Rezoning plan stalled for property along University Drive

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Instead of attending tonight’s City Council meeting, members and friends of the Bluebonnet Hills Neighborhood Association will be gathering to celebrate.

The Fort Worth City Council was set to haggle over a zoning change request for a strip of land behind Kroger between Benbrook Boulevard and Devitt Street on University Drive. The request, made by Shope & Ryan along with Ojala Holdings to switch from "C" medium density multi-family zoning to “UR” urban residential, was unanimously voted against by the zoning commission last month. Several dozen citizens had showed up to battle the proposed change.

“When you have people telling personal stories as opposed to an attorney with his PowerPoint,” said Bluebonnet Place Neighborhood Association President Michael Banta, “I think the zoning commission heard the concerns of the community.”

According to an email sent by Bluebonnet Hills Neighborhood Association President Brent Spear yesterday, “[Fort Worth City Councilman] Joel Burns is to make a motion to remove the item from the agenda. As it stands, no zoning change will take place.”

Burns had been notified by Dunaway Associates, who was representing the developer and property owner, Spear wrote.

Matthew Vruggink, of Ojala Holdings, said by telephone that while Ojala is not proceeding with its request, it is highly likely the plans will be modified.

“There are a number of potential plans,” he said. “But nothing is set in stone right now.”

Banta said neighborhoods like Bluebonnet Hills, Bluebonnet Place and Frisco Heights want lower density and pedestrian friendly construction that abides by the Urban Village Master Plan put forth by the city.

“What’s being built now is strictly student housing,” he said. “We need to call it what it is. It has nothing to do with this Urban Village.”

Banta, who also owns a property management company, said that about eight years ago developers began knocking down original homes in the area and neighborhoods have fought different issues such as rezoning, commercial encroachment, construction of six-bedroom, single family homes and now the proposed apartment complex behind Kroger.

“We all work together,” he said. “People in these parts want to maintain the architectural integrity and fabric of the neighborhood.”

Banta said his outlook may differ from other property management companies because he lives in the area. Although he and his wife, Genna, are in business to make a profit, Banta said, it’s not profit at all cost.

“That’s one life model. It’s not my model,” he said. “What about peace and quiet?”

Banta said many local residents are concerned about what will happen to the influx of student-style housing once students are compelled to live on TCU's campus.

“It’s all student housing,” he said. “The fact that TCU brought in more students than they can house kind of tweaked things around here.”

Banta said neighbors getting to know each other contributed to the neighborhood associations' success and email also helped.

 “What makes, I think, any neighborhood organization successful is education and transparency,” he said.

To celebrate their most recent success, the neighbors plan to meet tonight at The Bottom restaurant on Bluebonnet Circle, according to Spear’s email.

“This process has served as an exercise in neighborhood solidarity,” he wrote.

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