Density of Frisco townhome development faces resistance
August 29, 2016
A proposed housing development at 2 Miners Creek Road in Frisco is drawing strong criticism from neighbors who say the project — which would replace a single family home with four separate townhomes — is inappropriate for a low-density neighborhood. During a planning commission meeting on July 21, a handful of neighbors presented a petition against the project, which is still in the initial planning phase. If approved, construction could begin as early as November according to its builder, Pete Campbell.
The building site is zoned residential low-density, meaning construction is capped at eight units per acre. 2 Miners Creek is only one-half acre, so four separate units are technically allowed. But many of the surrounding properties are single-family homes on large lots, a characteristic of the neighborhood some residents fear would be destroyed by development.
"I would not have made this investment in Frisco if I thought the town would allow the single family homes on large lots to be turned into whatever you want to call the proposal for 2 Miners Creek," said Terry Smith, who bought his home at 4 Miners Creek in 2004.
"My backyard is right next to it," said Jerie Ilch, who lives on Willow Lane, which is not part of the town of Frisco. "Most neighbors feel this way — that they don't want these huge houses on a small lot."
While the plans are not yet finalized, an initial mock-up shows four tightly clustered townhomes with prominent garages. There is no limit to the number of bedrooms in each structure.
"Our code requires homes to be arranged as four separate buildings rather than a four-plex," said Frisco's community development director Joyce Allgaier. "We want them to look more like single family homes. That's the point of the zoning."
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She stressed that the proposal was in conformity with low-density zoning requirements that limit development to eight units per acre. Moderate-density and high-density zoned lots cap development at 12 and 16 units per acre, respectively.
According to some residents, however, these zoning rules are outdated and come from a time when Frisco was more eager to spur growth. The stated purpose of the zoning rule is to "promote single-household detached dwellings … and to help preserve the community's natural amenities and scenic views."
For Smith, however, the rules are failing to live up to this purpose.
"Low-density zoning was written a long time ago," he said. "And they've added a lot of amendments that create loopholes, so people can come in and make as much money as possible. They're picking and choosing which rules they're using."
With building sites in such short supply, however, it's not clear how Frisco can add to its housing capacity without increasing density.
"We don't have a lot of 'green fields' in Frisco that are prime open spaces waiting for subdivision," said Allgaier. "But there is a lot of opportunity for re-development because a lot of properties are under-developed."
She said she understands that openness is something people in the community value but that residents should be aware that some land is zoned for higher density than what they might expect.
"It's as standard as you can get," she said, referring to the proposal.
Over the past several years, Frisco has seen a flurry of new development. Recently, neighbors blocked a cabin-housing proposal for 2 Miners Creek, which would have put eight small units on the parcel. Ensuring that housing is affordable has also become a priority, as rising property values have priced out members of the local workforce. While Frisco's small, single-family homes are not cheap, some residents think they are a vital source of reasonably priced housing.
"It's high-end housing," said Ilch. "Do you really think local families are going to buy that?"
She expressed concern that the units would either remain unoccupied most of the year or be rented out short-term through VRBO and AirBnB.
"We take feedback from the planning commission and community," said Campbell, the project's builder. "We have made some changes. I know a lot of residents feel differently about it, but it adheres to the zoning requirements."
The problem for residents like Ilch and Smith, however, isn't with whether or not the project is allowed by zoning laws — it's whether or not these laws should be changed.
"I understand some people might disagree with me," said Ilch. "But I think it would be nice if we had zoning for single-family homes only."
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