Bell Helicopter rezoning headed for vote

A. Lee Graham

Bell Helicopter has taken the latest step in bringing its Fort Worth campus and nearby properties under the same zoning designation. By unanimous vote, the city’s zoning commission on June 12 decided to recommend the request for city council consideration. The council takes up the issue at its July 9 regular meeting. If approved, the property would be rezoned from single-family and low intensity mixed-use designation to planned development, allowing assembly of pre-manufactured parts for helicopters, among many other uses. “We’re looking at zoning that is the same as our other property,” said Brian Chase, a Bell spokesman, referring to its nearby main campus. The 22-acre tract east of Bell Helicopter Boulevard (formerly Bell Spur Drive) and south of Hurst Boulevard in east Fort Worth is zoned for low-intensity mixed use. Bell, a wholly owned subsidiary of Textron Inc., snapped up the acreage not for a specific use, but rather to ensure its compatibility with its neighboring main campus by preventing anyone from buying the property and using it for another purpose. “By purchasing the property, we can ensure that there’s a buffer against that type of development,” Chase said. By “that type of development,” Chase referred to any business along that stretch of Texas 10 that might not take care of the property, threatening the aesthetic and financial value of the corridor. “We want to ensure that the entire area sees economic improvement, not a decline,” Chase said. The company affirmed its commitment to the site by rebuilding its Fort Worth headquarters at Texas 10 and Trinity Boulevard and consolidating its North Texas operations. It announced those plans in late 2011. They included moving operations conducted at Fort Worth Alliance Airport, Roanoke and other leased office space to existing company facilities in Fort Worth and Grand Prairie. “We want to make sure the way Highway 10 is developed is positive not only for Bell, but also for the entire area,” Chase said. But at least one neighbor opposes those plans. “I’m just concerned by a decrease in property value,” said Kendra Hixon, whose Longranger Lane home in Hurst abuts the 22-acre site. She cited potential noise and lighting issues among her concerns. Speaking at the zoning meeting, Hixon questioned the potential use of the property. “I know there’s no intention of doing anything now, but who’s to say if that will change in a year,” Hixon said. Chase said that will not happen. “We have no plans whatsoever to develop that property,” Chase said. The tract is currently vacant. Chase said that Bell hosted a June 11 meeting with homeowners in the neighborhood, and they voiced no objections to the plan. Hixon said she was unable to attend the meeting. Zoning Commissioner Hugh Ferrell suggested that Chase and Hixon discuss the issue and try to reach common ground. When consolidation is complete, Bell will employ up to 5,200 in the area. It now employs about 4,500.