Car park expansion draws opposition

Mayor, City Council direct staff to explore legal options regarding MidTexas

Bill Spinks
Midlothian Mirror
Hundreds of imported cars await transport to dealerships at MidTexas International Center Inc. in Midlothian in 2017. The facility wants to expand its storage capacity temporarily by using a pasture at the northeast corner of Midlothian Parkway and FM 1387.

A proposed temporary expansion of the sprawling MidTexas International Center Inc. car distribution facility in Midlothian drew opposition from public speakers and a cool reception from City Council members at their Aug. 24 regular meeting.

MidTexas is seeking to expand its storage capacity as more and more automobiles stack up in the supply chain. The property the company wants to utilize is a pasture at the northeast corner of Midlothian Parkway and FM 1387 that is currently zoned as Agricultural.

A fence is being erected around the property. According to a Facebook post from the city days before the meeting, the city had not received any requests to permit the land for different purposes.

Following an executive session to consult with attorneys, Mayor Richard Reno said he will be directing staff to see what the city’s legal options are and proceed accordingly.

Public speaker Louise McGregor said she enjoyed the peace and relaxation of the pasture as she drives past, and objected to the light pollution and changes in drainage that she said the car park expansion would cause.

Amy Cuffin, who lives nearby, also objected to the expansion, citing traffic safety, drainage issues and the unsightliness of thousands of cars parked at the city’s front door.

Reno assured the speakers that the City Council was well aware of their concerns.

The Mirror reached out to L. Randall Denton, president of MidTexas International Center, for comment. No reply had been received as of Tuesday.

MidTexas International Center is a warehousing facility and distribution center for imported cars that has operated in Midlothian since 1982. It covers approximately 600 acres and fronts U.S. Highway 67, and also has dual-rail intermodal access. The facility is a federally-designated Foreign Trade Zone, so cars on the property are not charged a tariff until they are shipped to dealers.

According to a 2017 report by WFAA television, the facility has at one time stored as many as 35,000 vehicles.

The city has gotten into at least one legal tiff with MidTexas before. In 2009, the city filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Dallas against MidTexas and other parties seeking to enforce numerous zoning and other regulatory ordinances. U.S. District Judge David B. Godbey ruled in July 2010 that his court had no jurisdiction and remanded the case to the 40th Judicial District Court in Ellis County.

Councilmember Justin Coffman was absent from the meeting because of COVID-19 but participated in the meeting by phone.

Other items

• Mayor Reno issued two proclamations: one declaring National Night Out to be held on Tuesday, Oct. 5, and one proclaiming Oct. 3-10 as a Week of Prayer in Midlothian.

• The approved consent agenda included previous meeting minutes; a joint contract with the Ellis County Elections Administrator for election services; a resolution approving investment policies for the city, the Midlothian Economic Development, the Midlothian Community Development Corporation and the Midlothian Development Authority; authorization to purchase real property at 301 West Avenue F and a $200,000 expenditure from the unreserved fund balance for the purchase; and an interlocal agreement with North Central Texas Emergency District.

• Also a part of the consent agenda was a resolution calling for a special election to be held Nov. 2 to fill the Councilmember Place 4 position. The election was being called because of councilmember Clark Wickliffe’s candidacy for the Texas House District 10 special election.

• The council conducted a public hearing on the fiscal year 2021-2022 budget. City Manager Chris Dick said the unreserved fund balance in the new budget is just under $1.5 million, and went over a number of line-item revisions that were recommended at previous workshops. The budget and property tax rate will be adopted at the council’s Sept. 7 meeting. At the last meeting on Aug. 10, the council took a record vote to propose a tax rate of 67.5 cents per $100 valuation.

• An interlocal boundary agreement with the city of Waxahachie was approved that adjusts the current and ultimate boundaries of both cities’ corporate and extraterritorial jurisdiction limits. The vote was 6-0 with councilmember Hud Hartson recusing. As a result of the agreement, Midlothian would transfer a total of 66.766 acres to Waxahachie in return for a total of 58.685 acres. The adjustment eliminates a number of property splits in the FM 875 area. The Waxahachie City Council will consider the agreement at its Sept. 7 meeting.

• The council approved a request for direct residential driveway access at 3281 East FM 875. The driveway is for a residence on a 5.358-acre property. The proposed driveway must meet all city construction standards, must be approved by a city engineer and all documents must be obtained from the Texas Department of Transportation.

• The city’s Human Resources Policy Manual was revised to authorize a mental health leave policy for peace officers of the city who have experienced a traumatic event in their employment. The policy has an effective date of Sept. 1.

• The council authorized and then approved, in separate ordinances, the issuance of just over $14.1 million in bonds that were approved by voters in May’s referendum. The proceeds will be used to fund street engineering design and construction, engineering design for the new public safety and police headquarters, and engineering design for the new city hall and library.