.

“If you’re in a neighborhood and it has two unrelated restrictions, and if you’re a good neighbor, I would be really surprised if Aggies would report you,” Dupriest said.

The City of Bryan has something similar in place to what College Station is proposing. It’s called a Residential Neighborhood Conservation Zoning (R-NC), and College Station city staff says they used it as the base for their proposed ROO.

It works in the same sort of way. Property owners can petition to change the zoning in their neighborhood with a certain threshold of signatures. City of Bryan Planning Administrator Randy Haynes says he views it as a positive for Bryan.

”We have had real estate professionals say ‘I have people wanting to shop for a house in one of these zoning districts,’” Haynes said. “What that tells me is that builds value in the community.”

Haynes says they’ve been implementing their R-NC zoning since 2007 after passing it the year before. In that time, he says exactly 50 neighborhoods have petitioned for the change, and there have been roughly 60 enforcement actions.

Haynes admits it isn’t easy to enforce, but he says the city often comes to an agreement with those who aren’t in compliance after educating them on what they need to do to fall into compliance.

“It’s sort of like the speed limit. We find that we have compliance,” Haynes said.

A poll on the City of College Station’s website will remain open through Friday for those who still want to share their thoughts. The city will put the ROO in front of the planning and zoning commission and city council for workshops in the first half of March. Staff hopes to take it to the council for a vote by the end of March or the beginning of April.

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