Crestwood area hoping to block planned office building

By Scott Nishimura

Residents of West Fort Worth’s Crestwood Association are trying to block the rezoning of a small apartment complex at White Settlement Road and North Bailey Avenue to make way for a planned office building, saying it would represent the start of commercial encroachment into their neighborhood.

There’s one problem: A majority of Fort Worth zoning commissioners are amenable to the rezoning and want the neighborhood and the investment group that owns the property to reach a compromise.

Office is “what the applicant wants, and it’s what we don’t want,” said Kathy Kelly, a Crestwood representative. “It’s the use that’s the problem here. I’m just not sure that’s going to be resolved.”

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The neighborhood association was working on its response and planned to seek a conference with the investment group, Chad and Mimi Stephens Investments LP, Kelly said. Zoning commissioners on Nov. 12 continued the case until mid-December.

Stephens Investments recently purchased the 12-unit apartment building at 133 N. Bailey Ave., nestled into a leafy crook at the northwest corner of White Settlement and Bailey. It plans to demolish the building and build a two-story 9,200-square-foot office building.

The building would have four tenants of roughly equal size space, including the offices of Stephens Investments, Jim Schell, a Fort Worth attorney representing Stephens, told zoning commissioners.

Crestwood presented a petition with 500 signatures opposing the plan, arguing that the intersection is a gateway to the neighborhood and should be maintained as residential. The intersection, which generates substantial traffic, is bounded by single-family homes to the south and west, Jo Kelly School to the north, and a large apartment complex and Greenwood Cemetery on the east side of North Bailey.

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Schell argued that the office building would be an unobtrusive and appropriate use at the intersection, noting that he lived in Crestwood for years.

“I just don’t think this would in any way affect the real Crestwood,” he told zoning commissioners. The apartment building has worn paint, and its White Settlement frontage sports aging privacy fences and an assortment of tenants’ satellite dishes mounted on the building and anchored in the ground.

“If I still lived there, I’d rather have an office building than a 12-unit apartment that’s getting pretty tired looking,” Schell told the commissioners.

Kelly told the commissioners the apartment’s condition “is not a function of its zoning. It’s a function of its lack of investment.” Zoning commissioners, starting with Charles Edmonds, wondered whether the two sides could compromise.

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“Is there some middle ground that can be reached?” Edmonds asked, adding, “This doesn’t look like a site you’d build residential on.” Chairman Nick Genua asked Stephens Investments, which had recently hired Schell, to return at the December zoning meeting with a rendering of the proposed building.

Stephens is asking for planned development zoning, which allows the property owner to negotiate various aspects. Genua said parking, the White Settlement-Bailey entry, White Settlement Road setback, and shielding of the property from Bailey were aspects the neighborhood and property owner could negotiate.

“I think you need to look more at the design, rather than abandoning the use,” Edmonds said.

Commissioner Will Northern had moved to approve the rezoning but withdrew his motion for the 30-day continuance.

Commissioner Justin Reeves said Stephens’ proposal “seems to be an appropriate use for the property” and added that he’d like to see a compromise.

Commissioner Melissa McDougall, acknowledging to the residents “I know you don’t want to start the encroachment,” said the Stephens proposal “is the best use.”