Planning & Zoning Commission split over proposed ROO in College Station

The Restricted Occupancy Overlay (ROO) would limit the number of unrelated persons who could live together in the same household if adopted by a particular neighborhood.
Published: Mar. 4, 2021 at 10:46 PM CST
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas (KBTX) - Much like the residents of College Station, members of the planning & zoning commission are split on recommending adoption of the proposed Restricted Occupancy Overlay (ROO) that went in front of the committee for a workshop Thursday.

The ROO would limit the number of unrelated persons who could live together in the same household if adopted by a particular neighborhood. A still-to-be-determined majority of neighbors in a neighborhood would have to agree on the ROO in order for it to go into effect for that specific subdivision.

Some committee members say they’re concerned it could promote housing discrimination.

“We understand this has always been an eclectic and diverse community. It’s been transient and full of students,” Jeremy Osborne said. “It’s not family station, it’s not retirement station, it’s College Station. I think people oppose it because they understand that the policy is discriminatory and it’s wrong against them and other groups that people don’t want in their neighborhoods.”

“I do have concerns about how this is going to have impacts on lower-income families and non-traditional families,” Jason Cornelius said. “Our chairman did mention how this could possibly affect non-married couples with children.”

Other committee members say it’s a necessary tool to protect families and homeowners from gentrification and safeguard their investments.

“For most people, purchasing a home is the largest financial investment they will make,” Joe Guerra, Jr. said. “This isn’t about students. This is about protecting the most important investment that a family will ever make.”

“I’ve heard repeatedly from different speakers who say let the homeowners association or the deed restrictions take care of the matter,” Bobby Mirza said. “But here, on the south side, some of our deed restrictions are so antiquated that some of the governance can be unconstitutional.”

City staff was also seeking recommendations from the planning & zoning commission on how to define specific terms of the ROO, such as its grandfathering clause and the percentage of signatures required for a successful petition needed to adopt it.

Committee members in favor of the ROO supported a simple majority of homeowners to adopt the overlay in their neighborhood - just 50% + 1. Committee members against the ROO wanted a more robust threshold of at least 58% of neighbors in a subdivision.

There were also differing opinions on what to do about those who would not be in compliance if the ROO were to be adopted in their neighborhood.

“I would grandfather to the greatest extent possible,” Osborne said.

“The grandfathering should end when the property is sold,” Guerra said.

City staff will take the planning & zoning commission’s recommendations with them when the ROO goes in front of the city council for another workshop next Thursday.

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