North Richland Hills business feeling squeezed by big subdivision

02/09/2014 12:00 AM

02/06/2014 2:54 PM

Construction on a 192-lot subdivision off Rufe Snow Drive and Holiday Lane is expected to begin in three to four months. It will rank among North Richland Hills’ larger subdivisions.

The project, however, will come at a price — the potential loss of a major business.

Developer Scott Sandlin of Sandlin Homes of Fort Worth said the first houses in the 52-acre Cambridge subdivision should be for sale early next year. Prices will start at $200,000 to $300,000, depending on the neighborhood, he said. He said the entire project will take about four years to complete.

The City Council voted 6-0 on Jan. 27 to approve a zoning change that allows the project to go forward in the 7000 block of Iron Horse Boulevard. Councilman Tim Welch abstained from the vote and the discussion because he is a civil engineer who is working on the development.

Prestige Ameritech Executive Vice President Mike Bowen and President Dan Reese said they were disappointed with the council’s decision because it prevents their company from expanding. Reese said the company, which makes medical masks, will be forced to leave because its property will be penned in by the surrounding houses.

Bowen and Reese asked the council during a public hearing to reject the zoning change. Bowen mentioned several deals in the works that would prompt the company to expand.

“This is what we do in that building over there on Iron Horse: We create jobs,” Bowen said.

Sandlin told the council that Prestige Ameritech has the space to add 66,000 square feet to its 220,000 square feet. But Reese said it makes no sense to add space when the company will have to leave eventually. Sandlin said Prestige Ameritech has about 100 employees, a figure the company later declined to confirm.

Mayor Oscar Trevino said Prestige Ameritech has been a great corporate citizen. But, regarding the expansion argument, he said, “I don’t know if I buy that 100 percent.”

He said nothing is stopping another firm from buying up the land. Trevino has a greater concern about the size of many of the proposed houses, at 1,800 square feet, he said.

Most houses built in the city over the past decade have been 2,500 square feet or larger, officials said. They want larger homes because they produce more tax revenue and attract owners who have the incomes that businesses want.

However, the city is awash in apartments and older houses 1,500 square feet and smaller.

Other council members said they were fine with 1,800 square feet.

“The housing market’s changed,” Councilman Tom Lombard said. “Not everybody is going to want large lots or large homes.”

Once completed, the subdivision is expected to be home to at least 108 students. They will attend Holiday Heights Elementary School, North Richland Middle School and Richland High School. Birdville can handle the increased enrollment, district spokesman Mark Thomas said.

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