Faster speeds for Chisholm Trail

Portions of Chisholm Trail Parkway may soon be getting a faster speed limit. After a study that began in January, the North Texas Tollway Authority is proposing to increase the speed between University Drive and Arborlawn Drive from 50 mph to 60 mph and between Arborlawn and Altamesa Boulevard from 60 mph to 65 mph. City Manager David Cooke said the Fort Worth City council will vote on the speed limit change in August or September.

Budget Time

It’s budget season at the City of Fort Worth, and one of City Manager David Cooke’s proposals for the 2017 fiscal year capital budget is to reduce the property tax rate by two cents.

Cooke presented his proposals during the council’s regular pre-council meeting on Aug. 2 – the first of several budget presentations to be held before the council votes on the budget in September. In light of property values increasing nearly 9 percent this year, Cooke suggested lowering the tax rate from 85.5 cents per $100 valuation to 83.5 cents.

“We need to take advantage of that when we have the opportunity, not only because values are increasing some this year, but we need to reduce the property tax rate over time to be more competitive,” he said.

Revenue from property taxes goes toward city operations and management, debt and capital. With the rate reduced, Cooke said, he recommends lowering the amount allocated toward debt from 17.91 cents to 17.35 cents, as well as reducing the amount allocated toward operations and management from 62.84 cents to 59.65 cents. He recommends increasing pay-as-you-go capital (that is, paying for projects with cash instead of credit) from 4.75 cents to 6.5 cents.

Cooke also talked about proposed spending plans using money from the 2014 bond program, pay-as-you-go cash and gas well revenues. Out of $54.4 million in bond funding, most of the money ($43.9 million) would go toward street and bridge projects. The same thing goes with pay-as-you-go cash – out of $33.3 million, $24 million would go toward street, bridge and other transportation improvements. Out of $11.9 million in gas revenues, $5.4 million would be spent on technology.

“I think it’s a great plan to focus on the savings here, to focus on continuing to look at our budget not as a windfall that we can just spend, but as a fact that we are good stewards of these tax dollars,” Mayor Betsy Price said.

The council will continue discussing the budget through September. Council members will hear a presentation on the proposed 2017 operating budget Aug. 9 at their pre-council meeting. The council is scheduled to vote on the budget on Sept. 13.

The full schedule of budget meetings can be found on the City of Fort Worth’s website: fortworthtexas.gov/calendar

KROGER COMING TO SITE

ALONG CHISHOLM PARKWAY

A Kroger grocery store is on its way to the former Pate Ranch site, as the Fort Worth City Council unanimously approved the project’s site plan on Aug. 2.

“Let’s go Krogering,” Councilman Jungus Jordan said before the vote.

Located at the corner of Altamesa Boulevard and Chisholm Trail Parkway in far south Fort Worth, the grocery store will have more than 120,000 square feet and also have a fuel center and pharmacy. The store will use Kroger’s ClickList online shopping service that allows customers to order online and pick up at the store.

The Zoning Commission approved the site plan July 13.

The Kroger will be part of the 468-acre housing and retail project on the former Pate Ranch site, now being called Tavolo Park. Dallas-based developer Provident Realty Advisors is leading the development.

Bedford-based ClayMoore Engineering is doing engineering work for the Kroger project. Engineer Clay Cristy said construction will likely begin at the end of 2016 or the beginning of 2017 depending on when the project gets a building permit.

LINWOOD REZONED FOR TOWNHOMES

More development is coming to the Linwood neighborhood, as the Fort Worth City Council voted unanimously on Aug. 2 to approve the rezoning of two properties for townhomes.

The properties, located at 400 Templeton Drive and 2833 Weisenberger St., will go from one- and two-family zoning to a form of multifamily zoning known as “urban residential,” which allows structures of higher densities to be built.

At 400 Templeton Drive, Fort Worth developer Village Homes plans to build four townhomes, though designs are not yet finished, said Mary Nell Poole, lead administrative assistant and partner at Fort Worth real estate developer TownSite Co., which represented Village Homes before the Zoning Commission on July 13.

At 2833 Weisenberger St., Fort Worth developer Fort Capital plans to build eight three-story townhomes with two bedrooms each, Poole said.

However, not everyone is a fan of higher density development coming to the area, located near Montgomery Plaza and north of West Seventh Street. Linwood Neighborhood Association President Eva Bonilla told the Zoning Commission on July 13 that nearby residents oppose both rezoning proposals, citing concerns such as construction causing increased flooding and the neighborhood being packed like “sardines” as higher-density structures come in.

