“Terrible. No good.”
That’s how Rizik Sharif, who manages King’s Custom Wheels, describes the cell tower sitting several hundred feet from his work.
Sharif is used to the city ignoring his complaints. A business dedicated to ensuring car owners have the best tires money can buy, King’s is surrounded by potholes and crumbling asphalt.
The city won’t invest any money to fix the problem until more businesses move into the area, Sharif said. A business was set to do just that, until the cell tower made a surprise appearance in the center of the field next door.
“We had an offer on the corner lot, but two days before closing, it got canceled,” when the buyers found out about the cell tower, he said.
In October 2021, the city initially OK’d construction of the tower at 925 Arizona Ave., but stopped the work in January after neighbors notified staff a home is located less than 250 feet from the construction site. Under city zoning regulations, cell towers must be at least 250 feet away from any single- or multi-family residence.
Neighbors worry that the cell tower — and its buffer — will tank their property values. Lexington Wright is one of several property owners near the construction site, and she said she’s concerned it will be harder to attract clients and investors to build on her vacant lots. The buffer would also interfere with future residential development, she said.
Sharif isn’t opposed to the cell tower entirely. If the developers had placed it on a corner lot, he said, he’d have no problems with the construction. But the central location of the cell tower and the 250-foot setback zone mean few businesses are interested in buying the adjacent lots.
“When they put it right in the middle, it killed our properties, other people’s properties,” he said. “Nobody can sell the properties, because nobody is going to buy it.”
If you go:
You may attend the Commercial Board of Adjustment at 10 a.m. Wednesday, May 18, at City Hall, 200 Texas St., Fort Worth 76102.
Residents may sign up to speak before 5 p.m. April 18. To sign up, either register through WebEx per the directions on the city’s website above or contact Karen Moreno at Karen.Moreno@fortworthtexas.gov or 817-392-8026.
Broadus Services started construction on the temporary cell tower in October for T-Mobile. The cell company is leasing the land from Kevin Khorrami, who owns a property investment company called Khorrami Enterprises Inc. Construction should never have been approved, according to documents obtained by The Report.
Comments on the permit application for the cell tower show a zoning reviewer with the city initially said there were no setback restrictions. In January, the permit was updated with a new comment, acknowledging the initial plan was approved in error. When reached by The Report, the development department’s planning manager, Sevanne Steiner, said there were no additional details or explanation available for how the error occurred.
To continue construction, Broadus Services must provide a variance approval letter from the Board of Adjustments.
What is a variance?
Variances act as an exception to specific zoning rules. In this case, the developer will ask for an exception to the 250 feet setback requirement, arguing the cell tower is temporary in nature and will remain on the property for nine months.
T-Mobile argues cell tower essential to 911 service
T-Mobile initially had a land lease with JPS Health Network, where it planned to operate a permanent cell tower. The lease ended because T-Mobile did not install the tower within the option period, JPS said in a statement.
After losing the lease, the provider began searching for a temporary location while it worked out a new permanent lease. The developer landed on 925 Arizona Ave. after reaching out to and being turned down by multiple property owners in the area.
Broadus Services, the third-party contractor in charge of the tower’s construction, wrote in its application the cell tower will be on the site temporarily for nine months and is essential to ensuring residents have cell signal to call 911. Attached to the application are two maps showing T-Mobile’s current coverage without the proposed cell tower, and the coverage if the cell tower is approved.
There haven’t been any issues connecting 911 services, said James Walker, chairman of Historic Southside economic development committee. Sanjay Konur, another property owner in the area, was skeptical a hospital would have ended a lease with a cell phone provider if there were legitimate safety concerns.
“They want to solve this 911 problem privately, not with the City Council?” Konur asked. “Imagine if councilman Nettles knew about this problem. That’s why it’s B.S., it’s not true. They want to solve that kind of problem with the board of adjustments? That doesn’t even begin to make sense.”
When Wright reached out to Alec Broadus, the owner of Broadus Services, he again cited issues with 911 service and cell connection. When she asked for evidence of the potential 911 crisis, Broadus said he would ask T-Mobile. Broadus declined to comment when reached by The Report.
Because of its temporary status, the company has also argued the tower would have no long-term effect on the adjacent properties. For Sharif, the consequences of the tower have begun.
“We used to have offers on our property here, but all the offers have been canceled,” he said. “We can’t do anything about it.”
Regardless, it’s unlikely that the tower will remain on that property for only nine months, Sharif said.
“There’s no way. They’re not going to spend that much money for six to nine months,” he said. “That’s gonna be years. Once this is approved, once zoning is taken care of, it will be here for at least the next 10 to 15 years.”
The application shows Broadus Services and T-Mobile did not inform the homeowners’ association or neighbors about the zoning request. The Historic Southside Neighborhood Association opposes the variance.
Hard to develop in Southside generally
Every couple of months, code compliance officers show up to Sharif’s shop to issue notices about uncut grass or debris on his property. He’ll resolve those issues, he said, when the city addresses the crumbling infrastructure surrounding his shop.
“We bring a lot of business to the area. The least the city can do is bring some gravel and dump it” over the potholes, Sharif said.
Bringing good development to his Southside neighborhood is a struggle, said Walker, who is also a property developer and chairman of Historic Southside economic development committee. He sees progress stall because of homelessness and crumbling infrastructure. Now, a cell tower is being erected where it shouldn’t be.
“It’s a lot. That one particular situation is one of many that compounds on top of everything else that needs to be done,” Walker said. “We are trying to work with the city and get some of these things done, but it’s just a challenge.”
If the cell tower is fully erected, Sharif expects that will doom any chance at business development.
“The city is going to forget about the area again,” Sharif said. “The city has been forgetting about this area since 1999.”
Wright paid to demolish two houses on her lots in the hopes of selling the property or attracting developers for multifamily residences. Now, the buffer has demolished her hopes entirely.
The four empty lots Sharif owns are ripe for commercial development, he said. Once businesses are moved in, the city would be forced to make repairs to the backroads that consistently damage his customers’ vehicles.
Everyone reaps the benefits when an area is revitalized, Walker explained. When the landowners sell, their assets are invested in their community.
“We continuously have to keep fighting so that our community can look just as good as the next community, and that’s all we’re fighting for,” Walker said.
As he continues to contribute to the community through sales tax and customers, who consistently come from out of town to shop at his store, Sharif is frustrated that development near his business continues to stall.
“I love Fort Worth. I’ve spent all my life here since I was 18 living in Fort Worth, so help me out,” Sharif said.
Emily Wolf is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at email@example.com or via Twitter.