Church, Arlington Heights neighbors reach 40-year agreement

Posted Wednesday, May. 08, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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A 40-year-agreement was reached Tuesday between Christ Chapel and Arlington Heights neighborhood leaders that allows the church to add parking spaces but also sets firm boundaries for the church’s footprint.

The City Council voted 8-0 in favor of a requested zoning change with Councilman Danny Scarth abstaining because he is a member of the church.

Councilman Dennis Shingleton, who pushed for a compromise when the zoning case first appeared more than nine months ago, said he hopes the binding agreement leads to better relations between residents and Christ Chapel.

“It was difficult for them, but we got solutions here,” Shingleton said.

Christ Chapel was seeking the rezoning of several residential properties it has bought since 2011 north of Pershing Avenue to expand parking. The neighborhood objected to the rezoning.

Christina Patoski, president of the Arlington Heights Neighborhood Association, said the agreement was the best outcome possible since city officials had made clear that they wanted the two sides to agree. She said it was important that Christ Chapel was locked into firm boundaries.

“It was clear we either compromise or lose,” Patoski said.

The church agreed to no more building and parking expansion north of an alley between Pershing and El Campo avenues, and nothing west of Owasso Street. The alley and Owasso are the north and west boundaries between church property and residences.

Church leaders also agreed to so-called green parking lots that are intended to convey a more parklike appearance. But residents aren’t sure how effective it will be.

Kevin Stark, whose residence borders the church property, said he was the last holdout on the compromise. He said he still believes that landscaping included in the deal will do little to disguise parking lots.

“I wish they had given a little more,” said Stark, a first-time homeowner who lives on El Campo.

Tom Galbreath, who spoke on behalf of Christ Chapel, said the agreement “creates a buffer zone” for the neighborhood and should create stablity for the area.

In other action, the council voted 9-0 for a 90-day extension to study a proposed amendment to the zoning ordinance to allow compressor stations on agricultural-zoned property. Members also agreed to postpone a vote on a zoning case involving a compressor station in East Fort Worth.

Libby Willis, chairwoman of the Fort Worth League of Neighborhoods gas drilling task force, praised the council for extending the moratorium while the task force works to find “an equitable solution” for neighborhoods and other entities.

In March, council members voted 8-0, with Mayor Betsy Price absent, to send a proposed ordinance change back to the Zoning Commission. They questioned whether the ordinance would run afoul of state law and whether it could have unintended consequences, such as pushing compressor stations into other neighborhoods.

The ordinance change would require energy companies to obtain a “special exception” from the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment before putting a gas compressor station in agricultural zoning. Substantial pockets of such property exist in east and west Fort Worth.

If the board denies permission, a gas company’s only recourse would be through the courts, effectively pushing compressor stations out of agricultural zoning near neighborhoods, city staff members have said.

Compressor stations are placed at intervals along pipelines to keep gas at high pressure and move it along. East-side homeowners have voiced concerns about pollution, noise, appearance and safety.

Also Tuesday, Mayor Betsy Price promoted a new public awareness campaign for Directions Home, a 10-year effort to reduce homelessness in Fort Worth by 2018.

The program emphasizes placing homeless people in permanent housing with case management services instead in shelters or temporary facilities. City officials say more than 1,200 Fort Worth residents have found homes through the program.

Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698 Twitter: @fwhanna

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