The enormous Walsh master-planned community in far west Fort Worth is expanding, but some residents say they were caught off guard by plans to build much denser housing — including townhomes — in the second phase.
“People are upset,” said Tim Still, a retiree who was the fourth buyer to move into Walsh when the sales of homes in the first phase began in 2017. “They’re selling their homes.”
Billed as the “next great neighborhood of Fort Worth,” Walsh is expected to eventually have as many as 50,000 residents. The first 600 residents have already moved into roughly 280 homes, all of which are within a five-minute walk of a park. Many of the area’s amenities, including a swim park, convenience store with gas pumps and even a “makerspace” with 3D printers, robotics lab and power tools for residents to use when they like, are already in place.
Officials at Republic Property Group, a Dallas firm that is building Walsh, announced with excitement this week that the second phase of construction is underway on the 7,200 acres of rolling hills that once made up the Walsh Ranch.
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“If you’ve visited Walsh in the last few months, you’ve likely noticed a world of difference,” Jake Wagner, Republic Property Group co-chief executive officer, said in an email. “With the announcement of the next neighborhoods at Walsh, we’re moving closer to our vision of creating the next great neighborhood of Fort Worth. A vision that includes walk-ability, convenience, one-of-a-kind amenities and top-quality product offerings that build an incredible community.”
The second phase includes 550 new home sites, miles of additional hike and bike trails and two parks. Of those, roughly 88 would be townhomes.
But critics of the plan worry that the townhomes will hurt property values, create a population burden on Walsh Elementary School and clog the development’s narrow streets.
“We were always told those were going to be detached homes,” said John Wawrzeniak, who moved into Walsh less than a year ago.
Republic Property Group revised its plan for phase two about a year ago, and another revision is pending at Fort Worth’s planning and zoning commission, officials said. A hearing is scheduled for Feb. 27.
Officials from the developer say the townhomes will be single-family residences, although they will share a wall.
“We set architectural standards at Walsh and partner with home builders that can build a curated selection of quality homes in all shapes and sizes to create a diverse streetscape and add character to the community,” Wagner said.
Tony Ruggeri, the company’s other co-CEO, downplayed concerns raised by residents about the next phase of development.
“Progress isn’t always easy; we’re certain that thoughtful input will help us build a community that families, teachers, business leaders and civic-minded people will be proud to call home for decades to come,” Ruggeri said in an email.
But residents say a lack of communication with the neighborhood is also an issue.
City Councilman Brian Byrd, whose district includes Walsh, said he has been talking with residents and Republic Property Group and is hopeful a compromise can be found. Byrd said he wants to help the residents who already live in Walsh, and in public meetings encouraged the developer to improve their communication.
Two large neighborhood meetings have already been held, but Byrd said he has also suggested smaller meetings.
But Byrd also said the developer’s work at Walsh is “immaculate.”
“They’ve earned a lot of trust, but I’ve told them ‘Hey, let’s up the communication,’ ” Byrd said. “People have bought homes, some of the quite expensive, and they need to know what’s going on.”
But residents say they’re now in the dark about future plans. They say a community Facebook page that once was vibrant is now no longer accepting comments on Walsh development.
Walsh officials say the Facebook page in question was not administered by them.
Also, a public meeting scheduled for Tuesday was canceled by Republic Property Group officials, who alleged that some critics of the second phase of development had threatened legal action.
Residents were instead sent a 52-page fact sheet, which the developer said should answer any other questions residents may have.
“They won’t even return our phone calls,” said Melissa Moorman, who moved into Walsh about a year ago. “This is not what they promised us. Not even a little bit.”
Staff Writer Luke Ranker contributed to this report.