Chapel Creek Fellowship wants to be the newest neighbor in the Tejas Trails community in west Fort Worth. Neighbors aren’t convinced they’re the right fit. 

The Fort Worth ministry purchased the six-acre property at 233 W. Chuck Wagon Trail in January after the previous owner died and his family put it on the market. Formerly a single-family home with several horse pastures, Chapel Creek wants to transform the property into a church with day care services. 

But residents feel the church’s contractors have skirted the proper city channels during development.

“From day one, we were able to see they did not have the necessary permits,” Tejas Trails resident Hollie Carron said. 

Right now, part of the construction — and the city’s response to the development plans — is in a waiting period.

If Chapel Creek applies for a change of use permit through the city, it will be able to build a church without much fuss. But if church leaders decide to build a day care that’s open to non-church members, Chapel Creek will trigger a series of zoning regulations that require greater city oversight. 

“I will support and help to make sure that whatever our zoning laws say, is the way it happens,” District 3 council member Michael Crain, who represents Tejas Trails, said. “But at this point, it is a church that is being built. If it becomes a day care, that’s a different story.” 

Keith Day, lead pastor at Chapel Creek, said that his team spoke with city staff before purchasing the property to ensure it would fit their needs and that the plans would meet the area’s zoning requirements. 

“We are committed to doing this the way that the city requires,” he said. 

Chapel Creek Fellowship was established in 2001, according to Texas Comptroller records.

In addition to the Chuck Wagon property, the ministry also owns two mineral leases in Tarrant County. It has run its ministry and preschool out of a building at 501 Academy Blvd., about 2 miles southeast of Tejas Trails.

That property, which the ministry sold to nonprofit charter school organization Responsive Education Solutions earlier this year, has an appraised value of $5.35 million, according to Tarrant Appraisal District records. The appraised value of the property on Chuck Wagon Trail was not disclosed on TAD’s website.

Contractor began construction before securing permits

The property is zoned for single-family residences. Churches can be formed in such areas, but because the plot on Chuck Wagon Trail has been a residential home for the past several years, developers must apply for and receive a change-of-use permit before starting construction. They won’t, however, have to go before the zoning commission for final approval. 

Evan Roberts, building code administrator with the city, told neighbors that a stop work order was issued March 1 after a city inspector visited the property and observed work being done without the necessary permits. 

“I also spoke with the church leadership who told me they had been assured by the contractor that the necessary permits had been filed,” Roberts wrote in an email to neighbors. “I informed them that the permits were not on record and to stop all work as well. If you see anything going on, please let us know.”

Ten days after the city inspector stopped work on the property, the church’s contractors submitted a change-of-use permit application, according to records reviewed by the Fort Worth Report. 

“We chose the property because we have a young church, young families with children,” Day said. “And the outdoor space is gorgeous. And we could see that being a great, great church home.”

The horse pastures at 233 W. Chuck Wagon Trail remain unused while Chapel Creek Fellowship applies for development permits. (Emily Wolf | Fort Worth Report)

Per city staff, the plans submitted by the contractor only show a day care center, with no sanctuary area for a church. If that’s the case, or if the majority of the building is a day care instead of a church, city staff said, the church group will have to secure a conditional use permit. 

“When there are multiple uses in a building, if one of the uses occupies the majority of the square footage and is the predominant use in the building, then that use is likely to be determined to be the primary use,” Valerie Colapret, communications manager for the city, said.  “If the day care is 2000 square feet and the church is 600 square feet, then that lends itself to the determination that the day care is the primary use.” 

A conditional use permit allows a property owner to use the property for something not allowed by right under current city zoning. In single-family zoned properties, day care facilities are not allowed without a separate application and consideration by the zoning commission.

“The owner and pastor has been made aware that a day care is not allowed by right, and it would have to go through that (zoning) process,” Crain said. “So I think you’d probably have to ask him exactly what his intended use of the property is.”

The church contractor’s premature development actions have also drawn the interest of Fort Worth code compliance. 

There are two zoning violations on the property, and a property maintenance violation. All three violations occurred before the church’s contractors applied for a change-of-use permit. These violations won’t sink the church’s project on their own. 

Day said the violations were the result of an overzealous contractor who started doing demolition work a little early, but the church has since applied for and secured both a residential remodel permit and a commercial razing permit. He said they received a letter from the city indicating they are now in compliance with code. 

Carron said she’s been frustrated with the carelessness of the contractors operating on the property. She cited dumpsters and loud noises disrupting the neighborhood. 

“They’re huge dumpsters,” Carron said. “I didn’t even know they made them that big.”

A large dumpster is parked in the driveway of 233 W. Chuck Wagon Trail. (Emily Wolf | Fort Worth Report)

Tejas Trails residents fear flooding, traffic congestion

Tejas Trails resident Christie Vennel sent an email to city staff on March 2 voicing concerns that the church’s construction plans would exacerbate existing drainage problems in the neighborhood with the potential addition of a parking lot. 

“Our neighborhood has a delicate and unique infrastructure that requires extra diligence and planning to ensure proper drainage is maintained,” Vennel said. 

She pointed to drainage issues two years ago caused by street repavement. To fix the problem, which caused large amounts of water to pool at the end of Vennel’s driveway, the city had to engage engineers and fix the road’s slope. 

“This I would assume had a steep financial consequence to public works, city engineers, and the overall project budget,” she said. 

The city should use the experience gained from that situation to avoid similar mistakes involving the Chuck Wagon property, Vennel said. Because the property is adjacent to White Settlement Road, it sits close to a city utility and drainage easement. 

Day said the call on whether more drainage infrastructure is required is the city’s to make, and Chapel Creek will work with city staff to ensure all needs are addressed.

A narrow, winding road leads to 233 W. Chuck Wagon Trail. It is the only road that accesses the property.

Carron is also concerned that the church’s plans for the property will increase traffic congestion in the neighborhood and the risk for accidents. There is a single narrow road leading to and from the Chuck Wagon Trail property, which winds in and out of the treeline, obscuring drivers’ sight. 

A day care, she said, would result in lines of cars idling in wait along that road, and parking on the side of other neighboring properties.  

An analysis by the Fort Worth Report found there are 10 churches in existence within a 3-mile radius of Tejas Trails. Seven child care facilities are also within 3 miles of the neighborhood. 

Day said Chapel Creek has discussed ways to mitigate traffic concerns in the neighborhood.

“Before we bought the property the city assured us that we could get an entrance off of White Settlement Road so that there wouldn’t be any impact on the traffic and that the zoning was appropriate for what we were putting there,” he said. 

Ultimately, Day wants the church and day care to be additive to the neighborhood ecosystem.

“Our idea was to put something there that would make the community proud of it,” Day said. “That would be something that they could use.”

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Emily WolfGovernment Accountability Reporter

Emily Wolf is a local government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Originally from Round Rock, Texas, she spent several years at the University of Missouri-Columbia majoring in investigative...