Despite objections from nearby homeowners, the Denison City Council recently approved a zoning change to commercial district for a small section of native greenbelt on Crawford Street, near U.S. Highway 75. The section of greenbelt will be used to provide additional access to a proposed future retail and entertainment development by the company that own Schulman’s Movie Bowl Grille at the highway.
The piece of land, which is less than half an acre, will be combined with nearly 24 acres of land along the intersection of Crawford Street and Hwy. 75 for the construction of the new development.
“The city’s position is that that parcel has already been zoned commercial and is ripe for development,” City Manager Jud Rex said Monday, referring to 24 acre tract.
In September, officials with Schulman’s Movie Bowl Grille announced plans to develop a new location at the site. The announced entertainment complex would feature a bowling alley alongside other entertainment amenities including an eight-screen movie theater.
In an effort to assist development, the city council approved the conveyance of less than half an acre of greenbelt along Crawford Street for the project. However, when Schulman’s zoning request was made to the Denison Planning and Zoning Commission for both properties the next week, the commission recommended denial of the request.
In recommending it be denied to the city council, the commission said they were concerned about the request to remove the fencing requirement and that there was no one representing Schulman’s at the meeting to speak to these concerns. Additionally, members of the commission said they were uncertain it would be moving forward.
Following the announcement of another Schulman’s location in Sherman last month, owner Mark Schulman said Monday that he plans to develop the entertainment complex as the second phase of the project in Denison. First, he said he would prioritize the retail aspect of the project in Denison alongside the Sherman development.
In order to accommodate multiple entrances on the southern portion of the project, developers requested the use of a small portion of the greenbelt between the proposed development and Ansley Lane. In addition to increasing access to the site, officials with the city said the removal of the greenbelt would also help with visibility for traffic entering and exiting along Crawford.
Denison Planning Manager Steven Doss said the greenbelt was first dedicated in 1993 as protection for the residential developments along Ansley when the larger parcel was first zoned commercial. In addition to running along Ansley, a small section extended onto Crawford Street, effectively giving the greenbelt an ‘L’ shape.
As part of Monday’s zoning request, developers for the project initially requested an exemption from requirements to build a screening fence along the greenbelt for both pieces of property. However, during Monday’s meeting, Schulman said he was unaware that this request was made and that he would no longer be pursuing it. Instead, he said he wanted to put up a barrier fence that would be durable enough to stand up to growth from the greenbelt.
While this settled some of the concerns, property owners along Ansley spoke out against the removal of the greenbelt and, in some cases, development at that location itself. Common concerns raised by those residents included issues with increased traffic generated by the development, drainage issues and issues with noise, light and physical pollution.
Cindy Huth, who has attended all of the meetings regarding the proposed uses for the greenbelt, said she feels that by using that space, additional pressure will be put on Ansley. In addition to this, Huth said she feels the developers already have enough property for the project, and do not need more.
“They knew what they had when they bought it,” she said. “They already have room for one entrance. They already have access from the frontage road. Why do they need to take even more?”
Dale Phillips, who lives along Ansley, said many of his neighbors told him they’d be moving if the development moves forward. Phillips also argued that even if the remaining greenbelt along Ansley were left in place, development in the adjacent property could do irreparable harm to the root system.
Phillips said he understood the need for commercial expansion, but said he would prefer to see the kind of development that would not have a major impact to neighborhoods. As an example, he said he would prefer to see businesses like doctor’s offices that close at about 5 p.m. and don’t generate a lot of noise pollution.
Phillips said he would also like to see incoming businesses use existing buildings that are vacant, but he said he knows this development would be unable to do so.
With regard to Schulman’s plans for the property, neighboring residents offered alternatives that may alleviate some of the issues. As an idea, one homeowner suggested that Schulman reverse his project footprint, with the proposed entertainment complex on the south end and retail development to the north. However, Schulman said the prospective retail developers were not interested in the property to the north, making it a no-sell from a development standpoint.
When put to a vote, the request was approved unanimously by the council members present, though council members Kris Spiegel and Bill Malvern were absent from Monday’s meeting. Mayor Jared Johnson noted that should the project not move forward, the green belt would revert back to the city after a certain period of time. Additionally, the green belt cannot be cleared until construction is ready to move forward, he said.