In a meeting full of buzzwords Tuesday night, the Fort Worth Avenue Development Group dripped out a case against proposed zoning changes for the Sylvan | Thirty development.
If this were a rock show, the four guys on stage would’ve been booed out of the building. But the audience of about 70 community activists, designers, planners and architects was polite, yawning and shifting in their seats while someone explained a slide titled “Merchandising Considerations”.
Panelists rambled endlessly on topics absurdly esoteric for a “town hall” gathering. The meeting itself was Melba toast and white milk boring.
But the issue at hand is rather dramatic.
The developer of Sylvan | Thirty is asking for major zoning changes, which could allow buildings as tall as eight stories and are contrary to design ideas the city has been developing for Fort Worth Avenue.
The developer, Brent Jackson, has filed a 64-page zoning change with the City Plan Commission, asking for changes to the Planned Development District that includes Sylvan | Thirty. The commission is expected to take public comments on the proposal Oct. 6.
Those proposed changes include increasing the building heights from 40 feet to 95 feet, allowing uses such as tattoo shops and bingo halls, allowing main entrances to face inward and requiring fewer trees along the street.
That would not align with the City Design Studio’s standards, director Brent Brown implied during his presentation.
Once the presentations were over, an hour into the meeting, Sylvan | Thirty consultant David Marquis was the first to comment.
Regarding trees, the plan is to plant the required number of trees amid the development and not on the street because then they would be growing under power lines. Although the change requests 95-foot building heights, the developer only wants to take the buildings up to a max of 79 feet. That’s about seven stories. But it wouldn’t obstruct the Belmont Hotel’s skyline view, Marquis said.
Monte Anderson of the Belmont tried to get the panel going by asking questions in the style of a corporate defense attorney: “Would you say that 4-foot sidewalks are within the City Design Studio’s standard of design?”
Anderson did get a definitive answer out of Fort Worth Avenue Development Group president David Lyles: “As it stands right now, no. We wouldn’t back this project.”
The PD’s code was written in 2005, and design ideas have changed some in the past six years, Lyles said.
“It’s not that we wouldn’t be open to change things in the PD, such as height,” he said. “It’s currently zoned for 40 feet; 95 feet is more than double. We believe there are better ways to build this project than inwardly facing. We would like it to address the street.”
Marquis reminded the audience that organic grocer Cox Farms Market is the anchor tenant, and that the development will be green. The buildings will be LEED certified, he said. And utilize storm-water management.
“Let’s remember what was there before,” he said. “This project will be a model for urban green development.”
Two hours into the meeting, some commenting seemed to think they were addressing the project’s developer. One or two asked off-topic questions. And a few offered heartfelt pleas for the good of their beloved neighborhood.
Finally, developer Brent Jackson, a Kessler Park resident, took the microphone. First, he noted that this meeting was an example of democracy at work and said “God bless America.” His company has an open-door policy, he said, and he welcomes comments from the community.
Anyone can comment or ask questions about Sylvan | Thirty via its website, iheartsylvanthirty.com.
He stressed that the project and tenant mix will encourage a diversity of cultures, races, incomes and religious affiliations. Some people might not like certain tenants, and other people might dislike others, he said. But the goal is to have a diverse mix.
“We think there will be a good, healthy balance,” he said.
A waning moon greeted us upon exiting the meeting, two hours and seventeen minutes later, and we were thankful to be on the outside again.