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Willow Park

Council debates rezoning

Former Church of Christ property discussed


The future of the building that used to house Willow Park Church of Christ at 721 Ranch House Rd. is soon to be decided by the Willow Park City Council. In fact, the matter was on the council’s agenda for its Tuesday, Jan. 23 meeting before being tabled for a future date.

That didn’t stop a group of citizens from voicing their grievances to the council during a public hearing. 

The property, no longer used as a church, is listed for sale by owners Stacy Lynch and Jerry Stockon. They and their buyer, Aledo Legacy, LLC, have requested a zoning change from single-family residential to office district. Plans are to use the building for commercial office space.

Willow Park City Manager Bryan Grimes told the council, led on this evening by Mayor Pro Tem Lea Young in lieu of Mayor Doyle Moss being out of the country, that staff recommended tabling the vote until more can be discussed. He said an effort should be made to “try and find a more equitable solution for everyone.”

Willow Park citizen David Lorenzo addressed the council, saying businesses at the location “would dramatically detract from the local neighborhood.”

Like several others, Lorenzo’s main concern was lighting on the property. In addition, he had a long list of suggested prohibitions, including overnight parking, outside functions, loudspeakers, and more.

Clifford Voorhees, likewise, expressed his concern about the lighting, saying, “We certainly don’t want to see the lighting like we have at the Shell station (at the corner of Ranch House Road and I-20 frontage road).”

The lighting, by the way, was mentioned in the agenda item for the public to see on the city’s website. Before bringing the item to council, the planning and zoning commission recommended approval by a 3-0 vote with the condition that the intensity of all overhead lighting be limited and shielded to not create a nuisance to surrounding residential dwellings.

Also, per city ordinance, a permanent screening fence of not less than 6 feet tall must be built prior to the issuance of a certificate of occupancy as the property is next to areas zoned residential.

Grimes told The Community News the location includes no plans for a restaurant or retail with no late hours and primarily daytime activity only.

But the voiced concerns went beyond lighting. Terri Holcombe cited a concern for the safety of children in the area and asked the council, “Can anyone ensure that any of the people renting these spaces aren’t there for nefarious reasons?”

She then added that she believes an influx of strangers and signage would challenge the neighborhood feel, following up with the question, “Are there going to be cameras pointed toward my house?”

Mary Diedrich expressed a concern about more traffic on the road, saying, “I’m always afraid I’m going to find someone ejected through the windshield in my front yard.”

Robert Heil, pastor at Willow Park Church of Christ, also addressed the council, while also telling the protesting citizens not to be concerned.

“We wouldn’t have made this move if I’d not had confidence in the people buying and what they’re going to do with it,” he said, though he did also ask council to make certain the lighting portion of the agreement is upheld.

Grimes thanked the speakers for voicing their concerns, assuring them more discussion is forthcoming, hopefully to include residents and the property owners.

“This is democracy in action. They’re doing it right now in New Hampshire in a different way,” he said, adding they are more than welcome to contact city hall. “We’re about as transparent as you can get. We’re an open book here.”

Young, who has lived in the area near the church for three decades, told the citizens, “I am your neighbor. I drive by that location all the time. Sometimes you don’t know what people care about until you put something out there. Thank you for participating in our government.”

Willow Park Communications and Marketing Director Rose Hoffman encouraged citizens to be careful about where they get information, asking them to come to the city with any questions or concerns.

“It is discouraging to me that through this process I have visited with so many of our residents who are relying on unreliable sources for their city news. The city has worked very hard over the last five years to establish official communication channels for our residents and businesses,” she said.

“I encourage anyone to reach out directly to me if they are unable to find these channels.”


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