North Richland Hills officials expect rail stations to create business districts

Posted Monday, Apr. 29, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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NORTH RICHLAND HILLS -- City officials are counting on planned railway stations in the Iron Horse and Smithfield neighborhoods to spin off business districts and help expand the city's tax base.

The vision for the train station near the Iron Horse Golf Course includes corporate campuses, shops, apartments, a parking garage and possibly a hotel.

And in the Smithfield neighborhood off Davis Boulevard at Main Street, the plans are to take advantage of the historical buildings and create a neighborhood of shops and small businesses akin to downtown Roanoke or Grapevine.

City officials are confident that the $777 million TEXRail commuter rail line from downtown Fort Worth to DFW Airport will happen by 2016 with the expectation that the federal government will cover about half the cost. The Fort Worth Transportation Authority, which is overseeing the rail line, projects that daily ridership for the opening year will be 9,800.

But some opposition is building. The Northeast Tarrant County Tea Party says on its website that the number of potential commuters does not justify the cost, making it "one of the largest wastes of taxpayer dollars ever seen in Tarrant County."

"It's just enormously expensive," local Tea Party member Cindy Carriger said. "So that's a big thing."

North Richland Hills officials plan to press forward with the rail stations.

"We will have a commuter line running," Mayor Oscar Trevino said at a recent City Council meeting. "It's coming through North Richland Hills. There's a lot of people who don't think it's going to happen. It'll be happening. And it'll be here before we know it....

"The stations are going to be easy enough," he said. "We've just got to figure out how to pay for it. I hope the Legislature helps us through that."

Local officials are asking the Legislature to create a special taxing district along the train route that would allow taxes generated from new growth to pay for the stations and other costs, City Manager Mark Hindman said. Stations typically cost $1 million to $2 million for the platform, walkways, signs and amenities, said Joan Hunter, communications manager for the Fort Worth Transportation Authority.

Carriger said she expects that the cost will be more than officials are projecting given that overruns are common with government projects. She said Tea Party members will write political leaders and attend public forums to voice opposition.

In the city's effort to press forward, the council rezoned the Smithfield area in 2009. Iron Horse rezoning is expected to follow as soon as plans for the train route become firmer.

The guidelines include:

No heavy construction or manufacturing plants.

Provisions for on-street parking.

Setting aside 5 percent of the land for open space.

Apartment buildings must have elevators, enclosed air-conditioned stairways and corridors, and alarm and sprinkler systems.

Residential-business or mixed-use buildings with three or more stories must have businesses on the first floor.

At least 75 percent of buildings in historical areas, on major roads and in high-intensity zones must be brick, stone, tile or architectural block.

Stucco and fiber cement siding are restricted to upper floors.

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