Following pushback from residents and a council member, the Willow Park city council approved preliminary and final plats of a storage and retail addition in a 4-1 vote Tuesday night.
The 3.224-acre subdivision property is off Bankhead Highway in the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction and will have private well water and a private septic system. The plats were reviewed and approved by WP City Engineer Derek Turner.
WP City Attorney Pat Chesser said 11 residents wrote-in opposing the plats and one resident, Lindsey Bass, shared her thoughts during the meeting about keeping the trees that create a buffer between her neighborhood and the platted property.
“Eleven people have sent in letters and I promise there would have been 90 more but we were instructed by the city that their hands were tied. So I just want to let everybody — and if the developers are in this meeting — to know that that would have been a wildly larger number had we known we had any more say so,” Bass said. “If the storage facilities do go in and we don’t have any say-so over it, that’s one thing, but the trees bordering our fence line are technically their property so they could remove the trees and that’s another huge concern to our community because it provides privacy, it helps to prevent windbreak during storms, it increases property value to the developers and to us. I think it increases the stimulus to our local economy, attracting more businesses and tourism, and I just don’t know if I’m going to have another opportunity to say please leave the trees.
"I don’t know what their intentions are — maybe they were planning to leave the trees bordering the fence line. I just want to put out there one last ditch effort that whatever happens in the plat approval that everybody here and the developers know how much it would mean to them if they could leave the bordering trees on our fence line.”
Developer Greg Shannon, with Box 4 Holdings, LLC, said they couldn’t make any promises on keeping the tree line.
“We certainly understand and appreciate the concerns of the trees. We will do our best to keep the amount of trees that we can along that fence line,” Shannon said. “However, we also do have to meet some drainage requirements, which have been approved, and those drainage requirements mean that we need to be able to catch and funnel the water that drains from the subdivision onto the property. We’ll do our best to keep as many trees as possible, but we can’t make any promises.”
Chesser said if a subdivision meets all the city’s requirements, they do not have the authority to deny the plat.
“Our role is only to determine whether or not our subdivision regulations have been met when that plat is filed. So we have no discretion on a plat that meets the subdivision requirements,” Chesser said. “Through the platting process, there are no building permits or zoning of the property that we’re considering. This property is in our ETJ so we don’t have zoning over it nor do we have any control over the building permit, so in essence, we have no control over what goes on the property. Our sole role — and certainly with the plat — is to just approve the subdivision plat that’s filed.”
WP Place 2 Councilmember Amy Fennell asked what would happen if they denied the plats.
“We’re elected to vote for things that are beneficial to our residents and to exercise their will, but we’re also sworn in to uphold the Constitution of the United States and of our state, and it puts us in a really weird situation,” Fennell said. “The state really has told us you have to approve this. We have to use our manpower, our staff, in order to make sure this plat was just right for I don’t know who, but we have no financial benefit from it at all, from this property.”
Chesser said denying the plats could result in a lawsuit from the developers.
“If the plat meets all the subdivision requirements, we really wouldn’t have authority to deny it,” Chesser said. “So if you deny it, you’d have to have a basis for doing so to win any kind of lawsuit. I wouldn’t recommend you deny it unless there’s grounds for denying.”
Fennell was the lone member on the council who voted against the motions, and WP Place 4 Councilmember Lea Young explained why she voted to approve the motion.
“The authority that we have over this is to ensure that our engineer has reviewed the subdivision requirements and that the plat meets what those subdivision requirements are,” she said. “I feel confident having looked at Derek Turner’s work that this meets the requirements for a preliminary plat and therefore why I seconded the motion.”