Southeast Fort Worth neighborhood fends off another proposed industrial project

After a tense meeting with Echo Heights residents Saturday afternoon, a Dallas-based developer appeared ready to shelve plans to clear chunks of agricultural land for industrial and residential use in the neighborhood.

The weeks of back and forth on the proposal were the latest chapter in a yearslong grassroots effort to resist further industrialization across southeast Fort Worth.

“Our intent is not to move forward with anything unless we find a compromise that the Echo Heights neighborhood and everyone else is on board with,” Robert Dye, the managing member of Woodhaven Partners, told the seven neighbors gathered in the meeting room of Eugene McCray Community Center as he began his presentation. “If we can’t get there, then we’ll move on.”

Dye displayed a diagram of the proposed development on a pull-down screen draped in the front of the room. The property straddled both sides of Parker Henderson Road at its intersection with David Strickland Road. The western half, situated beneath some gas wells, featured homes — cottage style, build-to-rent, Dye explained.

The eastern half was dominated by a massive warehouse encircled by roads and parking spaces; undergirding the industrial space were two rows of single family residences. Just across David Strickland Road sits WM Green Elementary School. Dye also proposed extending Village Creek Road to link with the property’s eastern edge, a plan intended to divert semitrucks entering and exiting the property along less populated roads.

The revised blueprint, Dye said, tried to accommodate some of the concerns voiced by residents during a discussion several weeks earlier, namely high-density residences, truck traffic, and the would-be warehouse’s proximity to the school. Dye’s original scheme, as he described it, included more crowded residential spaces and no homes buffering the school from industrial activity. (The Star-Telegram was not provided with a copy of the original plan.)

The pushback to the tweaks was immediate.

“It’s not the homes we have a problem with, it’s the industrialization,” one resident commented.

Letitia Wilbourn, a founding member of the Echo Heights and Stop Six Environmental Coalition, went further.

“Echo Heights does not want, nor does it need another warehouse,” she said. “That is way too close to the elementary school.”

Wilbourn’s organization vehemently lobbied against another developer’s efforts to rezone the same land from agricultural to industrial use in 2022. The group feared the vehicles and fumes from a prospective plant would endanger surrounding communities; the area’s rapid industrialization has, they claimed, already taken its toll on the health of residents. The coalition and other regional environmental activists met separately with Dye Feb. 22 to express their disapproval of his efforts.

As Wilbourn finished sounding off her objections at the Saturday meeting, Lucretia Powell, the president of the Echo Heights Neighborhood Association, interjected.

“I will not put the industrial sites in Echo Heights as the No. 1 cause for the health issues that one individual or several individuals are affected by in the community,” she said. (Powell described Dye’s proposal as “good” after the meeting; “I have no issues with the warehouse,” she said.)

Soon, emotions flared.

“We know and understand that we don’t have to have a hospital or doctor tell us about how it smells and our environment,” said Antonio “Twin” Harris, another member of the environmental coalition.

He turned to one of his neighbors. “How many people you know got jobs back through here, man?” he asked, referring to the warehouses and manufacturers sprawled across the neighborhood.

“None,” the man replied quietly.

“Not one!” Harris repeated, slamming a nearby table.

Robert Hall, a pastor also in attendance, shared Harris’ concerns about the few economic opportunities presented to locals by advancing corporations, though in quieter tones.

“What can we do for the generations that are coming up?” he reflected, crediting Dye for communicating with residents instead of circumventing them, as other developers have.

Hall asked Dye what guaranteed benefits the industrial development could offer the community; Dye promised few, stating that Woodhaven would have little leverage over the companies that used its land.

When the dust settled, the developer seemed ready to ditch the plan altogether. Dye said he hadn’t yet bought the land, let alone apply for rezoning.

“It’s probably a no-go,” he said. “I can understand their sentiments.”

Just before the attendees dispersed, an 86-year-old resident offered closing remarks.

“What’s going to come is going to come,” she mused. “Let God work it out.”