COLLEYVILLE (CBSDFW.COM) – Colleyville is reversing the sale of city land to a developer after residents discovered a document promising the property would always be open space.
City manager Jennifer Fadden apologized to residents and ordered a full analysis of all city properties.
The city had agreed to sell 8.1 acres of land February 19 to developer Robert Johnson. Video of that meeting shows Johnson approached the city last fall about purchasing the two parcels which the city agreed to sell for $180,000.
Residents who live next to the land learned about the proposed sale in late January when they noticed a small tractor building a bike trail on the land. Aaron Sallee said when he asked the city what was going on, he didn’t get an answer, but instead received a visit from Johnson who explained he had purchased the property. That surprised Sallee, who along with other neighbors had been told the land would always be green space that could not be sold.
The land off of State Highway 26 and Longwood Drive is heavily wooded, sloping down quickly to a creek. More than seven acres sits in a 100-year floodplain. Neighbors said Johnson told them he planned to build a bridge over the creek connecting his Dancing River Assisted Living Center to additional green space for residents.
The city agreed to refund $120,000 of the cost if the bridge was built. Johnson also expressed interest in raising land elevation to build as many as three homes and develop some commercial property along Hwy 26.
The land clearing was an effort to assist surveyors in that work, Johnson explained in the Feb. 19 meeting. His son, he said, had also started building some of the bike trails.
The land connects to other open space that eventually leads to Kimzey Park. As part of a 1999 grant application to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for $550,000, the city said the 8-acres would be part of a greenbelt access to the park. It would be “dedicated open space,” and part of the city’s master plan.
In their review of the land though, city staff never turned up the grant or park connection. When the property was deeded to the city in 2004, it contained no mention of the restriction.
Following questions about the land’s status in the February meeting, Councilman Michael Muhm mentioned he had documents suggesting the land was park space. No one requested to see the documents in the meeting, though, and following reports from city staff that there was nothing to indicate the land had any restrictions, the council made a post-midnight 5-1 vote to sell it.
After the meeting, however, residents continued to question the sale, using the grant application. After they reported Johnson’s son was still building paths on the property as late as Wednesday morning, the city sent a letter stating the sale was effectively stopped.
“Credit goes to residents who brought us information we didn’t have,” said Mayor David Kelly. “And we always request and desire resident input on anything we do.”
Kelly said the sale was attractive because it benefited the city tax rolls and also may have provided a way for students to walk to nearby schools without crossing the highway. Resident Matt Braxton, who was one of the those questioning the sale, said he still supports the idea of a bridge but not development of the property.
The city said Thursday it had just under 100 parcels including parks, public buildings, right-of-ways and easements that it would need to inspect now. The sale will officially be overturned at a council meeting March 5.
Johnson could not be reached for comment Thursday.
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