Conservation Districts

February 19, 2009 · Filed Under Events and News 

Tell us what you think about Conservation Districts — is this for Arlington Heights?

According to an article in the FW Star Telegram this week, the city could soon have new rules that restrict owners from knocking down existing houses and building “McMansions.”

Historical districts already prevent owners from tearing down houses, but the city is looking into what is know as conservation districts for neighborhoods, which are typically less restrictive than historical districts, but require new homes to be compatible with existing homes.

If the plan passes, residents would have to take a vote to establish a conservation district. Then neighborhoods could set standards about building heights, setbacks, driveways, lot sizes and the amount of the lot covered by buildings. Under the guidelines, the districts would have to cover at least one block, and a majority of homes would have to be at least 40 years old. The rules would be less restrictive than those for historical districts, where owners are often barred from tearing down houses and strict rules govern architectural styles and building materials.

The city Zoning Commission is supposed to discuss the proposal on March 11, and the City Council could adopt the plan in April.

Quotes from the article include:

“In some cases, that sort of redevelopment is appropriate for a neighborhood,” city Planning and Development Director Susan Alanis. “In others, the resident may prefer to protect the character of the existing houses.”

Sam Shank, a 30-year veteran contractor, said the city is going against the trend in the home market. The west-side house that he demolished was run-down and wasn’t worth much whereas the new property is supposedly worth more than $500,000. “People want to have the access to a downtown,” he said. “I’m not . It’s sort of like... is going be torn down. ..saying that every house  anything else. It’s what the market will bear.”

Councilperson Joe Burns, who favors the plan said: “The really key thing about this ordinance is individual neighborhoods will choose what they want to pursue. It’s not something that’s bestowed on them by the city.”

Councilperson Carter Burdette said: “There does need to be some sort of step in between having nothing at all and having a historic district. The city needs to be aware of how the idea could affect property values. We’re seeing lots selling at $200,000 for a 50-foot-[wide] lot, in some parts of west Fort Worth. Nobody can pay $200,000 for a 50-foot lot and make enough money on a one-story house to make sense of it.” Also, restricting development might interfere with the city’s other goals, such as increasing the density of neighborhoods and promoting mass transit. “Whatever we adopt, we need to be very careful that it’s allowed to be applied neighborhood by neighborhood.”

To read the full article, visit


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