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A delicate dance: Stockyards development will hinge on zoning overlay committee

🕐 4 min read

By Scott Nishimura

With a temporary new zoning overlaid on top of the historic Stockyards, Fort Worth officials are moving next to figuring out how the process of developing a permanent set of land use codes will work.

The city will likely set up a committee that will include Stockyards stakeholders, Mayor Betsy Price said. The committee will lead the process, with the help of city staff, and may choose to hire and pay a consultant.

What city officials decide will be delicate, following the city’s debate over a controversial $175 million redevelopment plan for the Stockyards by a partnership of Majestic Realty of California and Fort Worth’s Hickman family, long the Stockyards’ largest property owner: building a committee that stakeholders trust.

“I expect the committee will be picked either by the department heads or the council,” Price said in an interview.

“We’re not going to let it be dominated by one developer. This is a process, a very public process. We want the business owners to have an opportunity to have some input.”

Price said the committee should end up doing all of its business in public.

“I don’t think there’ll be anything that won’t be done publicly,” she said. “This is a city treasure.”

Price said she’s optimistic the city “may have some names in place by mid-August.”

She said she hopes the committee will complete its work and the city will be able to implement the new regulations – called form-based codes – within six to 10 months.

“I think the Stockyards are so historic and the design is so set that it shouldn’t be difficult,” she said.

Dana Burghdoff, the city’s deputy planning director, said she expects the staff to present the City Council soon with its options on the form-based codes process.

The city has four districts that have sets of form-based codes, a type of regulation that can address everything from buildings’ appearance, to their relationship with each other, height, parking, landscaping, streetscapes and lighting.

The districts are the Near Southside, Camp Bowie District, Trinity Lakes and Trinity Uptown.

The Fort Worth South Inc. and Camp Bowie District economic development nonprofits took the lead in those sets of form-based codes. In the Trinity Lakes case, developer Ken Newell owns the development, and he hired a consultant that took on the same firm that engineered the Camp Bowie codes. Trinity Uptown’s codes were managed by a large committee.

City Council members voted 8-1 on July 15 for the temporary zoning overlay, which covers the historic district east of North Main Street. The planned development overlay will require developers to submit a site plan for exterior changes and new construction and put them through a public process that would require a city council vote.

Opponents asked the council to reject the overlay and instead aggressively work towards the development and implementation of form-based codes.

The temporary zoning overlay is “exactly what is needed,” Gary Brinkley, general manager of Stockyards Station, told the council, speaking for the Majestic-Hickman partnership.

Skeptics worry the Stockyards remains vulnerable.

“It just looks like the council has set itself up as the expert for what goes in the Stockyards,” former Councilman Steve Murrin, who has been publicly skeptical of the Majestic-Hickman partnership’s commitment to retaining the Stockyards’ historical flavor, told council members.

Jerre Tracy, executive director of Historic Fort Worth, told the council the overlay does nothing extra to protect the Stockyards’ historic assets.

The Majestic-Hickman partnership includes properties such as the mule barns, Stockyards Station, cattle pens and Swift-Armour “ruins” off of Niles City Boulevard.

Tracy has noted significant pieces of that property carry little to no historic protection. The eastern half of the mule barns, for example, has only a “demolition delay” designation, meaning it could be torn down after a 180-day process.

The temporary overlay doesn’t affect historic designations and it wouldn’t stop a demolition. Majestic and Hickman have said they plan to redevelop the mule barns into office or restaurant or retail use.

“The cart is before the horse, yet again,” Tracy said.

Council members said the zoning overlay gives the Stockyards more protection while the city works on the form-based codes.

“The control is a site plan,” District 2 Councilman Sal Espino, who represents the North Side, said.

Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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