Baker, Ahles & Kaskovich

Grassroots activists seek to regain local control over oil and gas drilling

Texas Grassroots Network will offer training to groups worried about the lack of local control over oil and gas drilling. In 2015, about 20 people protested at a drilling site in northwest Denton.
Texas Grassroots Network will offer training to groups worried about the lack of local control over oil and gas drilling. In 2015, about 20 people protested at a drilling site in northwest Denton. Star-Telegram archives

Sometimes it takes a little plant food to get a grassroots network to grow.

Two years ago, after Texas lawmakers passed House Bill 40 limiting local control over oil and gas activity, activists pledged to form what they called the Texas Grassroots Network to monitor the energy industry and find ways to influence public policy — locally and statewide.

Well, the idea didn’t take root, mostly because the drop in drilling activity made it hard to get people interested, said Sharon Wilson, regional organizer for Earthworks, an environmental advocacy group.

They couldn’t even get things together in time for the current Texas legislative session, which is scheduled to wrap up at the end of the month, she said. As a result, two bills backed by activists didn’t make it very far, Wilson said.

But now drilling activity is coming back — particularly in the Permian Basin in West Texas — so Wilson and about 25 of her colleagues were gathering at a Dallas hotel this weekend to learn more about community organizing tools and how to network.

“We’re looking to get back local control,” Wilson said. “People all over the state feel like industry has overstepped. … People want to decide for themselves what is best for their families.”

On the agenda are topics like ‘Developing an issue campaign: Failure to plan means planning to fail,’ ‘Understanding, mapping and analyzing power relationships,’ and ‘Building and maintaining healthy local groups.’

A more active organization may have helped bills like one sponsored by state Rep. Terry Canales that would have allowed cities to prevent a new oil or gas well from being drilled within 1,500 feet of a school or child-care facility. There also was legislation filed by state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, calling for a similar setback plus a hearing at the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates the oil and gas industry.

Both bills died without a vote, she said.

“We do know that pressuring the representatives and senators works and if they don’t respond they can be replaced,” Wilson said. “We’ll be giving these groups the tools to stay connected and work together to get back some local control and bring some balance back.”

Rebranding West 7th

The busy West 7th retail development in Fort Worth has seen lots of changes over the years, as restaurants and shops have come and gone.

Now the area itself is getting a new name: Crockett Row at West 7th.

Vestar, which manages the bevy of restaurants and shops near Fort Worth’s museum district, said Tuesday it’s rebranding the area with the name of the street that runs through its center for three blocks between University Drive and Foch Street.

“The Crockett Row brand will better distinguish the property’s popular restaurants, stores and events to continue to attract visitors, as well as the very best retail and dining concepts,” said Peter Jacobsen, senior vice president at The Woodmont Co., which partnered with Vestar on the rebranding.

The development is also adding two new tenants, Common Desk and C. H. Robinson, which will open later this year.

Common Desk is a local company that offers desks, private offices and conference rooms to freelancers, startups and small businesses. It plans to open in September in a 13,000-square-foot space at 2833 Crockett St.

C.H. Robinson is a third-party logistics provider that’s relocating its Fort Worth office to a 11,984-square-foot space at 812 Norwood in August.

Cinepolis eyes July opening

The signs are up and hiring has started at the new Cinepolis movie theater at Glade Parks in Euless, which is aiming for a mid-July opening.

Work is progressing quickly on Tarrant County’s latest dine-in movie theater, going up behind the popular Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar.

Cinepolis USA, based in Addison, says the Euless theater will have 12 screens and feature amenities such as plush automated recliners, expanded concessions and a bar serving beer, wine and alcoholic drinks. It will be its first theater in Texas; another is planned for the Victory Park development in downtown Dallas.

Unlike some luxury Cinepolis theaters on the West Coast that offer a full menu of food, the Euless location will not have in-theater waiter service, a spokesperson said. Instead, the Euless theater will offer food and drinks at the concession counter and bar that can be taken into the theaters.

The company is the U.S. arm of the Mexican company, which touts itself as the world’s fourth-largest movie theater chain. It currently operates theaters in California, Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey and New York.

State incentive bids

Fort Worth companies Higginbotham Insurance Agency and eye-care company Alcon Laboratories have received support from the city and Tarrant County in their bids to receive state incentives as Enterprise Projects.

Higginbotham plans a $6.2 million expansion at 901 Lake St. The new building will serve as an extension to their corporate campus nearby at 500 W. 13th Street. Higginbotham said it will retain 243 jobs and create 60 jobs, with wages averaging $110,000, according to a city report.

Alcon, at 6201 South Freeway, is investing $153 million to upgrade and replace aging production equipment at its Fort Worth manufacturing facility. Alcon said it is retaining 1,387 jobs, with wages averaging $98,000, the report said.

If awarded the Enterprise Project designation, the companies will each be eligible to apply for state sales and use tax refunds on qualified expenditures of $2,500 per job, up to 500 jobs. The maximum benefit is $1.25 million paid over a five-year period. A use tax is paid when a sales tax is not collected.

Sandra Baker

Andrea Ahles: 817-390-7631, @Sky_Talk

Max B. Baker: 817-390-7714, @MaxbakerBB

Steve Kaskovich: 817-390-7773, @stevekasko