The bi-monthly meeting of the Forney City Council was held on Tuesday night and citizens packed the audience to hear their elected officials debate an agenda that consisted of nine Consent Items, nine Public Hearings and five Action Items.
Ranking easily as the most interesting discussion of the night, Public Hearing #8 required the City Council “to consider approval of an Ordinance rezoning 108-2 acres of land from a Mixed-Use District to a Planned Development District with single family, multi-family and commercial uses.”
The property is located south of US Highway 80 and F.M. 460, and this is the third time this developer has come before the city seeking approval to develop the property for single family residential use.
Addressing the Council, Development Director Peter Morgan stated “The request is for the zoning to become Planned Development with several different uses; 10.8 with purposes for retail, 17.3 for multi-family and 79.3 for single family use, which also includes seniors residential which is defined at age 52 and up. The total number of purposed residential units is 567, with 259 being multi-family and 308 being single family.”
Director Morgan said “The staff did receive one public response, which was a letter of opposition from the Forney power plant. A representative of the power plant stated that they have concerns with the water easement that crosses the concept plan area, as it is the main water supply for the plant. Concerns were also stated that future residents could become unhappy with living next door to a power plant, and concerns about compatibility with the Comprehensive Plan. The Comprehensive Plan does identify the property as suitable for retail uses, however it does not provide residential use in that area.”
Stepping to the podium to oppose the rezoning request, Senior Director for Community Affairs for Vista Energy, the parent company for Luminant, Brad Watson stated “We oppose the proposed zoning change before you tonight and we respectfully urge you to deny it. We just don’t think it’s a good fit.”
Watson said “And for the record, had we known of the similar 2017 proposed rezoning we would have opposed it too. Fundamentally, we agree with the collective wisdom of the many Forney citizens who formed the imaged Forney Comprehensive Plan, and the City Council that adopted it. Who all prudently decided that the land in question, next to a natural gas power plant, should be zoned mixed-use for office and retail. In fact, Section 211.004 of the Texas Local Government Zone states ‘zoning regulations must be adopted in accordance with a Comprehensive Plan’.
Brad Watson said “But we also have some specific concerns. First, the Forney plant must have a reliable supply of water. The lines that serve the plant, a 30 inch raw water line and a 14 inch waste water drain line, run directly through this rezoning tract. Should those lines be ruptured or disturbed through development or after, the Forney power plant would shut down immediately."
Explaining Watson said "Yes, these lines are covered by an existing easement that the land owner assured us that he would honor and not build over in the development of single family homes. While we appreciated the assurance, the best way to protect the lines we think, is to develop commercial. With similar site planning instead of hundreds of single family homes with more lots, more structures, more trenching for sewer, water and gas which makes a higher risk of some back-hoe operator now, or in the future, rupturing a 30 inch water line.”
Arrogantly rocking in his chair throughout Watson’s speech, pro-development Councilman Mike Thomas quickly sat up and began projecting his approval of the requested zoning change soon after Watson ceased speaking.
Unwilling to acknowledge that the single water source for the power plant could be disrupted by this development, while simply ignoring the fact that the rezoning request does not conform to the Comprehensive Plan, Council Member Thomas expressed his support of this development while the remainder of the council remained quite.
Council Member Thomas spent several minutes providing his opinion of what he thought would happen if the power plant went off-line. Addressing the attorney for Lumina, he stated “So if the Forney plant did go down for any period of time, then there are other plants that would pick-up the slack, for the time period the Forney plant would be down.”
To which the Luminant attorney responded “I guess that’s correct. If we have enough power plants online at the time, we could utilize rolling black-outs.”
A very lengthy discussion ensued in which the council also heard from Wellington Ridge development representatives. Eventually, Mayor Rick Wilson called for a vote to approve or deny the requested zoning change.
After several seconds of silence from the council, city attorney Jon Thatcher voluntarily intervened to make sure these elected officials understood their legal responsibilities and options.
Attorney Thatcher said “Mayor, under our zoning ordinance, under zoning requests, it states the Council will take action through one of four options. Number one is to approve the request. Two is to deny it with or without prejudice. Three is to refer the request back to the Planning & Zoning Commission for any additional questions, if necessary. And four, is to table it for a future council meeting in order to bring additional information before the council. Those are your four options."
Shortly thereafter, Council Member David Johnson made motion to flat-out deny the rezoning request as presented. Johnson's motion failed to receive any council support, and therefore "failed from a lack of the required second motion".
Apparently unhappy that yet another residential development will likely be legally challenged, Council Member Mike Thomas spent several minutes directly negotiating the wording of a motion to "table the rezoning request" with Wellington Ridge representatives seated in the audience.
Speaking to the developer while making the motion, Thomas stated "will two more weeks give you enough time? Because I would like to see ya'll be able to work with the power plant, or the power plant work with ya'll, to come to a resolution here. I don't want to leave you hanging because I understand you've got a lot of money tied up in this, and time is money."
Written by: Denise Bell