Parker County residents overflowed council chambers at a Town Hall meeting to protest what some called a “land grab” by the city.
“Who do you think you are, to come into our community ... you’re not the king of Parker County,” protester Nathan Vick said at Thursday’s meeting. “I’m saying what everyone else is thinking — people who are to afraid to talk — I’m speaking through them. Why won’t you table this and give us a right to vote?”
The annexation meeting was arranged by the city to share information with concerned residents, many of whom live in the Zion Hills community, part of the 1,300-acre area that Weatherford would like to annex.
Many of the protesters previously let their voices be heard Sept. 2 on the Parker County Courthouse lawn, where signs displayed their outrage: “#because we don’t want to!” and “Cities Don’t Have Rights, People Do.”
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“We’re pretty upset,” said Laura Hester, spokesperson for the group Stop Zion Hill Annexation. “We moved into the county to have a farm and ranch life. If we wanted to live in the city — follow city rules — and have a postage-stamp yard, then that’s where we would have moved to the city.”
She said they can raise livestock and clear and burn brush if needed.
“Many folks have chickens; we raise a pig each year that ends up in our freezer for our family. You can’t do any of this if you’re in the city,” Hester said.
Hester said the city had gotten “land grab hungry.”
‘Preserve the growth corridors’
Weatherford City Manager Sharon Hayes defended the city, saying it is engaging in long-term planning.
She said Parker County, as well as the rest of Dallas-Fort Worth, is experiencing rapid growth. Fort Worth, which is inching toward a population of 900,000, has long been aggressive in annexing property, both in north and west Tarrant County, including Walsh Ranch along the Interstate 20 corridor.
“Recent annexations are utilized to preserve the growth corridors that are included in this area,” Hayes said. “The city does not facilitate or encourage development of rural property but does want to be able to help shape development as it occurs.”
Hayes said estimates show that developments along the Tarrant-Parker county border — Walsh Ranch and Morningstar — could add 50,000 residents to the area.
“Considering this — the existing population of Parker County is approximately 130,000 — it’s not a stretch to envision the change this area will be seeing in the immediate future,” Hayes said.
Hayes said Parker County is thick with large land tracts that are being sold and developed, mostly because the property is too valuable to remain agricultural.
“If or when that occurs, the city wants to ensure the infrastructure will meet demands and that the development does not create problems for current and future residents,” Hayes said. “If property were not to develop, that would be ideal because agriculture is part of our heritage. However, it would be irresponsible to our citizens not to be prepared should the anticipated growth occur.”
‘Weatherford being greedy’
Hester said there’s a lot of acreage the city has annexed over the past 10 to 20 years that has yet to receive the services — such as sewer and garbage pickup — that were promised.
Hayes said that simply isn’t true, that all city services are available once property has been annexed and are paid for with money from the city’s coffers, which is funded mostly by property and sales tax revenue.
“The only exception is in areas where [Emergency Service Districts] have been created,” Hayes added. “In those instances, state law requires that the city purchases that property from the ESD, and that often takes several months to finalize. However, as soon as the purchase is complete, the city begins offering those services.”
Others protesting said they think Weatherford is trying to keep other small communities, such as Peaster, from becoming their own town.
“I feel like we’ve become a victim of the city of Weatherford because they’re trying to block Peaster, a small community where our children go to school, from incorporating,” said protester Courtney Butler. “I live four miles outside of Weatherford toward Peaster and they’re coming right up to my back yard.”
Vick made similar remarks.
“This is nothing but Weatherford being greedy,” he said.
Lance Winter: 817-390-7274
If you go
Public hearings on the proposed annexations will be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday at Weatherford City Hall Chambers, 303 Palo Pinto St., Weatherford.
The City Council will consider authorizing the annexation at its meeting, 6:30 p.m. Oct. 10 at City Hall Chambers.