Northwest Mansfield residents won the battle — convincing the City Council to deny the Sherrill Ranch project — but the war against higher density continues as developers attempt to build on small lots in pastures and even near natural gas wells.
The City Council voted 6-1 to deny the zoning change for 206 lots on 68 acres on June 25. Councilwoman Julie Short cast the lone no vote in support of Sherrill Ranch. The proposal was located on Gertie Barrett Road between Linda Jobe Middle School and Wildwood Court.
Residents in that part of Mansfield say they like the rural feel of the area and want to maintain that.
“The infrastructure is not in place or equipped to handle the high density,” said Tamera Bounds, who is fighting against the Dolce Vita development near her home in Woodlands Estates. “The area is eclectic. We have creeks, coyotes, racoons, some remaining wildlife, old trees and vegetation and a good ecological system. It’s one of the few remaining areas of Mansfield that is not landlocked with homes, commercial and retail at the door.”
It’s a conundrum for fast-growing Mansfield where there’s strong demand to move into the school district, which sends land prices soaring. Developers pay more for the land so they design higher density neighborhoods to get a return on their investment.
“High density is the name of the game for profit,” said Bounds, who ran for council unsuccessfully against Short in May. “Once the precedence is set, we are done with the larger lots and country feel.”
What’s next for Sherrill Ranch
This likely won’t be the end for residents on Wildwood Court, who have been coming to city meetings to protest Sherrill Ranch for months.
Felix Wong, who represented the developer, said if the planned development zoning were denied, the developer would proceed with the existing base zoning on that property, which calls for 12,000-square-foot lots and minimum 2,200-square-foot homes. Under so-called 12/22 zoning, up to 20 percent of the lots could actually be smaller, about 7,200 square feet, according to the city’s ordinance.
Reached a few days after the council’s vote, Wong said the developer, Jimmy Morrow, has started preliminary discussions with Bannister Engineering to design a subdivision using the existing zoning.
As long as that development follows the city’s regulations, the council will not have a say in that project’s development since the zoning is already in place.
The new proposal could have between 140 to 180 lots, depending on the street layout and the number of smaller lots.
That’s still less than the 206 lots Sherrill Ranch proposed. During those discussions, Wong said they couldn’t go any lower than 206 lots — originally it was 222.
The difference is, the 12/22 zoning will not include protections and special features that the planned development zoning had, such as a special 8-foot board-on-board fence for the neighbors on Wildwood Court. And the guarantee that none of the houses backing up to Wildwood Court would be two stories.
Several council members said they voted to deny the proposal because it means fewer lots, even if they have to sacrifice some of the other amenities.
Mayor David Cook didn’t agree.
“I think you’re going to be disappointed when that happens and you’ll be in a worse position,” Cook said before the vote. “But I feel like I have no choice but to support the motion to deny.”
Bounds said residents possibly got the lesser of two evils.
“I think they weighed the pros and cons of the differences and how it would outweigh the impact they believed their neighbors and small area community would sustain while maintaining some sort of good quality of life,” Bounds said.
Return of Dolce Vita
The Dolce Vita neighborhood sandwiched between the Mansfield ISD Center for the Performing Arts, several natural gas wells and compressors and Woodland Estates could return to the council later this summer.
The plan calls for 163 homes on 63 acres with the majority being 300 feet or less from the natural gas compressors.
After hours heated discussions, the council postponed the vote until August. Since then, Bounds, who is president of the Woodland Estates homeowners association, and the nearby Villages of Park Hill homeowners association have met with the developer to try to work out their differences.
One of the biggest issues is extension of Meriwether Street from Woodland Estates into the new neighborhood. Residents in Woodland Estates strongly oppose the connection because it adds more traffic to their neighborhood. Long-term, there are concerns about truck traffic using Meriwether Street to access the natural gas operations.
Bounds said the HOAs are fighting to keep Meriwether stubbed and to have the developer purchase the natural gas drill sites and compressors so they are no longer a nuisance.
The Dolce Vita and Sherrill Ranch controversies won’t be the last in Northwest Mansfield--there are many other vacant tracts that back up to established neighborhoods that will be proposed in the coming years. Low natural gas prices are another factor as many of the Barnett Shale wells in Mansfield are no longer profitable, driving landowners to consider building homes around the plugged wells.