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Fort Worth council delays vote on Wal-Mart

FORT WORTH -- The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to table until March 6 a request from Wal-Mart for zoning waivers to build a Neighborhood Market at a major south-side intersection.

Councilman Joel Burns, whose district includes the site at West Berry and Hemphill streets, said he is "hopeful" that a compromise can be reached. He stressed that numerous meetings had been held in recent days.

"We're getting close, but I don't think we're all the way there," Burns said.

Wal-Mart is seeking four waivers that some opponents say conflict with the city's 10-year-old Hemphill/Berry Urban Village long-range planning concept. Among other things, they want Wal-Mart to make the building more open to the street and to blend better with the mostly older homes nearby.

Last week the Fort Worth Zoning Commission voted 7-2 against Wal-Mart's application, which is why the matter is now before the council.

A representative for Wal-Mart told the council Tuesday that if the retailing giant doesn't get the waivers to build a store, it will simply renovate the old building on the site.

Tom Galbraith, representing Dunaway, a Fort Worth firm working with Wal-Mart, said, "We're coming to this site."

As a concession, Galbraith said, Wal-Mart would pledge not to have fuel pumps in the parking lot, which has been a concern for the neighborhood.

The site is at the southwest corner of Hemphill and West Berry, where years ago Travis Avenue Baptist Church bought a Safeway store across the street from its main buildings and remodeled it into an activities center.

Now, Wal-Mart has the site under contract with the intention of razing the old 40,000-square-foot building and putting up a Neighborhood Market, which is primarily a grocery store.

The four waivers would: allow a parking lot in front of the building on the West Berry side; excuse the company from the maximum 20-foot setback rule on West Berry; allow an 8-foot wall on the south side of the building to screen the truck delivery lane; and excuse Wal-Mart from having to screen a loading dock on Hemphill.

The site is zoned mixed use-1; Wal-Mart is asking for a change to mixed use-1, planned development, which would allow the waivers.

Renovating the old building would not require the waivers.

Residents who addressed the council Tuesday night appeared split on the issue. Some said a new store is needed in the neighborhood, while others said the store would undermine the urban village concept the city has designated for the intersection.

Fernando Florez, chairman of the Hemphill Corridor Task Force, who has opposed granting waivers, said he supported the delay in the vote but would return to recommend voting against Wal-Mart unless more compromises are reached.

Vicki Bargas, president of Worth Heights neighborhood association, said she would prefer to see Wal-Mart build a new store rather than renovate the old structure.

"Let's compromise and get this development started," Bargas said.

Burns said he believes that an agreement can be reached well before the March 6 meeting.

Bill Hanna,

817-390-7698

Twitter: @fwhanna

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