Two zoning decisions for City Council

07/14/2014 5:40 PM

07/15/2014 9:04 AM

The Fort Worth City Council is scheduled to vote on two controversial zoning cases Tuesday, both of which go before the nine-member body without the approval of the city’s zoning commission.

While the commission’s approval is not required, it’s an unmistakable asset.

But in the case of proposed zoning changes to the Glen Garden Country Club, it may not have helped much anyway.

Nestled in the Rolling Hills neighborhood in southeast Fort Worth, the historic club and golf course caught the eye of Leonard Firestone and Troy Robertson, successful local whiskey makers who hope to expand their operations to the storied 106-acre property.

To convert the country club into a distillery and meeting center, they need a zoning change from residential to mixed-use.

At the zoning hearing last month, they responded to community concerns ranging from increased traffic to environmental hazards to moral objections that liquor should not be made so close to homes and churches.

But local residents were unconvinced.

Weeks after the hearing, when scores of locals expressed their disapproval, opposition to the plan remains strong. As the Star-Telegram’s Caty Hirst reported, about 3,000 people have signed a petition against the plan, compared to 900 names on a petition supporting it.

While there are valid concerns about whether the aging country club will find another buyer and thus questions about the property’s future, strenuous opposition from the neighborhood should not be ignored.

City Council should deny the zoning change.

The case of the historic Fort Worth Stockyards is a little more nuanced. Two zoning board members were absent from Wednesday’s hearing, leaving the final vote, 4-3, just one vote shy of the five needed for approval.

The zoning change from industrial to mixed-use for the 175 acres around Exchange Avenue would allow the Hickman Cos. and partner Majestic Realty Co. to inject long-overdue investment into the area, renovating historic structures and turning others into retail and residential buildings.

The primary critique of the $175 million development plan is that the approval process is moving too quickly, that more time is needed to consider the proposal.

But even if the zoning changes are approved, developers will have to produce site plans and earn council approval for virtually everything along the way. They must comply with forthcoming city regulations for the historic Stockyards.

The City Council could deny the request and ask city staff to craft those regulations first, but whether they are drafted now or during the development process, the outcome is likely to be the same: Cautious development that preserves the Stockyards’ character.

The City Council should approve the zoning change.

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