Mansfield News-Mirror

Mansfield development would trade gas wells for more congestion. Is it worth it?

The Dolce Vita project returns to the City Council this month with the possibility of trading gas wells and compressor stations for a new neighborhood and amenity center.

But those 284 homes would also increase traffic on roads that are already congested in northwest Mansfield while also adding more children to the area schools.

The City Council will have to weigh the benefits of eliminating gas wells with the increased burden on city and school infrastructure when the zoning change returns for a second of three readings on Monday, May 13.

The developer has reached an agreement with Eagle Ridge Operating and Summit Midstream to buy out the gas wells and compressor stations north of the Mansfield ISD Center for the Performing Arts so the entire surrounding 81 acres can be built as Dolce Vita. The developer will follow Texas Commission on Environmental Quality regulations to mitigate the soil, hauling much of it away for proper disposal.

There’s also a tight deadline to secure the zoning change or the deal with the compressor station operator goes away.

Blake Axen, president of the Villages at Park Hill HOA, said his neighborhood supports this project.

“The developer has listened and he’s acted to mitigate many of our core concerns, none more critical than finalizing agreements for removal of the compressor stations, gas wells and frack pond,” Axen said.

The council approved the project unanimously on April 22 but Councilman Larry Broseh had concerns about the density and said he wouldn’t support it on the final vote.

“The development itself does create traffic issues,” Broseh said. “If I can’t see less density I’m not interested in what I’m seeing on the paper here. I understand the economics, I get that totally.”

The other major sticking point for the project is what to do with Meriwether Street, which currently dead ends in Woodland Hills Estates to the northwest of where Dolce Vita is planned. Residents in that neighborhood don’t want the road extended across the creek to the new neighborhood, fearing an increase in traffic.

If the connection is made now, the developer will chip in to help pay for it. If the city realizes it needs that connection in 10 years to facilitate traffic flow, especially to Nancy Neal Elementary School, the city will have to fund the entire cost for the bridge, the road and erosion mitigation.

“Both neighborhoods and the developer do not want the connect and have offered viable solutions or considerations for more walkability through a sidewalk connect and potential school busing,” said Tamera Bounds, president of the Woodland Estates Homeowners Association.

Instead, there was talk of making a pedestrian connection only.

Councilman Casey Lewis praised the developer for working with the neighbors but said he’s torn on what to do with the Meriwether extension.

“The developer has done an outstanding job taking care of the major concern — taking care of the gas well operations,” Lewis said. “We have an opportunity to figure out the [Meriwether connection] with the developer in the cost structure versus punting it down the road and then we are on the cost for the full project. I don’t want to put that cost on future taxpayers.”

Councilman Terry Moore said the two sides have come a long way since last year when the council tabled the project because there was so much disagreement about what to do.

“I don’t like gas wells. And I don’t care for compressor stations,” Moore said. “To see where we were and then to see where we are now, I can’t tell you how excited that makes me feel.”

Charles Dibrell, director of D/FW for Terra Associates, said they listened to the concerns at the Planning and Zoning Commission last month by increasing the minimum square footage on homes to 1,800 and reduced lot coverage to 55 percent.

“We listened to what everybody wanted and what they were telling us,” Dibrell said. “We’ve put a tremendous amount of time and effort into developing plan after plan and going back and again meeting with the stakeholders until we had a plan that feel everybody would be in support of. We were persistent to find a plan that would not only work on paper but would also financially work … all the pieces had to come together.”

Dibrell said he’s also in talks to purchase additional one or two tracts to the southwest so future phases of Dolce Vita could extend to North Main Street.

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