A call for density reform in Colleyville

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Colleyville City Council is cracking down on higher-density developments by changing the way residential density is calculated in its comprehensive plan.


On Feb. 21, City Council unanimously approved 80 amendments to the plan, known as Destination Colleyville. The document is meant to guide development and provide a vision for the city through 2035.


“The primary driving motive behind amending the plan was density,” Colleyville Mayor Richard Newton said. “Over the past several years there have been a number of high-density developments approved, and I thought we were going in the wrong direction in regards to density in Colleyville.”


The comprehensive plan lists the maximum density for Colleyville as 1.8, meaning there can be a maximum of 1.8 houses or dwellings per acre.


Newton said the 1.8 density maximum is not being changed. Rather the change is to how the density is calculated. The 2015 plan calculated density using gross acreage. After the February plan amendments, density will now be calculated using net acreage.


“Gross density includes the number of houses or dwellings for all acreage even if that acreage includes roads, parks or institutional land—like where the city [facilities] and schools are—while net density removes the roads and things that really won’t or can’t be developed. That’s a more accurate representation,” he said.



Why the change?


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Mayor Pro Tem Chris Putnam said concerns over density are why he voted against the comprehensive plan in 2015. That version of the plan used gross density to calculate residential density.


“I was opposed in 2015 because Destination Colleyville was a manifesto for a higher-density Colleyville,” he said. “The [2015] document was designed to promote increased residential development, including townhomes and apartments, zero-lot neighborhoods and increased infill redevelopment,” he said.


Newton said the plan’s amendments to density help protect the city’s existing neighborhoods.


“This is key because it protects the integrity of the existing neighborhoods as we are in the period of city development where all of our major tracts have been developed,” he said. “So what’s happening is people are coming in and buying older homes, tearing them down and redeveloping them. So it’s important that as redevelopment happens you don’t change the character from large acreage to very small acreages.”


Council Member Mike Taylor said the city had been using gross density since 1998 until the February update, and he thinks both methods of calculation are a fit for the council’s vision of the city.


Taylor said the 2015 plan was no closer to getting apartments built than the plan that was just passed.


“There are no apartments in Colleyville, and there will never be any,” he said. “I just don’t think [apartments fit] our community, and I don’t think you’ll get community support for [apartments]. People that know the area know we are not a high-density community.”


Taylor said a majority of subdivisions that were built past the 80s do not meet the requirements for density.


“The very argument that we are trying to protect our city by going to net density means we would eliminate over half of the neighborhoods that are currently built in Colleyville,” he said.


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Putnam said previous councils were able to find loop holes and altered the definitions and calculations of density in order to get residential developments approved that were above 1.8 net
density.


Taylor said he thinks the plan before and after the amendments is acceptable.


“I didn’t lose any sleep over the last one and the contents within, and I’m not going to lose any sleep over this [one],” he said. “I think either way both these plans and the changes—I’m happy with them. It’s a good city. It’s going to maintain itself as a good city.”



Comprehensive plan history


Destination Colleyville replaced the former Colleyville Plan, which was adopted in 2004. City staff and council members began holding meetings in 2014 to gather input for Destination Colleyville.


On Nov. 9, 2015, the first reading for the plan was held. The plan was expected to be approved or denied at the Nov. 17, 2015, meeting; however, hundreds of residents showed up to speak in opposition to the plan based on the density calculation. In response, council held a third public hearing to allow residents to provide additional public feedback.


On Dec. 15, 2015, council approved the plan by a 5-2 vote, with Putnam and former Council Member Carol Wollin in opposition. Taylor, Mayor David Kelly, Jody Short, Chuck Mogged and Nancy Coplen were in favor. Taylor, Short and Coplen are the only three council members who voted in favor of the comprehensive plan in 2015 who are still on the council.

By Sherelle Black
Sherelle joined Community Impact Newspaper in July 2014 as a reporter for the Grapevine/Colleyville/Southlake edition. She was promoted in 2015 to editor of the GCS edition. In August 2017, Sherelle became the editor of the Lewisville/Flower Mound/Highland Village edition. Sherelle covers transportation, economic development, education and features.


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