North Texas

Keller Voters Could Decide Tax Breaks for Tennis Facility

Organizers of petition drive say they have enough signatures for referendum

Opponents of tax breaks for a private tennis club in Keller claimed Wednesday they had gathered enough signatures to send the issue to voters – an unusual move that could ultimately reverse a decision already made by the city council.

The council previously voted 4-1 to approve $381,000 in tax breaks for the Birch Racquet and Lawn Club, a planned 35-court facility located on 27 acres along Keller Smith Road.

Brian Campbell, a contractor who lives next to the site, is leading the opposition.

"We have enough signatures we need, but we're working on a buffer," he said.

The Tarrant County Elections Board will certify whether enough signatures would force a referendum.

An election would likely be held in May 2018, city officials said.

Campbell already was successful in getting the city to reject a large "bubble," or inflatable dome, over the facility.

Now, he's going after the facility's tax incentives, arguing spending tax money on a private club serves no community purpose.

"We're the first group that has stood up to say, 'We're not going to do that anymore,'" he said.

On the other side of the court is Taylor Dent, a former tennis pro who now runs a much smaller after-school tennis academy in Keller.

He and a group of investors have planned the new facility for months.

"It is a big project. We have big ambitions. We have big dreams for this," he said. "We want this to be the shining beacon, the shining gem of Keller. I mean, that's what we really want. Our heart is here."

He said he had no idea the $20 million state-of-the-art tennis facility would lead to such opposition.

Regardless of what happens with a referendum, Dent said his group plans to move forward with construction.

Groundbreaking is set for late October, he said.

"As of now, we're moving full steam ahead," he said.

City officials said the taxpayer investment would pay for itself in about two years and is consistent with incentives offered to other new businesses.

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