By A. Lee Graham
A rezoning request by Christ Chapel Bible Church has been delayed a month as the Montgomery Street fixture faces neighborhood opposition to its plan to use several home lots it purchased in recent years for parking.
The delay, approved at the April 2 City Council meeting, comes amid ongoing tension between the church and neighborhood residents, some of whom fear that adding parking spaces where homes once stood could destroy the character of their historic Arlington Heights neighborhood.
“It is not Christ Chapel,” said Christina Patoski, president of the Arlington Heights Neighborhood Association, presenting 80 letters of opposition to the council.
“The opposition would be the same if this were a school or a hospital or a Wal-Mart,” said Patoski.
She thanked District 7 Councilman Dennis Shingleton for asking the council to delay a vote on rezoning several lots from two-family residential to planned development, with specific use for church, accessory buildings and parking. Christ Chapel, at 2600 Montgomery St. north of Interstate 30, is in Shingleton’s district.
Church officials have cited a need for more parking as attendance increases not only for Sunday services but for activities throughout the week.
“It’s an ongoing need,” said Rick Neves, the church’s chief operating officer.
Between 3,000 and 3,200 people attend Sunday services, with several services in four different venues.
“There are several activities taking place at each hour and people all over the campus,” Neves said.
The church has 934 parking spaces and uses more spaces on neighboring property through agreements with individual property owners, Neves said. The church plans to add about 200 spaces in the lots in question.
As for reaching accord with neighbors, Neves said, “I hope so. We met with them on Monday [April 1] and indications at the meeting were that we’re getting close to a compromise.”
The issue comes as church and neighborhood representatives discuss tweaking a nine-year-old agreement limiting church expansion. Some homeowners object to the church’s plans to rezone several residential lots it bought in recent years along the north side of Pershing Avenue. Many of the houses on those lots have been or will be relocated to the nearby Como neighborhood.
Many residents have expressed opposition to using the Pershing lots for parking. The lots total 1.4 acres and are at 3609, 3620, 3704 and 3738 Pershing north of I-30.
Shingleton requested the zoning continuance to allow both sides more time to negotiate. But some neighbors speaking at the council meeting remain steadfast in their opposition.
“This case, to me, should just be a no-brainer, a slam dunk,” said Kevin Stark, whose El Campo Avenue home is near the site.
Patoski compared the request to that of Old Rip’s Tex Mex Restaurant, the former West Berry Street-area restaurant now occupied by Los Vaqueros, whose 2010 rezoning request was made to allow razing two homes for parking. The council denied that request.
Patoski called the Christ Chapel request “far more egregious and far more damaging to the neighborhood and is encroachment in the first degree.”
At its March 13 regular meeting, the Zoning Commission agreed by a 5-2 vote to recommend that Christ Chapel’s rezoning request be approved. The request now awaits council deliberation at its May 7 regular meeting.
· In other business, council members questioned the possibility of using the former NBC 5 building in East Fort Worth to house police offices.
A potentially better use, argued Mayor Betsy Price, would be for commercial redevelopment.
“While it’s on the tax rolls at a low value now, its potential for development is incredible,” Price said. “I think we owe it to that neighborhood to give them a chance to market this.” The idea comes as the city acquires the property in exchange for tax incentives it provided NBC 5 to keep the station in town. NBC 5 plans to relocate to facilities near Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport before year’s end.
Police officials need more space, according to Randle Harwood, the city’s planning development director, even with the planned $97.5 million Public Safety Training Center, which is expected to accommodate police and fire personnel beginning next year from the former Federal Depot site at Hemphill and Felix streets in South Fort Worth.
“The potential police site is a new idea, so we have not completed our due diligence,” said Harwood, referring to planning to determine what impact the move would have on the city’s tax roll.