Thursday, June 20, 2024

FM Council passes senior housing amendment

Flower Mound Town Hall. Photo by Bill Castleman

The Town of Flower Mound’s goal to attract senior housing projects was finally outlined on Monday night.

Unfortunately, the topic of adult, 55-year old restricted housing was accompanied with childish antics, an unsubstantiated accusation and unacceptable language from council members.

A new Master Plan Policy statement, to replace the town’s Master Plan amendment as a first-step for projects, will allow developers of senior housing-specific projects to get a “free card to pass Go” to the second step of zoning; if their project meets all the detailed guidelines.

“The Town encourages high quality, age-restricted, independent housing projects in appropriate locations to address the demand for diverse senior housing options,” said Assistant Town Manager Tommy Dalton.

“This is to define the starting block,’” said Deputy Mayor Kevin Bryant. “We’re kick-starting it in this one small [overlay] area; this is what we’d like to see. We’re giving you a boost to get things going. The Master Plan is our community values; we’d like to have senior housing in our town.”

“We need to make it easier for developers to bring forth this kind of project,” said Council member Bryan Webb. “Tonight is the [Master Plan] super-majority vote.”

Hayden said he felt there needed to be a time limit to whatever becomes the final senior housing Master Plan Policy statement. In anticipation, he asked Town Attorney Bryn Meredith to create a “Sunset Provision,” with a to-be-determined end date.

So far, so good. Then, the topic of location, related to overlay options, was raised.

Dalton presented seven different overlay/buffer options. The Planning and Zoning Commissioners recommended approval of the “open town-wide” overlay option; property east of the Cross Timbers District, plus the Lakeside District.

Council member Don McDaniel objected to assigning an “open” overlay.

“The only reason to do an overlay is to help focus on a very specific area,” he said. “Seniors have told us they want to be close to medical and grocery stores and trails. Everybody says they’re up for senior housing, but ‘just not this.’ Well, let’s get things done.”

Mayor Tom Hayden said that drawing too-limited an overlay becomes a form of entitlement for property owners within the overlay boundary. He added that it amounted to a winners-and-losers situation. McDaniel disagreed.

“Winners and losers is a false argument,” he said. “The only purpose [for an overlay] is to get senior housing where it should be.”

Council member Jason Webb said: “Every day that we do not do this, the less chance we have of getting a project for seniors in our town.”

Hayden added: “Just because there’s a letter of intent from a developer, doesn’t mean it’s going to go forward,” reminding everyone that any development must first pass Town Staff.

Then, Council member Itamar Gelbman turned on his microphone.

“Saying that this is going help developers bring affordable senior housing is baloney,” he announced. “You are picking winners and losers. You are trying to help your friends to build apartment buildings and are using elderly people as your human shields.”

After a stunned hesitation, the reaction from the mayor and other four council members ranged from indignation to outrage.

“Did you accuse me of trying to do something for someone,” asked first-to-respond Hayden. “I’m the guy who’s talking about opening this [location overlay] for the entire area, not just this [central option]. It’s unnecessary that you insinuate … You will say anything without basis. It’s very insulting that you would say that. It’s just a baseless allegation. It’s an embarrassment [for Gelbman] and it’s just so wrong.”

“I didn’t know any developers before I came on this council,” Jason Webb stated. “For someone on this council to say that I’m trying to cheat the people of Flower Mound, because I care about senior housing, is offensive to me.”

Returning to the subject of senior housing, Bryan Webb made a motion, which included the open overlay option, plus a “Sunset Provision” of three years from the passage of the ordinance.

McDaniel stated he wouldn’t approve the motion with such a large overlay boundary.

He and Bryan Webb went back-and-fourth regarding the scope of the overlay boundaries and—with the assistance of Jason Webb—agreed-to-agree on the final overlay of 2,500-feet on both sides [east and west] of FM 2499 (from its middle), starting just north of the intersection of FM 407 down to just north of [not including] the Lakeside District. A project must have 100-percent of the land-use fall within the overlay boundary, or it must request a Master Plan amendment—step one—just like any other development.

During the discussion, Bryan Webb turned off his microphone, leaned sideways and directed an “F-bomb” at Gelbman.

Gelbman turned on his microphone and stated: “Did you hear what he just said? He just said ‘f*** you.’ Just for everyone to know on the record, he said ‘f*** you, for the audience.”

“That is really inappropriate for you to be announcing it over and over … knucklehead,” said Hayden to Gelbman.

The mayor returned the focus to the amended motion and called for a vote.

The Master Plan Policy statement, including the wider 2,500-feet FM 2499 corridor overlay [Option 4] from the intersection with FM 407 south to—but not including—the Lakeside District, plus a three-year Sunset Provision was passed with a super majority vote of 4-1. Gelbman was the nay vote.

“I am just disgusted that you would say [something] so blatant a false accusation and just because you think everybody’s out to get you, it just isn’t true,” added Bryant to Gelbman following the vote.

The proceeding was summed-up by Jason Webb: “This is what open government is. This is how you hear what your representatives think of things.”

Senior Housing Master Plan Policy Specifics

 Senior housing is defined as high-quality retirement or active-living residential for-rent multi-family independent living facilities, which shall include deed restrictions on the property limiting facilities designed for persons 55-years of age or older, in accordance with the Fair Housing Act.

Any project should have easy-access to arterial and collector streets and convenient access to signalized intersections is preferred.

Any project shall demonstrate appropriate transition to existing land uses. Factors to be considered include: building height; setbacks; screening and landscaping; and, use of open space, among other factors.

Due to the nature of Senior Housing, a developer may request a potential exemption from the Town’s parkland dedication and park development fee requirements in order to reinvest those funds into the project. Such a request shall be considered by the Town Council concurrent with a zoning PD application.

To attract affordable Senior Housing within the Overlay, it is recognized that certain projects that qualify as senior housing due to their size, location, amenities and design, may request potential waivers from some SMARTGrowth Criteria.

Any requested waiver shall be evaluated during the development process and action taken thereon by the planning and zoning commission and the town council in accordance with the purposes and objectives contained in the Town’s SMARTGrowth program and the need for high quality senior housing. The Town Council may consider certain exceptions from the Town SMARTGrowth Program for a project meeting the above definition and criteria, and submitted under a PD application. Potential exceptions may include: water and wastewater studies; traffic impact analysis (TIA); and, environmental quality.

CTG Staff
CTG Staff
The Cross Timbers Gazette News Department

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