Less than two months after Colleyville City Council shot down a proposal to clear hundreds of trees for multimillion-dollar homes, the city’s zoning commission gave its stamp of approval to the developer’s new plan

The 5-1 vote on April 10 sets up another showdown between WillowTree Custom Homes and the 500-plus neighbors who have publicly opposed the luxury housing development at 2417 Wilkes Drive and 6900 Pool Road since November. 

Their concerns center around preserving what’s left of the Cross Timbers forest and preventing drainage issues associated with building homes on a steep slope.

City Council members are expected to evaluate the new plan on June 6 and June 20, according to Tim Waterworth, a leader of the Save Colleyville Trees opposition campaign. 

The proposal was originally scheduled for an early May hearing but city staff pushed it back to allow two new council members – Scotty Richardson and Ben Graves, who are running unopposed – to join the council after the May 6 election, Waterworth said. 

Before voting on the proposal, zoning commissioner Claudia Bevill said she understands how citizens feel because she’s been on the other side of the table. However, the commission has to consider the experience and intentions of developers, who are set to increase property values in surrounding neighborhoods by bringing in homes of greater value, Bevill said. 

“I love our Colleyville citizens and I wish everyone could have what they want,” Bevill said. “But we have to be practical.”

Colleyville resident Charlie Anderson urges council members to vote down a luxury housing development during a Feb. 21, 2023 meeting. The developer will present its new proposal to council members in June. (Haley Samsel | Fort Worth Report)

‘Do we not have property rights in America here?’ 

Under the revised proposal, WillowTree Custom Homes and their representative, Curtis Young of Sage Group Inc., will build 14 home lots with a starting price point near $3 million. Their previous application featured 19 homes starting at $2 million in a new subdivision known as The Bluffs at Colleyville. 

The 14-acre site, near Big Bear Creek and currently zoned as agricultural and single family estate residential, would include an entrance and exit on Pool Road to reduce expected increases in car traffic, Young said. While Colleyville’s tree ordinance requires developers to preserve 50% of the tree canopy, the latest plan would increase preservation to 72%, according to Young’s presentation.

During the April 10 meeting, Young urged the zoning commission to review the proposal from a planning perspective rather than a “political point of view.”

Young did not respond to an email requesting further comment. 

“I hear a lot from the leaders of this city about their conservative nature and all that kind of stuff. What about property rights? Do we not have property rights in America here?” Young said at the April 10 meeting. “This idea that ‘I can live on my 10,000 square-foot lot that was developed, that had trees on it, that had slopes on it and somehow that’s OK, but my neighbor down the street can’t develop their property,’ to me is anti-American.” 

Those arguments don’t resonate for Waterworth and other Colleyville residents who continue to rally opposition to the development. They are concerned  homebuilders will wipe out most of the nearly 1,000 large trees that make up one of Colleyville’s last remaining pieces of Cross Timbers forest. 

Under the city’s current tree ordinance, developers can remove up to 50% of trees on an entire subdivision. Once the lots are ready for homebuilders, at least 75% of trees on each lot must be preserved. Waterworth fears this rule will wipe out more than half of the canopy on the site. 

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“This is the wrong plan for the land,” Waterworth said. “Put in that many houses, you’re going to wipe out a lot of our heritage trees that are remaining after the city has been 98% developed. We’re opposing that and we’ll continue to oppose that.” 

The opposition also accuses Young and WillowTree of forcing them into a corner by presenting two proposals at the zoning hearing. One proposal would run all traffic through the existing neighborhood on Wilkes Drive, an outcome that residents see as untenable. 

The other option – the one approved by Colleyville zoning commissioners – would build the new entrance on Pool Road, which borders Colleyville to the west and Grapevine to the east. Thirty-four Grapevine residents submitted opposition letters to Colleyville City Council in February, according to the city’s listing

Both proposals would lead to more traffic on roads near elementary schools and parks where children play, said Elizabeth Hearn, who lives down the street from the proposed development. 

“They’re both terrible plans and we’re being put in a situation where one plan seems better than the other,” Hearn said. “Neither plan is appropriate for the family feel, for the country feel that Colleyville is trying to maintain.” 

Residents say the hundreds of trees at 2417 Wilkes Drive make up some of the last remaining Cross Timbers forest in Colleyville, which has rapidly developed over the past 20 years. (Haley Samsel | Fort Worth Report)

Potential legal action won’t stop opposition campaign

When council members denied Young’s proposal in February, residents urged city staff to consider acquiring the property for a city park and contacting the Trust for Public Land for help with financial resources. 

Developers were open to that possibility and welcomed offers from possible buyers, Young said. But they received no communication that the city was interested, he said. 

“We’ve also talked with management of the city and they made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that the city had no intention to purchase this property,” Young told zoning commissioners. 

Young alluded to potential legal action against Colleyville if the zoning commission and city council do not approve the new zoning application. The city has a legal obligation to treat all of its landowners fairly and evenly, Young said. 

“We could probably make a pretty good case for straight R-30 (zoning) and win in court if it came to that,” he said. “We’re not threatening that, we’re not suggesting that. Just saying at a certain point, zoning has to be given somewhat consistent with the area.” 

Talk of a lawsuit hasn’t dissuaded Waterworth’s group from organizing another opposition campaign. Save Colleyville Trees has already collected more than 200 letters opposing the new proposal, he said. There is enough opposition from nearby residents that the proposal will need a supermajority vote – six out of seven votes – to pass, Waterworth said. 

“I think our case is strong. We beat them the first go around, and I didn’t give us much of a chance for that,” Waterworth said. “In these matters, we’re underdogs because developers have had a pretty good track record of getting their way. But I hope it’s different this time.” 

Haley Samsel is the environmental reporter for the Fort Worth Report. You can reach them at haley.samsel@fortworthreport.org

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Haley Samsel is the environmental reporter for the Fort Worth Report. You can reach them at haley.samsel@fortworthreport.org. Her coverage is made possible by a grant from the Marilyn Brachman Hoffman...