“Densification equals gentrification and the city is not addressing it,” Bonilla said.

Still, the Zoning Commission recommended that the city council approve both changes.

“The density is no denser than what it is in other areas,” Poole said. “This is just a different form that it’s taking.”

TAX BREAK FOR RACE ST. PROJECT

A mixed-use residential/office project planned for Race Street is getting a tax break.

The Fort Worth City Council voted unanimously on Aug. 2 to approve a 10-year tax abatement for a 151,000-square-foot development between Race and Plumwood streets, just northeast of downtown. The city property tax abatement will be on the value of improvements, estimated to be about $1.7 million over the 10-year period, although the amount may be different once the Tarrant Appraisal District appraises the property value.

Developer 2925 Race Street LLC plans to invest about $20 million on the first phase of the project, which will include at least 152 residential units as well as office and commercial space.

The project is part of a larger development that includes an additional 212,000 square feet of residential, office and commercial space between Plumwood and Belknap streets. The project totals $49 million, according to a presentation to the city council on June 28.

TRINITY RIVER VISION UPDATE

Freese and Nichols Inc., will be expanding its role in the Trinity River Vision bridge project, with the Fort Worth City Council voting unanimously on Aug. 2 to approve paying the Fort Worth engineering consultant $405,491 to provide additional construction management services for the project.

Freese and Nichols Inc., which designed the bridges, has been providing construction management services for the project since 2015 but on a limited scope. According to a city staff report, the company will have a larger role “due to the complexity of the combined bridge project, the uniqueness of the bridge design (no similar bridges in the State of Texas) and unusual design elements,” such as the V-shaped piers, retaining walls and LED lighting system.

In March, Texas Department of Transportation spokesperson Val Lopez said the bridges had a “malfunction of design” that underestimated the amount of steel necessary to support the bridges’ piers. But according to Doug Rademaker, Trinity River Vision project manager at the City of Fort Worth, that report was incorrect and the project will use less steel than originally planned.

The three bridges along North Main Street, Henderson Street and White Settlement Road will connect downtown to Panther Island, an 800-acre waterfront community planned along the Trinity River near downtown. Construction on all three bridges is scheduled to finish in 2018.

The city council also unanimously approved changing the name of the project’s form-based code district from “Trinity Uptown” to “Panther Island,” as well as changing some design elements involving pavement materials and building height. The form-based code governs building design and land use within the development.

Council Notes:

• American Airlines incentive change: American Airlines is looking to change an incentive agreement it has with the city regarding the airline’s 149,000-square-foot Integrated Operations Center, which opened in 2015 adjacent to the Southern Reservations Office at 4700 American Blvd. American had two incentives from the city – a one-year tax abatement that’s supposed to be granted in 2016 and an economic development agreement consisting of 14 annual grants beginning in 2018. To qualify for the tax break, American needed to spend at least $55 million in real personal property improvements and at least $33 million on business personal property. But when city staff did an audit of the project this year, staff found that American spent $69 million on property improvements, exceeding the minimum, but $24.5 million on business personal property, falling short of the minimum and making American ineligible for the tax break. To mitigate this, city staff is suggesting making changes to American’s other incentive package, the economic development agreement, so that American receives 15 grants starting in 2017. The city council will vote on this proposal Aug. 9.

• Wal-Mart for Park Vista: Construction on the approximately 182,000-square-foot Wal-Mart Supercenter at Park Vista Boulevard is set to begin this fall, according to Wal-Mart spokeswoman Anne Hatfield, after a change in Wal-Mart’s economic development agreement with the city. In the original agreement authorized in 2014, Wal-Mart had until June 30, 2016, to build its store and four lanes of Park Vista Boulevard between Ray White Road and Keller Hicks Road. But due to delays the city faced in acquiring the right-of-way needed for the road project, the construction on the Wal-Mart store was delayed as well, according to a city staff report. Thus Wal-Mart is requesting an extension to its completion deadline to correlate with the road project. Hatfield said construction on the Wal-Mart store and Park Vista Boulevard improvements is expected start and finish at the same time, with the store opening in spring 2018.

• Urban farms allowed: The city council approved a zoning change that would allow urban farms – that is, plots of land used for planting crops, raising fowl and beekeeping – in all zoning districts, whether residential, commercial or industrial. Previously, agriculture could only be done in districts that are labeled as “agricultural” and starting an urban farm would require a zoning change. Those interested in starting an urban farm can call the city’s zoning office at 817-392-6226 for more information.

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