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City Council: After debate, controversy, hotel approved at Waterside

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WATERSIDE HOTEL APPROVED

After much debate, controversy and a few adjustments, the Fort Worth City Council approved the building of a new hotel on Arborlawn Drive in the Waterside Development between Bryant Irvin and the Trinity River.

The approval was by a narrow 5-4 margin. It came after several speakers spoke in opposition and in favor, along with several concessions on behalf of the developers.

 The applicant, Waterside Commercial, was seeking to construct a hotel with four stories on the east end and five stories on the west end with 119 guest rooms and 56 parking spaces. The zoning commission recommended denial by a vote of 6-3.

The hotel will be within 720 feet of nearby single-family housing to the east, and several residents complained they did not want a hotel that close.

District 3 Councilman Brian Byrd said the developer also accepted a recommendation to have no signage or windows on the east side, so as not to have hotel guests be able to look into residents’ back yards.

In addition, developers promised to restrict construction of hotels in the area to no more than two hotels. They also promised to put a full-service table-dining restaurant open to the public in the approved hotel, with no low-to-moderate restaurants. They also agreed to the hotel being minimally equivalent to one such as a Marriott Residence Inn.

Among those who spoke in favor of the new hotel at Tuesday’s meeting, Riverhills resident Mike Sanborn said, “When Waterside does well, our neighborhood does well.”

Fellow resident Brent Dobbs added, “It was a great deal when it started. It is now a phenomenal deal.”

The Riverhills Homeowners Association had two residents speak in person as opposition at the zoning commission meeting, along with sending 23 letters, and a petition with 71 signatures. Also, a couple others spoke in support with 20 letters.

Primary concerns included the concern for more than one hotel, general traffic concerns, and property values.

Misty Ventura, representing the Riverhills HOA, spoke Tuesday and said in the spirit of cooperation, her group was willing to compromise and support the zoning case under three conditions:

– All promises made by the applicant be included in a conditional approval by the council.

– Hotels be limited to two, and to protect the Oxbow Street site with a 50-foot wide buffer of trees around the hotel.

– The council ask the applicant to come before them and not bring another zoning case for at least five years.

Byrd also said he’d like to see zoning requests be limited greatly for the next few years, though he said that’s not likely to happen.

“I’m sure this is a wonderful hotel and it will make a lot of money for this city,” Rebecca Lucas, from nearby Overton Woods, said, adding, “Keep your promises to these people so they can live in the homes as they bought them and want to live there and raise their families.”

Byrd said residents were fine with another restaurant or office facility in the space. The area is anchored by a shopping center with Whole Foods as the centerpiece.

“How do you make the case that a hotel would be worse than a restaurant 20 years at some point down the line if it were allowed to run down?” Byrd said.

Byrd also praised both sides for listening and trying to work together.

“This has been an excruciating experience for a lot of people. However, there’s some silver lining here,” he said. “We want this to be a win-win-win for Waterside, River Hills and the city.”

The applicant had earlier argued that the hotel use would generate 54 percent less traffic than the three restaurants planned in the same area.

Byrd assured residents that the developers have a couple of hotels near Torchy’s Tacos on Northton Street in Midtown that are “managed very well.”

Voting in favor of the proposal were Price, Byrd, Kelly Allen Gray, Ann Zadeh, and Cary Moon. Voting against were Jungus Jordan, Dennis Shingleton, Carlos Flores, and Gyna Bivens.

“I’ve heard the neighbors and I’m standing with them,” Bivens said, “I am always going to be on the side of the homeowners.

Jordan said the case was among the most controversial he’s seen in the 14 years he’s been on the council and the six years before on the zoning commission.

“I have never seen a case in almost 20 years that has divided our city, with people I respect on both sides, as much as this case,” he said.

Price, before voting, ended a short speech by saying her hope is “Tonight we will have gentlemen’s understanding that major changes will not come forward.”

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