Well, that went over like a cow chip on a wedding cake.
Last week at River Ranch in the Stockyards, about 100 people, a city official or two, and a paid consultant gathered to talk about Stockyards architecture and design. The meeting was intended to allow livestock industry stakeholders the opportunity to share their concerns and make suggestions. But pretty much everyone who attended seemed to want to discuss the mystery surrounding Majestic Realty’s planned redevelopment of the eastern portion of the historic district (“Gambling on History,” Aug. 27, 2014). Most were unimpressed when local architect and city consultant Randy Gideon stood at a podium and gave a power-point exhibit that could have lulled a roomful of tweekers into a deep sleep.
After about an hour, Stockyards property owner Steve Murrin interrupted the borefest to mention that people in the audience had things they wanted to say and that some had to leave soon. Gideon said something to the effect of, Sure, we’ll get to them muy pronto and then … continued droning. After 15 more minutes, Murrin interrupted him again and basically said, Uh, really, there are people here who have something to say. Hint, hint.
Finally, the stakeholders got to talk. They said what just about everybody expected them to say. They want California-based Majestic Realty to maintain tradition and not build anything too tall or modern looking, they want the Stockyards to be mindful of parking and driving issues for trucks pulling livestock trailers, and so on. But what most attendees appeared to want was information about redevelopment plans, beyond a vague description of hotels, retail, and multi-family housing.
They didn’t get much. Nobody from Majestic showed up.
“They’re being so secretive,” said a woman who asked that her name be withheld. “We still know nothing, and they’re not letting the task force know anything. It’s a slap in the face for that many people to show up, and Majestic didn’t even show up.”
Task force member and North Fort Worth Historical Society President Marty Humphrey said the frustration was evident on the faces of the crowd.
“I wish we would have had more [info] for them,” she said. “I don’t know if any of us understood the agenda. A lot of people are asking questions, and unfortunately the answers aren’t there.”
Humphrey believed the meeting’s purpose was to discuss guidelines on how the Stockyards should look in general, rather than aimed solely at Majestic’s plans. Fort Worth has the last stockyards left in the country, and most people want to preserve it, she said.
“We were glad that people want to maintain the authenticity of the place,” she said. “They like the Western culture and the styling of the businesses and that you can go down there and see how a stockyard worked at one point in time.”
Others described the meeting as a dog-and-pony show meant to calm people without really including them.
“I got the feeling they were just pacifying us,” a Stockyards worker said.
Local architect and historian John Roberts, a board member with Historic Fort Worth Inc., didn’t attend the meeting, but he spoke with people who did and noted their angst.
“The property owners and our organization and everybody else is really concerned that we don’t know exactly what is going on,” he said. “Also, they’re not going to be doing the form-based codes but going for design guidelines. Form-based code is put into the zoning ordinance. Design guidelines are merely that: guidelines.”
He described the planning process so far as “loose and vague.”
Stakeholders tended to use more descriptive language. One woman vividly recalls how Stockyards property owner Holt Hickman and his family sold land to Majestic and used city officials to clear the path without seeking public input.
“When this dadgum thing started, we all went to the city council meeting, and they waited until 11:30 at night until they brought this up,” she said. “They thought we’d go home. [Mayor] Betsy Price and [City Councilman] Sal Espino pushed this through. We were sold under the covers. They’re not being honest and forthright. We weren’t given an option to give our opinion during the first go-round. They started off like Big Daddy. ‘This is the way it’s going to be.’ We weren’t considered important.
“You’ve got to be careful,” she continued, “or those city slickers will take you for everything they can.”