Council tables industrial park proposal

Concerns about truck traffic raised; motion to be reconsidered in Thursday afternoon special meeting

Bill Spinks
Midlothian Mirror
Midlothian City Hall.

A marathon meeting of the Midlothian City Council took nearly four hours last Tuesday as councilmembers tackled a huge backlog of public hearings on development items large and small.

The weightiest of them all was the proposed rezoning of a 356-acre property west of the U.S. Highway 67-287 interchange, north of U.S. 67 and east of Ward Road, to a planned development for commercial and heavy industrial uses.

A discussion that lasted more than two hours wasn’t enough to resolve some issues with the rezoning, so the council agreed to continue the item to a special meeting this Thursday at 2 p.m. at the suggestion of councilmember Clark Wickliffe.

The vote to table passed by a 5-2 vote, with councilmembers Wayne Sibley and Walter Darrach dissenting. Darrach said he was ready to act on the matter that evening, but Mayor Richard Reno said time was needed to formulate a clean proposal.

The city Planning and Zoning Commission had approved the rezoning at its Oct. 19 meeting. The Hillwood industrial development is adjacent to the Gerdau solar farm under construction and is immediately south of the proposed Westside Preserve development.

City planning director Trenton Robertson told the council that because staff had some concern over uses next door to Westside Preserve, some prohibitions were added to the PD and the requirement of specific-use permits were added to other potential uses. A 70-foot building height restriction was added to the approved plan, although the plan at present consists of the tallest structure at 55 feet.

Developer Terrance Jobe of Alluvium Development, which owns Westside Preserve, supports the Hillwood project but told councilmembers he has concerns over truck traffic an the height of planned buildings in the industrial development. Other public speakers cited air quality concerns, noise, increased truck traffic near a residential area, and the substandard conditions of roads in the area. The Westside Preserve matter will be up for approval on Dec. 14.

Hillwood representatives sought to allay those fears with a presentation. Queuing lanes will be developed for trucks within the site to prevent spillover into the neighborhood. The site will be developed in phases, with the larger buildings going in later.

The type of “heavy industry” sought for the development is the non-polluting type such as brick-and-mortar distribution centers and local HVAC shops, the representatives said. Large-volume “fulfillment centers” in the mold of Amazon won’t be a part of the project.

Additionally, deceleration lanes will be added to the U.S. 67 frontage road at two locations for traffic turning into the industrial development; and Ward Road will add two lanes to become a four-lane thoroughfare.

The biggest concern remained the possibility of truck traffic turning north on Ward Road and using Old Fort Worth Road to access the two major highways, through the proposed residential area. City executive director of engineering and utilities Mike Adams said signage could be put in place prohibiting trucks turning right on Ward Road, but councilmember Hud Hartson said a truck prohibition would be difficult to enforce.

Councilmembers held that the substandard status of the 67-287 interchange, which forces traffic to change lanes in a short distance to merge onto each highway, would be made worse with the addition of several thousand trucks a day.

“If we approve this today, we’ve instantly created a deathtrap,” Darrach said.

Modifications to connections to Ward Road were suggested to discourage truck traffic from turning north.

Other items

• The approved consent agenda included previous meeting minutes, a 36-month lease agreement with Dell Computers for a total of 88 devices, a special event permit for the Ellis County Toy Run Dec. 12, a pair of encroachment on easement agreements, a $5,000 expenditure for the Midlothian Chamber of Commerce 2022 visitors’ guide, and purchases of a mower, cart and towable boom lift.

• An amendment to a planned development at the northeast corner of FM 663 and FM 875 to allow community retail on the corner was rejected by a 4-3 vote with councilmembers Wickliffe, Darrach and Justin Coffman in favor of the development. As with the P&Z denial of the proposal a month ago, opposition centered on the inclusion of the added retail. A second motion to deny without prejudice was approved unanimously, meaning the applicant can bring it back before the council within six months.

• A secondary dwelling unit at 1038 Lakegrove Loop was approved by a 6-1 vote, with Mayor Pro Tem Ted Miller voting no. Robertson said the plan meets all requirements except that the applicant requested a second electricity meter for the dwelling, because wiring it to the main residence would be cost-prohibitive. Robertson also noted that the property is deed-restricted and the dwelling cannot be used as a rental.

• A specific-use permit for a restaurant at 4470 East U.S. 287 was approved unanimously. The location previously held a cupcake shop. The proposed eatery will also serve daiquiris, beer and wine but expects to exceed 51 percent of sales in food.

• A mixed-use planned development for the former Lawson Buildings at 211 and 301 West Main Street was approved. The buildings were purchased by the city in 2020 for the purpose of redeveloping them as part of the downtown master plan.

• An amendment to city zoning ordinances was approved to allow temporary shipping containers for a maximum of 90 days, subject to approval as a special exception.

• The council voted to allocate its 397 votes to John Knight for another term on the Ellis Appraisal District board of directors. Hartson voted against and advocated for the candidacy of Midlothian resident Brett Kemp, stating that Knight was not a resident of the city.

• The city unanimously approved an interlocal agreement with Gulf Coast Authority for industrial wastewater treatment services for RailPort Industrial Park and surrounding areas. Adams said the authority is also in negotiations with the Google Data Center.

• An economic development performance agreement with Industrial VI Enterprises, LLC for a possible $5 million tax incentive was tabled until Thursday’s special meeting.

• Midlothian Economic Development president and CEO Kyle Kinateder presented a 2020-2021 annual report to the council.

• Following an executive session, the council took no public action.