A growing city requires planning to balance developers and residents’ needs. Development Services has a new building, which cost over $7,000,000 to create – there is no Neighborhood Services department to create balance.

I’ve been called anti-developer by those who want to destroy buildings, but I work with developers to obtain national register of historic places designations such as the Fairhaven, giving them a 45% tax incentive to rehab the Fairhaven Retirement home. The 1960s community project and O’Neil Ford structure faced demolition because a developer wanted to replace it with apartments. Mike Cochran got the condemnation stopped. Now the beautifully restored building serves its original purpose.

The city rezoned historic Oak and Hickory Street homes in the 1980s to support University of North Texas’ wish to build a strip shopping center. Dolores Vann led an appeal to the UNT president, who stopped the project. City leaders labeled Vann a communist.

Vann won the battle, but Denton neighborhoods are losing the war.

Despite opposition, Flow Hospital, Fry Street businesses and Skyview Living Center were demolished for rent-by-the-room student housing. Private college housing without university oversight increases neighborhood density, traffic and crime. The city claims residents get a voice, but neighbors’ concerns never gain traction.

Ever.

Residents fought Flow Hospital’s closure and demolition. The county hospital building cost was mostly funded by Homer Flow, private citizens and a federal grant, but the hospital’s fate was sealed before discussion began. Tempers exploded when developers removed a grove of century-old post oak trees to build City Parc Apartments.

Developers build apartments each time the city demolishes structures in Denton’s oldest neighborhoods. After Flow Hospital’s demolition, residents were promised property supporting the hospital would be rezoned. The city broke their promise, allowing Scripture Street development by New York Park7 developers. City officials argued Park7 had a right to build whatever they wanted. Developers argued 500 beds wouldn’t congest narrow streets because students would walk 15 minutes to campus. Does anyone believe that?

Homeowners have the right to expect their neighborhood to remain intact.

Denton changed the Planning Office to Development Services. The department just moved to new offices on Elm Street, along with the city-funded Chamber of Commerce.

We know who Development Services serves, but who serves neighborhoods?

Denton needs Neighborhood Services to counter the skewed balance. I’ve suggested a Neighborhood Services Department, but city officials say that isn’t necessary. Something is wrong when city planning, historic preservation and others are directed by the Development Services director.

Denton needs Neighborhood Services to develop neighborhood-specific small-area plans and control zoning. Assisted living and hospitals fit in neighborhoods, but apartments must be added with great care. In the past years, as Historic Denton began researching Denton’s second National Register District, the city permitted the demolition of 22 historic structures within these known neighborhoods. Historic structures are being razed and replaced with apartments at an astonishing rate.

Developers pay fees, but residents pay taxes. Neighborhoods deserve an equal voice.

Randy Hunt is the president of Historic Denton.

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