Start with optimism on ‘stealth dorms’ near TCU

The very thorny problem of “stealth dorms” in neighborhoods next to Texas Christian University could be headed for a solution.

That’s the optimistic scenario. For it to happen, a city-assembled mediation group of neighborhood leaders; TCU administrators; investors, builders and Realtors; TCU student government leaders and other stakeholders needs to agree on a solution in the next two weeks.

It’s a lot to ask.

Mayor Betsy Price told the City Council on Tuesday that the problem has been discussed in TCU neighborhoods at least since she and her husband bought a home there in 1978.

Councilman W.B. “Zim” Zimmerman, whose district includes part of the area, said the council poked at the issue in the 1990s but backed away.

But without optimism, you never solve any tough problems, right?

“Stealth dorms” are what some people are calling five-bedroom, five-bath houses built in TCU-area neighborhoods zoned for single-family homes.

City ordinances allow up to five unrelated people to live in single-family homes. There’s no dispute that investors are building these homes so they can rent bedrooms to TCU students.

Other residents say it’s changing the nature of their neighborhoods and hurts their property values.

The city has proposed a zoning overlay that would reduce the number of unrelated individuals allowed in a single-family TCU-area home from five to three.

Investors and builders say the overlay would take away their property rights. Arguments have included whether a grandfather clause could address that objection.

The Zoning Commission heard the arguments Oct. 8 but wanted more time to sort them out.

The council argued again Tuesday, deciding that, for now, applications for new single-family-home permits in the affected area will need special council approval.

The mediation group has scheduled meetings through Nov. 5.

The Zoning Commission is set to hear the group’s recommendations Nov. 12 and send them to the council for a Dec. 2 decision.

In about six weeks, this could all be over.

Optimism. Confidence. Don’t leave home without them.

This story was originally published October 22, 2014 5:53 PM.

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