Just three weeks before Fort Worth’s zoning commission was expected to vote on a proposed rental development in far northwest Fort Worth, a group of 15 Lake Country Estates residents met on a Sunday evening to work on a strategy to oppose the development. 

Since March 2022, these homeowners have been working to halt a proposed development by Record Street Residential, a subsidiary of Republic Property Group that would clear over 51 acres of open green space to build 270 rental homes described as a “cottage community” at 8997 Boat Club Road. Neighbors worry that, if approved, the development will further pressure the already stretched-thin infrastructure. 

With overcrowded roads and schools, Lake Country Estates residents believe adding this multifamily project will have a domino effect on the surrounding communities.  

Melissa Hobbs, 39, moved to Lake Country Estates in 2020. She describes the country area as family-friendly and courteous. But the Irving native said one of the issues with the area’s many country roads and farm-to-market roads means residents need at least 30 minutes to get to shops and restaurants. 

“That’s kind of a give and take. That’s one reason why you kind of move out here — to have not as much stuff around you so that’s one thing I kind of like,” Hobbs said.

She found out about the proposal on Boat Club Road in early spring and started working with neighbors to form an opposition. She and the rest of the active residents made their voices heard by attending the zoning commission meeting on May 11.

Over 270 letters opposing the proposal were sent to the zoning commission, Hobbs said.  

“They said it was unprecedented, the amount of opposition they’ve received,” she said. 

Wanda Conlin, vice chairwoman of the Fort Worth Zoning Commission, said the commissioners were not surprised by the opposition and appreciate it when residents attend meetings to voice their concerns.

“Residents in Fort Worth are really interested in their neighborhoods, and they’re going to stick up for them when they think something is not quite right,” Conlin said. “It’s so good that we have feedback from the neighbors.”

The zoning commission will be discussing this case again at 1 p.m. Aug. 10. The board members will decide whether to give another extension to the developer or recommend or not the project to City Council. 

Keeping up with the growth

As the area continues to be populated with more people and homes, the surrounding community has not had time to grow and accommodate. 

Jennifer Benton, 49, grew up in the Eagle Mountain area, where she graduated from Boswell High School in 1991. She moved to Lake Country Estates in 2014. Like many residents, she found out about the proposed development during a homeowner association meeting. 

Most residents of Lake Country Estates say the roads are not built to sustain this high density and that the two nearby schools are already at capacity. Benton and Hobbs said the roads near the proposed site, like Bailey Boswell Road, Lake Country Drive and Boat Club Road, are often the location of deadly crashes and accidents. 

“People have died on that road for years. People are running the red lights, because it’s irritating them. There’s too much traffic,” Benton said. “We just can’t absorb it. We don’t have the growth room for it.”

In September 2021, two teenage boys from Boswell High School were killed in a head-on collision with a large pickup truck on Bailey Boswell Road. In November 2021, a drunken driver killed an off-duty Euless police officer on Boat Club Road. 

At least three homes were hit by speeding cars along Lake Country Drive and Golf Club Drive in the past few years, Benton said. 

Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD called a $275 million bond election for May 7, 2022 to add two elementary schools and to purchase land for future campuses in response to the area’s rapid growth. 

Almost 67% of voters rejected the bond, according to the Tarrant County Elections office

Residents showed up in numbers at the first town hall meeting held by Republic Property Group to voice their discontent with the project. Concerns about flooding, the quality of the units and the pressure on the infrastructure came surfacing to the top during these conversations. 

“All of those things are always things that we look at when we are changing zoning. Those are all things that we’re looking at that will be in the staff report,” zoning commissioner Conlin said. “That particular case is not in my district, but we are supposed to look at every zoning case as an overall comprehensive plan and for the city of Fort Worth, we’re supposed to look at all of them. We all ask questions. We all have questions.”

The Fort Worth Zoning Commission meets at 1 p.m. on the second Wednesday of every month. The next meeting is on Aug. 10. A public work session is also held at noon before the meeting. The meetings are held in City Hall at 200 Texas St., Fort Worth. 

Republic Property Group’s Seth Carpenter, vice president of development, said the company plans on conducting the appropriate studies after the zoning for the land is approved. 

“We’re not asking for anything special. … We have no request other than we just have the zoning case that we need approved…” he said. “It’s important for us to listen, and sometimes that’s hard for the community to believe, but we’ve been transparent.”

