After seven months of heated debate, the future of a southeast Fort Worth neighborhood remains in flux.
City staff have introduced proposals aimed at improving the quality of life in Echo Heights, a residential community that sits among more than 180 industrial facilities. Some changes have already gone into effect. New “NO TRUCK” signs forbidding commercial vehicles from using neighborhood roads to haul cargo allow Fort Worth police to issue tickets to violators.
Other actions, including plans to prevent agricultural and residential land from being rezoned to industrial uses, are expected to come before Fort Worth City Council members Nov. 14. In response to a protest outside her Oct. 6 State of the City address, Mayor Mattie Parker said conversations about the placement of industrial facilities near homes should continue.
“My focus is on the future and recognizing that some of the grievances that a neighborhood like Echo Heights in particular has, we can prevent those types of things from happening,” Parker said. “Our responsibility as the fastest-growing city is we have to have a citywide approach and listen to neighborhoods just like Echo Heights.”
The proposals are the result of activism by the Echo Heights Stop Six Environmental Coalition, which convinced City Council members to delay adopting Fort Worth’s comprehensive plan in March. The plan shapes zoning decisions in Fort Worth and features maps projecting more industrial growth in the area, including around W.M. Green Elementary School.
Under the current comprehensive plan, Echo Heights is designated as an industrial growth center, a label that discourages residential uses in favor of commercial development. Neighbors say trucking centers and warehouses have caused intense air pollution and health concerns, while also leaving roads in disrepair, according to previous Fort Worth Report coverage.
Since the spring, city officials have hosted residents and environmental activists at several forums that revealed escalating tensions over how the city treats communities of color, especially during the zoning process.
Letitia Wilbourn, a longtime Echo Heights homeowner and a leader of the environmental coalition, said the city has failed to address the neighborhood’s key concerns. Many residents want to see more investment in Prairie Dog Park and the shrinking of southeast Fort Worth’s industrial zone — not just a vow to prevent its expansion, Wilbourn said.
She pointed to the City Council’s August decision to approve new industrial buildings in the Sun Valley Public Improvement District, a warehouse district down the road from W.M. Green Elementary.
“They need to address industrialization and the part of Echo Heights that was taken away from the community and turned into a public improvement district,” Wilbourn said. “They don’t go into other communities and take part of the neighborhood and rezone it. They only do it to Black and brown communities.”
At a late September open house, council member Jeanette Martinez, who represents the neighborhood, convened planners, code compliance staff and police officers to explain the steps they’re taking to address resident concerns.
Seven properties in Echo Heights will no longer be slated for industrial use in the comprehensive plan, allowing for residential and agricultural development in those areas. Martinez is seeking to rezone another property, at 4550 Village Creek Road, from industrial park to medium-density multifamily, allowing for apartment development.
What are the city’s specific proposals?
- The boundaries of the Echo Heights “industrial growth center” will not be expanded.
- Properties directly surrounding and across the street from W.M. Green Elementary are no longer projected to become industrial. The Parker Henderson Road sites will remain undeveloped and agricultural.
- Willow Springs Mobile Home Park is no longer projected to become industrial and will remain zoned for manufactured housing.
- Properties at 4590 Carey St. and 5053 Brush Creek Road will no longer be slated for industrial use. Instead, the suggested rezoning will be medium- and low-density residential, allowing town home or low-rise apartment developments to be built.
- 4800 and 4900 Parker Henderson Road will no longer be projected for light industrial use. A developer is seeking to turn the properties into single-family homes, said assistant planning and analytics director Eric Fladager.
- Council member Jeanette Martinez is initiating the rezoning of 4550 Village Creek Road from industrial park to medium-density multifamily, which would allow 24 units per acre.
While industrial growth in southeast Fort Worth was once the city’s goal, it’s now looking for opportunities to encourage housing development, said Eric Fladager, Fort Worth’s assistant planning and analytics director.
“At the time that changes were made to expand the industrial growth center in a few locations, there were fewer homes there,” Fladager said. “Mobile home parks were often converted into other uses. But now we need the affordable housing. Now, we don’t want it to change [to industrial].”
Martinez didn’t respond to further questions from the Report about the proposals. A final open house is set for Oct. 26, where planning, transportation, code compliance and parks staff will be available to answer questions.
While City Council members are expected to vote on initial changes in mid-November, activists have their eyes set on the city’s first significant revamp of its comprehensive plan since 2000. Public meetings and community engagement for the 2050 plan should begin early next year, Fladager said.
If you go
What: City officials will hold a final open house on changes relating to the comprehensive plan in southeast Fort Worth.
When: 6-7:30 p.m. Oct. 26
Where: Eugene McCray Community Center, 4932 Wilbarger St., Fort Worth
The Fort Worth Environmental Coalition of Communities made its debut with a protest outside the convention center before Parker’s speech. Members include the Echo Heights coalition, Greater Fort Worth Sierra Club, Tarrant4Change, Sunrise Tarrant County and Downwinders at Risk.
Their ultimate goal is to insert their concerns about environmental injustice into Fort Worth’s comprehensive plan, said longtime Sierra Club leader John MacFarlane. Those issues are not exclusive to Echo Heights but are more prevalent in communities of color in the eastside and Northside, he said.
“These communities are targeted for industrial rezoning and industrial land uses that pollute,” MacFarlane said. “This is such a wide breadth of organizations working on this that I think we have finally put together a coalition that can actually make change.”
Haley Samsel is the environmental reporter for the Fort Worth Report. You can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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