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ROO met with mixed reactions from locals, ordinance adopted in 5-2 decision Monday

Posted at 7:14 PM, Apr 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-20 20:42:39-04

COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS  — College Station City Council had a big night on Monday. The special meeting lasted nearly 5 hours.

College Station's City Council voted 5-2 during Monday night's meeting. The vote allows property owners in single-family neighborhoods to request a zoning overlay that restricts occupancy to no more than 2 unrelated people... but who's to say who family is?

For some, ROO, or Restricted Occupancy Overlay may be a win, while others say, it sets a dangerous precedent for the future.

"Unfortunately, there are elements of ROO that are a moving target... One, is, the definition of a family, and in that, who is related and who is not related? I still think there might be something coming up that is going to cause us to step back and say how can we adjust or amend the ROO as it was passed last night," College Station's, Mayor Karl Mooney, said.

Mayor Mooney, is someone who voted against the ordinance, but for someone like Rich Woodward, President of the College Station Association of Neighborhoods, it was a win.

"Last night the city council took a modest step in providing neighborhoods with a tool they can use to protect the quality and character of where they live," Rich Woodward, President of CSAN, said.

Woodward says the places that it helps most are those who are under threat to be overrun by high occupancy rentals and he says, any losses are minimal.

"In terms of who it is going to hurt... we really feel like the damage on the costs is minimal because the legacy clause basically locks in place all of the existing rentals that are out there. We are not going to see a quick shift in the supply of rentals. It's really about moving forward and changing the incentives a little bit, as the demand for particularly students, but not entirely student rentals, continue to increase, that's going to be met by more appropriate housing, apartments, high-density places close to campus, rather than being spread out in single-family neighborhoods," Rich Woodward said.

But for Texas A&M student Jessica Williams... ROO isn't something she wants to ignore.

"ROO affects me by limited the number of houses that I can live in. I think this ROO has set a dangerous precedent in terms of how people are related, rather than actual occupancy," A&M Freshman Jessica Williams, who is against ROO said.

Williams says it's unfair, including for college students and non-traditional families. She gave a comment Monday night during the special meeting.

"What I said to everyone was that I felt unhappy that student voices seemed left out of this process because a lot of the meetings were really inaccessible to students," Williams added.

Mooney says College Station is a college town and the closer you get to campus, you will likely have college students living in your neighborhood.

".....how many you have... and whether or not this will solve all the problems... I don't believe it will. College students have never really been in charge to decide that the trash has to go out tonight and the can has to be brought back in tomorrow night... For those of us who love Texas A&M and love its students, let's see what we can do about having a better town-and-gown relationship," Mayor Mooney said.

For Williams, who is against the ordinance, she says it's not okay to let her neighbors decide who lives in her house, and for those in favor, say, it's a step in protecting the integrity of neighborhoods throughout College Station.

In Monday night's meeting, over 40 people spoke, including those representing groups of 4 or more individuals. There were also another 13 residents who submitted written remarks.

"We had 44 people who spoke against ROO and only 17 who spoke in favor, but yet that was the distribution only last night. In previous meetings and workshops that we had, the folks speaking in favor of ROO outweighed those who spoke against it," Mayor Mooney said.

According to the City of College Station, ROO requires a majority (50 percent plus 1) of a neighborhood's property owners to sign a petition supporting the application. A legacy or grandfather clause allows up to 4 unrelated occupants to continue under certain conditions.

Mayor Mooney says this is one of those things that is going to be challenging. "Some of our neighborhoods may find that the ROO, I believe, will not be able to meet their needs simply because they cannot get the 50% plus one of the property owners in their neighborhood to agree to petition the city for a ruling. In those cases, this is where I think the City still needs to work with neighborhoods and have the university as a key partner.... let's work together to try and shape behaviors rather than trying to dictate how many people live in a building," Mayor Mooney said.

The City's existing restriction of no more than 4 unrelated remains for areas without the overlay.