Three warehouses will not be built along Beach Street in east Fort Worth after residents for seven months rallied against a proposed zoning change.
Neighbors and advocates of Gateway Park, which falls near the proposed development, call it a victory. Cary Moon, District 4 councilman who represents the area, warned that denial of the planned project could clear the way for an unfavorable replacement.
“My goal with this is I want to make sure that you understand that, in a year and a half, when you see an industrial distribution center 25 feet from Beach Street, that is not my zoning decision,” Moon said.
The zoning request would have rezoned nearly 30 acres from residential to light industrial, which would allow three warehouses to be built and operate in the area. Neighbors opposed the development because it didn’t fit with the surrounding development and because of the potential traffic impacts of the project.
The project was proposed by Scannell Properties to stretch across about 50 acres of undeveloped land adjacent to Gateway Park.
Parts of the property are already zoned J, medium industrial, which allows for the manufacturing of heavy industrial materials like cement mixing. If the zoning application wasn’t approved, the developers implied, in conversation with neighbors and at the council meeting, that they would take advantage of the current zoning and build a warehouse that would have a bigger environmental footprint on the site than the project they originally planned.
“That’s the ‘we’re going to build the biggest, baddest, ugliest warehouse’ routine, and I think that’s disingenuous,” Dan Haase, who advocated against the project, said.
Developers met with concerned residents multiple times since the project was proposed in September. They met for a final time on Feb. 23, but neighbors still couldn’t come to a compromise on the use of the property.
“I think it’s the most consequential zoning case the City Council voted on this year,” Rick Herring, moderator of the Riverside Alliance, said. “Certainly, if they move forward on the tract that they have zoning for, it’s not going to be nearly what they have envisioned.”
The land, owned by the Frost family, has been for sale for years. A representative of the family told Herring they are open to conversations with residents and leaders about what the most appropriate use of the land may be. Scannell Properties isn’t sure if it will go forward with plans to purchase the portion of land already zoned industrial, Charles Knowlton, senior development associate with the company, said.
‘Appalled’ by Moon’s actions
City staff told community leaders Scannell planned to withdraw its application for a zoning change before Tuesday’s meeting, causing approximately 50 residents who planned to attend the meeting to withdraw their request to speak, said Herring.
When Moon explained why he felt denying Scannell the opportunity would be a mistake, Herring was surprised. Despite maintaining his promise to vote against the zoning change, Moon argued the merits of the development for nearly 10 minutes.
“I’m just astonished. I don’t even know what to say,” Herring, a seasoned advocate used to addressing the council, said at the meeting.
Council member Gyna Bivens said she disapproves of staff telling residents a vote has a foregone conclusion before the vote takes place.
“I always tell my constituents that it isn’t over until it’s over,” Bivens said. “Even though I understand my colleague is going to take the action (the residents) want…. I don’t like those calls.”
Neighbors were ready to debate the merits of the project before council, Herring said, but based on his experience they wouldn’t have to. When a zoning application is withdrawn, further discussion about the property rarely happens, Herring explained.
“I’m pleased with the result because they’re not going to go forward with the project they were planning to pursue,” Herring said. “I was disappointed so much time was spent by councilman Moon on the details of the case.”
Editors note: This article was updated March 11 with the correct class of zoning assigned to the property adjacent to Gateway Park.
Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at email@example.com or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.