Fort Worth City Council member Leonard Firestone, who oversees this area as part of District 7, said he has heard the residents’ concerns regarding the proposed development and has made the developer aware he would not support the project since he first got in contact with him last year. 

“I have visited with them more recently, and they revised their plan. But again, I shared with them that I don’t think it will get the support of the neighborhoods and the area there. And it’s certainly not the design that I think is the best use for that area,” Firestone said. 

Carpenter said the company feels good about the changes made to the plan since the initial proposal. Those changes — which include a decrease in units from 319 units to 270 and the addition of a 16-acre park — resulted from the community discussion, he said. 

Whether the park will be public or private remains undecided.

“We weren’t (expecting this kind of opposition),” Carpenter said. “Leading up to our zoning commission meeting is when we started to find out there was opposition that led to a (90 days) continuance so we could work with the community.”

There are also plans to add commercial space at the front of the property, but that proposal will be presented separately to the zoning commission at a later date, the developer said.

“We want to continue to listen. We’ve got some really good ideas coming from the community that have prompted these changes. So we want to continue to listen to this. This doesn’t become a victory, this becomes a next step. So we want to be able to continue to listen to the community,” Carpenter said.

The initial staff report on the proposal dating from March 2022 states that the proposed zoning was not consistent with Fort Worth’s Comprehensive Plan. But a staffer noted they were supportive of the development “due to conformance with the (specific sector-related growth policies for Far Northwest), and given the amount of land preserved in the design.”

Republic Property Group has been in talks with the property owner about buying the land since the end of 2021, according to the company.

These units are projected to be comparable to market prices and will rent out at an average $2,300. These rental homes, Carpenter said, will cater to the needs of people over the age of 55, young families and young professionals. 

“Lake Country is well established. It’s been out there for a long time,” he said. “We do see an opportunity for quality, class A, single-family rental products that we’re going to put out there.”

Robike Faries, 65, was a land-use administrator in New Jersey. Five years ago, she relocated to Lake Country Estates to be closer to her in-laws who live in that area. She has been coming to the area for 35 years . Faries understands that progress can’t be stopped in this area of Fort Worth as more people move from the city but hopes the development that does come is “befitting of the community.”

“Their proposal is to have no more than two to four people per unit. You’re still talking about 1,000 people on this tiny little landlocked piece of property that just aren’t going to fit there. I mean, it’s just logistics,” she said.

Faries attended some of the town hall meetings the developer put on to gather community input. She said the entire proposal is “problematic” for that landlocked piece of land.

“It’s going to be a stress on the police, the fire department, the trash removal folks. The streets are going to be filled with cars,” she said. “And this goes on everywhere in Fort Worth where they’re developing and putting in small homes.” 

A new business model

The proposal by Republic Property Groups is a built-to-rent model and is increasingly becoming popular as more people seek alternative ways to live in a house as home prices and mortgage rates were rapidly climbing in recent months. However, the market is starting to cool down, experts said.  

“The affordability aspect of things, saving preference of rent to purchase — those have all led to looking at this product within this market,” Carpenter said.

Carpenter told the Fort Worth Report that the company does plan to sell the development eventually to a management company but did not give a timeline of when that would happen. 

“We’re developers. What we’re best at is creating space, being creative, taking challenging properties like this and making something very special for the community. In that box, what we don’t have a lot of experience in is managing, owning and operating a property for 20 years,” he said.

The company is currently working on two other built-to-rent projects in its portfolio: Litsey Creek Cottages, a 50-acre development in far north Fort Worth, Cottages at Waterford, a 15-acre development in Cedar Hill, and Basswood Landing,  over 7 acres of development in north Fort Worth.

While the developer has continued to amend the concept plan in response to residents’ comments, some continue to remain opposed to the development and the potential long-lasting impact the growth would have on the community’s infrastructure. 

“My concern is what’s right here, right now, and this would hurt us. It would not do anything good for us,” Lake Country resident Benton said.

Sandra Sadek is a Report for America corps member, covering growth for the Fort Worth Report. You can contact her at sandra.sadek@fortworthreport.org or on Twitter at @ssadek19

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Sandra Sadek is the growth reporter for the Fort Worth Report and a Report for America corps member. She writes about Fort Worth's affordable housing crisis, infrastructure and development. Originally...