Gas compressor decision delayed, Christ Chapel and neighbors reach accord

A.Lee Graham

Gas line compressors would be allowed on agriculture-zoned property if Fort Worth revamps existing zoning rules. At its May 7 regular meeting, the city council delayed potential action decision until Aug. 6 to allow more time to study the proposed zoning amendment. “We are grateful you are considering continuing this for 90 days and passing the moratorium,” said Libby Willis, chairwoman of the Fort Worth League of Neighborhoods’ gas drilling task force, commenting before the board’s decision. Willis referred to a moratorium on accepting applications for gas line compressors in agriculturally zoned districts until Aug. 6, which the council approved later in the same meeting. If approved, the revised ordinance would require energy companies to secure a special exception from the city before placing such facilities on land zoned for agriculture use. Gas line compressors, which pressurize gas to be transported through a pipeline, have drawn concerns from residents regarding potential noise, safety and pollution issues. At least four residents who spoke at the May 7 council meeting cited health issues among their concerns. “My concerns lie directly with health issues,” said Martha Boykin, a Specklebelly Lane resident who said battling chronic Lyme disease costs her $10,000 in yearly treatment. She voiced concern that benzene and other chemicals associated with such facilities could affect her condition. District 4 Councilman Danny Scarth reminded residents that the council is considering compressor station placement as a zoning issue, not a health concern. “This is a zoning issue; it’s a land use issue. We ‘re not allowed to consider health and safety in a zoning issue,” Scarth said. Safety aspects of compressor stations fall under Texas Railroad Commission jurisdiction, said City Attorney Sarah Fullenwider. With considerable agricultural land in his part of town, District 5 Councilman Frank Moss said the issue hits home. “It has affected my district. I have a lot of ag [agriculture] land in my district,” Moss said. “It’s very important we continue to work through this to make sure we have citizen input.”

Christ Chapel, neighbors reach accord Community input proved effective in another zoning case as Christ Chapel Bible Church secured council approval to use home lots it purchased in recent years for parking. A compromise achieved only 24 hours before the council decision allows the Montgomery Street church to use certain lots that once housed residential homes for parking. The church plans to construct 142 parking spaces on the lots within six months, according to Rick Neves, the church’s chief operating officer. The lots are both north of Pershing Avenue. One lot is between Owosso and Margaret streets, with the other between Margaret and Montgomery Street. The church has 934 parking spaces and uses more spaces on neighboring property through agreements with individual property owners, Neves said. “It’s been a long case, and I’m happy to say we’ve reached an agreement,” said Tom Galbreath, a Dunaway Associates Inc. executive representing the church, which has cited a need for parking as attendance increases not only for Sunday services, but for activities throughout the week. “We believe this is the best possible outcome for the nearby property owners,” said Christina Patoski, president of the Arlington Heights Neighborhood Association, addressing the council. A newly reached agreement between the church and homeowners limits church growth for the next 40 years. Under terms of the agreement, the church must repair and maintain sidewalks contiguous to the parking lots. Any changes in the church site plan must receive city council approval, another provision of the agreement. Recent months have seen several homeowners object to the church’s plans to rezone several residential lots it purchased in recent years along the north side of Pershing Avenue. Many of the homes on those lots have been or will be relocated to the nearby Como neighborhood.

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