Fort Worth parents demand city leaders stop motel construction next to elementary school

Parents are demanding Fort Worth city leaders stop the construction of a motel that is planned near a Keller ISD elementary school.

Charlie Lauersdorf, Fort Worth Councilman for District 4, held a public hearing Wednesday night at Basswood Elementary to address parents’ concerns.

Toward the end of the hearing, the motel’s owner said he would temporarily stop construction while officials have further discussions about the concerns raised Wednesday.

The hearing comes just days after a Basswood parent, Moraima Marrero, started a petition on, asking for answers from city leaders and the owner of the Studio 6 motel, an extended-stay hotel that is part of the Motel 6 chain.

The petition has received 665 signatures so far.

Lauersdorf said at the hearing that the local housing association sent out a notification to residents when the Studio 6 motel recently got the zoning changed in September 2023 and was approved for construction. But parents said they did not receive any notification of what the construction site was for.

The councilman addressed the communications error the HOA made in not only notifying parents but also the school district. Email and postcard notifications were sent to the addresses of the former Keller ISD superintendent, according to Lauersdorf, which is why the district was also unaware of the construction of the motel.

He also said that signs were put at the site of construction, but according to parents at the hearing, those signs did not specify what the business would be.

“This is a big deal. I mean we’re sharing green space and that is the best that y’all can do for our kids? I mean, these are your kids, too,” said Dr. Tracy Johnson, who was recently named Keller ISD superintendent in December.

Keller ISD parents are demanding Fort Worth city leaders to stop the construction of a motel (highlighted box) that would be next to Basswood Elementary School. The school (far right building) is located off the intersection of Sandshell Blvd and Clay Mountain Trail. City of Fort Worth
Keller ISD parents are demanding Fort Worth city leaders to stop the construction of a motel (highlighted box) that would be next to Basswood Elementary School. The school (far right building) is located off the intersection of Sandshell Blvd and Clay Mountain Trail. City of Fort Worth

“I can’t think of a more flimsy way to notify somebody of something than a postcard,” Johnson said. “So when I see this, it makes me think that there really was not a good effort put towards notifying anybody, but more to get something built that you wanted built.”

The public hearing quickly took a turn as parents wanted to know more about the future of the motel.

After being asked by a parent if the city would halt the construction of the motel, Lauersdorf initially said leaders did not plan on it.

Today's top stories:

Crips member sentenced for murder in death of gang rival

Father of innocent bystander killed in police chase sues city of Fort Worth

Texas Monthly lists 2 from Fort Worth among Best New Restaurants

🚨Get free alerts when news breaks.

When asked why the construction couldn’t be stopped, Lauersdorf said, “Because they already received the approval to move forward.”

“That information is irrelevant right now,” said a resident. Lauersdorf wanted to continue the hearing by discussing the zoning change and how businesses such as the motel could be prevented from being built in neighborhoods.

“We don’t want to know about the permits — we want to know how you’re going to protect our kids,” said another resident.

“If you understand how the process works, you’ll be more informed on future zoning cases,” Lauersdorf responded.

“But it’s all [expletive] at this point because it’s already a done deal,” said a parent.

In response, the councilman said he would follow up with the city’s legal department to determine what could be done about the motel.

But parents also wanted to know how Keller ISD was responding to the issue.

“We’re here in support of these families right here that are impacted by this. We do not want a hotel next to Basswood Elementary,” Johnson said. “This is an exceptional school with exceptional families and exceptional kids and staff members. So we feel as passionate as you do about this. So our first priority is to get it stopped along with the support of everybody in this room right here.”

Both Johnson and the councilman discussed setting up an emergency meeting with city leaders and Keller ISD board members to discuss how to “fix the situation,” Lauersdorf said.

Studio 6 motel a hub for crime, parents say

Aside from concerns of communication with residents, parents demanded to know what good would come from the motel.

“We don’t want that right here with our kids,” said a parent who has a first-grader and a third-grader at the school.

Parents said the motel would attract crime to the area such as human trafficking, drug dealing and prostitution.

“Our kids go out to play, God forbid somebody goes through the gate. Come on now, this is just common sense,” said a parent. “There are so many things going on right now.”

Another parent also criticized the district for allowing the elementary school to be built in a predominantly industrial area.

“Keller ISD chose to build the elementary school in an area where it could be zoned for amusement and entertainment and nightclubs and hotels. It’s shame on you, shame on you for letting that happen and not doing your due diligence before you built that school on this property,” said the parent.

Lauersdorf suggested that the area could undergo a change in zoning to become a commercial area, which would be “a lot more restrictive than what it is now.”

The councilman used this time in the public hearing to discuss strategies to better address concerns. He said he and other city leaders intend on finding ways to be more informative, including confirming with HOAs that notifications were delivered to residents.

Parents quickly criticized the councilman saying they didn’t have the opportunity to oppose the building of the motel anyway, but Lauersdorf argued that they would be surprised by how many zoning cases go unopposed.

“In this area, there is no surprise,” said Lauersdorf. “The school playground is backed by a Home Depot, separated by a chain-link fence, so having a hotel and another shopping center next to everything else is not something that’s out of the blue.”

“Anything can happen,” a parent argued. “There’s too much going on in this society... That’s just not right.”

“I don’t want to have to pick up my child fearful,” said another parent. “Who is going to protect them? If we can’t, who is going to protect them? That is my fear. You’re a parent. Understand. So don’t say, ‘I can’t do anything and what’s done is done.’ No, I wanna hear, ‘We’re going to stop that. We’re going to fix it.’”

Motel owner refuses to stop construction

After several parents spoke and made their concerns known, they wanted to hear from the owner of the Studio 6 motel, Dev Surati, who was also at the hearing.

“So now that you hear us telling you we don’t want it because we are worried about the safety of our children and families and the faculty here, would you please move around,” a parent asked, to which Surati said no.

Another parent asked Surati how the construction of the motel could benefit families and the school’s faculty.

“The school was put in a commercial district,” argued Surati. “We don’t care,” parents replied.

Surati was asked how he would feel if his children were attending a school that was next to a motel with a history of crimes.

“I was born and raised inside of a hotel,” Surati responded.

“To the owner saying you were raised in a hotel. I was raised in a broken home. But that doesn’t mean that’s what I want for my own children,” said a Basswood teacher. “We don’t need an extended-stay hotel.”

A counselor at Basswood asked Surati if the motel would conduct background checks, to which he said no , but he said he and his staff are trained on human and child trafficking. “We know that things can happen,” said Surati.

Johnson advised Surati to take his business elsewhere after she told city leaders at the meeting to stop the construction of the motel.

“I’m sorry, I know you’re a businessman, but this isn’t right. This can be built somewhere else,” Johnson said.

The superintendent said the district would also get legal counsel involved first thing Thursday morning.

In an effort to be transparent, Lauersdorf told parents that city leaders would keep them informed of any updates or changes that occur with the zoning of the motel.