Bartonville Town Council members voted unanimously against a zoning request to change the Comprehensive Land Use Plan to allow development of an active adult community behind Bartonville Town Center.
The 4-0 vote followed a lengthy public hearing Thursday at the Fellowship Church of the Nazarene where more than 60 residents and town officials met to debate the fate of Ladera on an estimated 80 acres behind the town center.
The council vote followed a 3-2 vote by the Planning and Zoning Commission on Sept. 3 to deny the zoning request, which would have required the town council to vote with a super majority if they opted to override the commission’s recommendation.
Three of four sitting council members spoke succinctly about their reasons for denying the request.
“The town doesn’t want this shoved down our throat,” said Place 1 council member Jeff Traylor. “It’s a grand plan. but it’s not Bartonville.”
Betty Medlock, Place 4 council member, said she disagreed with comments that the property’s development would not affect other residents further away. Proponents had said they wanted the council to listen to neighboring Saddlebrook residents in favor of the project rather than residents who lived further away and were opposed to changing the property’s zoning from RE-2 requiring 2 acres per home to planned development or PD-2 zoning, which would allow higher density development.
“There is no way, no way that I can support higher density,” she said. Mayor Pro Tem Jim Langford agreed, saying: “The density, like I said all along, is an issue.”
The property, purchased 14 years ago by Yeti, L.L.C. – a company owned by Bruce Monroe – was the central character in comments for and against Ladera. Once the site of a sand and gravel mining company operating for 25 years, the property has remained undeveloped though Monroe told the crowd he had turned down multiple offers to develop it, including a 2004 bid by Liberty Christian School and a gas well company looking to put 7-9 wells on the site.
Monroe, who developed Barton Town Center, said Ladera was critical to further developing the second and third phases of the town center because it would bring a demographic of people ages 55 and older who would support local businesses with discretionary income.
Without approval of the proposed development, he said the future was uncertain, adding he was unsure how long he would keep the property.
“On its merits, there is no reason on this green earth why Ladera shouldn’t be approved,” he told the council. “There is a clash between cultures in this town,” Monroe said. “If this town were a married couple, we’d be divorced. … We are a town and certainly there can be a middle ground.”
Jason Claunch with Catalyst in Dallas, said in discussions with national retailers, he has heard concerns about the property behind the existing Bartonville Town Center. “A national operator would like to see more than cows behind it,” he said, referring to the eight cows currently grazing on the 80 acres.
Robert Dollack, a project engineer with G&A Consultants, Inc., offered a timeline of development along the FM 407 corridor in Bartonville, recalling the opposition to Saddlebrook and to sewer lines proposed when neighboring Lantana was just getting started. He reminded the council of the town’s decision to eliminate an east-west corridor through Monroe’s property and Monroe’s decision later to grant easement on the property to allow Bartonville Water Supply to gain access to a ground storage tank.
Dollack said he was surprised when Monroe opted not to allow Liberty Christian School to build a new campus on the property – a 2004 proposal he thought was ideal at the time. Dollack also mentioned he’d recently been contacted by a gas well company interested in the property if the town council opted not to allow Ladera to be built.
Dick Armey called the property “ugly,” saying it was the second ugliest property in Bartonville. “It’s absolute sheer genius what these people have brought to this town,” he said of the development proposed by Integrity Group, L.L.C.
Plans called for 140 courtyard villas and 40 larger hillside villas ranging in size from 2,157 square feet to 3,755 square feet including two-car garages, patios and porches with estimated values from $270,000 to $600,000. The gated community also was proposed to feature an activity center, fitness trails, two lakes, streams, wildflower meadows and groves of trees, The concept would allow an estimated 53 acres of green space with housing development on the remaining 17 acres.
“It’s not easy to turn down money from gas companies for the benefit of your community,” Armey said, adding that if the project is denied, the potential for a development like Ladera would come back to haunt the council.
Annette Doody, owner of Savory Bistro at Bartonville Town Center, said she favored the development because of the prospective customers it would bring to retailers. She also reminded the town council of their duties: “Your job tonight … is not to decide what is most popular … but what is best for the community. We need a community that supports business.”
Flashing fliers from recent council elections, Gracie Egan reminded sitting council members of their promises to keep Bartonville rural. “I hope every one of you votes the same way P&Z recommended,” she said.
Egan, who submitted petitions showing residents’ signatures against the land use change during the recent Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, supplied more pages to the town secretary with residents’ signatures reflecting their preference for the council to vote against the proposal.
“We don’t need to compromise because we have a land use plan,” she said.
Sherry Price, a longtime resident, warned the council that if they approve higher density once, other similar projects could follow. “I encourage you to stand strong to keep Bartonville rural,” she said.
Annemarie Moore, former town secretary for the Town of Bartonville, chided the property owner about his concerns about the property’s current state of erosion from the land mining.
“That property was ugly when you bought it and you haven’t done anything to improve it,” she said.
Moore also scoffed at the notion of the zoning change request further dividing the town. “None of us should be made to feel out of step in any way.”
Mayor Bill Scherer ended the almost three-hour meeting thanking residents for letting their voices be heard.
“We have had a chance to debate this issue and that is a good thing,” he said.