Fort Worth

Westlake Homeowners Win Fight to Preserve Wooded Land – For Now

They say you can't fight city hall. But neighbors in Westlake found out you can, and you can win. After weeks of public outcry, the town council rejected a zoning change Monday night that would have brought in 56 new homes.

The march toward development may seem inevitable, but in this case it did not win out. A group of dedicated homeowners did, armed with detailed research and plenty of fight.

Westlake is a town of beautiful homes and plentiful trees, not quite tumbleweeds but neighbors are drawn there for the next closest thing: room to breathe.

"It's so relaxing and just a peaceful, family-oriented environment," said Westlake homeowner Nancy Graves.

But change is here. Westlake is already zoned for as much commercial development as downtown Fort Worth, right now more than half is still untouched.

"I think stiff-arming development is dangerous,” Westlake Mayor Laura Wheat said. “I think ultimately it's impossible. Development and growth is going to happen."

Mayor Wheat added that it's the town government's job to make sure any new development fits.

That's where the fight over a 62-acre hilltop of trees comes in. A developer wanted to raze it to put in 56 new homes, a closely packed development that would have overlooked Neil McNabnay's acre lot.

"I think it was such an important issue for the town and also us, because we were bound to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars based on what was being proposed," McNabnay said.

He and a group of neighbors filed suit to block the development, citing a required 500-foot setback from any nearby homes and initial concept plans to keep the land open from back when IBM first owned it.

"I think this was a seminal point,” said McNabnay. “The town could either lie down and roll over to the developer or they could stand up and say you know what, this is an important feature of the town."

Mayor Wheat, who rides to town hall on a bike, says preserving the vision of a wide open Westlake means a lot, and so do the voices that stepped up to fight for it.

"Whatever happens, the fact that people were so energized, and so involved in the process, it will be a better product in the end than it would have been without it," said Mayor Wheat.

Right now the lot is zoned commercial. It's owned by a development company that didn't return calls for comment so it's not clear what's next for the land.

The mayor says town council will do whatever it can to preserve it as wooded land and neighbors will be watching closely.

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