Colleyville calls off sale of land after learning a grant agreement prohibited it

Posted Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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A proposed land deal in Colleyville was called off after residents showed the city staff a document that proved the sale was illegal.

"Current staff was not aware that the land under previous owners had a specific connection to Kimzey Park, so we did not look for a park connection in our research," City Manager Jennifer Fadden wrote on the city's website. "We should have."

At a Feb. 19 meeting, council members voted 5-1 in favor of a request to allow the sale of 8.1 acres adjacent to Big Bear Creek to Robert Johnson. Johnson, doing business as Roscoe Construction, offered to pay $180,000 for the land, bounded by Colleyville Boulevard and Longwood Drive.

Johnson said he intended to build a bridge over the creek and develop the land into a park with walking trails and exercise stations. The bridge would allow residents of Dancing River Assisted Living and Memory Care, a facility Johnson developed about a year and a half ago on the Grapevine side of Big Bear Creek, to use the park.

At the Feb. 19 meeting, Johnson told the council that the park would be available to the public as well.

In the days leading up to the meeting, Johnson started clearing underbrush on the property.

"It was overgrown with poison ivy," Johnson told the Star-Telegram. "We needed to get a surveyor in there to give us a topographical map so we could get permission from FEMA to put the bridge in."

The appearance of excavation machines alarmed some Longwood Drive residents, who came to the Feb. 19 meeting to oppose the sale.

Helen Sallee, who said she has lived in her Longwood Drive home for 17 years, told the council that she and three of her neighbors tried to purchase the land 14 years ago and were told by the city the land could not be sold.

On Feb. 20, Matt Blaxton, who also lives on Longwood Drive, emailed to the city a copy of a 1999 grant agreement that "supersedes any other designation and means that the land cannot be sold," Fadden said.

That agreement with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department says the property must be dedicated and held as open space as a match for the $300,000 grant the city used to develop Kimzey Park, Fadden said.

Texas Parks and Recreation Foundation owned the property in 1999, Fadden said. She said she doesn't know how the grant agreement was structured or came about, but that there was some agreement from the foundation that allowed the city to pledge the property.

The foundation deeded the land to Colleyville on Sept. 30, 2004, Fadden said.

Johnson said he is unhappy that he may not be able to follow through with his plan.

"I would love to put a park in for the city and I'm going to continue to try to do it," he said. "The land is an eyesore."

No other sales of city property are being considered, but Fadden said a complete analysis of all city properties will be conducted, "to ensure that nothing like this happens again."

Fadden would not speculate on how long the analysis will take or how much it will cost.

"I suspect this will be a significant undertaking in terms of time, because some of the records date back decades," she said. "We will start by pulling together all the documents we have, but it could involve research of documents outside of existing city records."

Terry Evans, 817-390-7620

Twitter: @fwstevans

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