SE Fort Worth may not get a new distillery

06/12/2014 5:31 PM

06/12/2014 5:31 PM

The owners of Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co. of Fort Worth are hoping to convert the historic Glen Garden country club into a whiskey distillery.

But their handicap rose after the city’s zoning commission failed to approve the requested change that would set new development plans in motion.

Looking to expand their local whiskey-making operation, Firestone & Robertson’s owners developed a plan for the storied 106-acre property that would include a distillery and meeting center and would reinvest about $15 million into the grounds.

Glen Garden presented an ideal opportunity to grow their business, while preserving the the course’s unique history and bringing some much-needed economic development to Fort Worth’s east side.

Ideal except for one thing — overwhelming opposition from the community.

Scores of residents from the surrounding neighborhoods told the commission that while business development is welcome, the proposed brewery is not.

Their list of protests ranges from whiskey mold to increased traffic on area streets.

There are qualitative objections, too, like fears about the message it will send to impressionable youth in the Rolling Hills neighborhood, concerns of its presence leading to illegal and poor behaviors associated with drinking, and disapproval due its proximity to nearby churches.

The area is currently zoned as residential, and arguments that the distillery is not compatible with the present land-use plan for the community are valid. Still, such a zoning change would not be unprecedented.

Sensitivities about the presence of businesses that sell or market alcohol, particularly in minority communities (where Glen Garden is located), are also understandable. But unlike liquor stores or bars, the distillery would primarily attract tourists and is limited by law as to how much product can be sold to consumers.

The zoning commission’s recommendation doesn’t ensure the project’s failure; the City Council is scheduled to make the final call on July 15.

With such strenuous resistance from the community, whose interests should play a large role in the decision, the current plan seems unlikely to pass.

But if the aging country club fails to find another buyer, residents may regret not trying to reach a compromise that would bring some needed investment to the neighborhood.

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