By VERNON ROBISON
The Mesquite City Council approved a zoning request which paves the way for nearly 400 new residential apartment units to be built in the city. During a meeting held on Tuesday, April 12, City Council members expressed enthusiasm about this project which, they said, was precisely in line with the City’s goal of providing more workforce housing in the community.
The zoning request came from Mesquite Bluffs Apartment Homes, LLC which is proposing to expand the Mesquite Bluffs Apartment complex onto a 15.9 acre parcel of vacant land adjacent to the north of the existing complex. The parcel is located at 600 W Old Mill Road and 251 N Grapevine Road.
Mesquite Bluffs Apartments manager Sherrie Wright presented the item to the Council by emphasizing the need that exists in the community for more apartment units.
“We have so many people every week that call or come to our office requesting housing,” Wright said. “But there is nothing that we can provide for them.”
Wright said that when a resident of Mesquite Bluffs gives notice that they are moving out, the unit is usually rented again within about 10-15 minutes. When the one resident moves out, there is scarcely time to prep and refresh the unit before the new resident is wanting to move in, she said.
In a presentation to the Council, City Planner Richard Secrist explained that the proposal actually involves three different parcels all adding up to 15.973 acres. Two of those parcels are contiguous just north of the existing apartment complex. A smaller 1.3 acre parcel is located in a long thin sliver along the west side of Grapevine Road, he said.
The request before the Council was to change the zoning on the parcel from a Low Density Multi-Family Residential designation to a High Density Multi-Family Residential zoning allowing a maximum density of 25 units per acre.
Secrist told the Council that the division of three parcels, specifically the smaller one across the road to the west, sets up a bit of a dilemma regarding density on the remaining acreage. If the smaller parcel is included in the calculation for acceptable density, then the code would allow 399 units to be built in the overall project. If it is not included, though, only 374 units would be allowed according to code.
“I don’t personally have a problem including that smaller parcel in for density purposes and allowing for the 399,” Secrist said.
But the other question raised was regarding open space requirements. In a project of this kind, the code requires 20 percent of the site to be left in landscaped open space, Secrist said. Using the full 15.9 acres as a standard would require 3.19 acres of open space while excluding it would require only 2.9 acres to stay open.
How much open space was required was less important than where it was located, though. In other words, counting the 1.3 acre parcel on the west side of the road as open space for the project was not within the spirit of the code, Secrist said.
“Whether it is 3.19 or 2.9 (acres of open space required), I feel like all of that open space needs to be over on the east side of the road where it can be used by the tenants,” Secrist said.
Secrist also pointed out that the developer’s plans showed an intention to divide the units up pretty evenly between 2 bedroom and 1 bedroom apartments.
Two access points would be available into the complex, according to the plans. One would be from Old Mill Rd. on the north. The other would be through the existing driveway into the Mesquite Bluffs complex off of Grapevine Rd.
Council members were very positive in their comments about the project.
“This is exactly what we need here,” said Council member Brian Wursten. “This is number one: to bring in a workforce. It is just exactly what we need.”
Councilwoman Sandra Ramaker agreed. “It is true, the people who work here right now, there is no place for many of them to live,” she said. “That is why we have got three and four and five families sometimes in some of these apartments. We need to make that stop happening by making places available for them.”
Wursten made the motion to approve the request and it passed with a unanimous vote of the council.
After the vote Mesquite Mayor Al Litman commented that he was not able to vote for the item. But if he had been able to, he said he would have “voted for it twice!”
“This is something so badly needed in our city,” Litman said. “I should say, too, that this is not Section 8 housing. This is nice, market-rate apartments for working class people in our city.”