Metropolis: Wednesday, April 05, 2006
A Fort Worth police officer let fishermen know this week that White Lake is off limits.
Ray Carr hasn’t decided whether he supports the proposed retirement center.
Lower Profile

A new proposal for White Lake and a new face at the bargaining table are keeping tempers down.


A Fort Worth police officer rounded up a half-dozen people fishing illegally at White Lake this week, lectured them on trespassing, and then let them go with warnings. Illegal fishing on this privately owned lake has been going on for years, and residents in the nearby White Lake Hills subdivision recently urged the city to post trespassing signs, giving police legal clout to issue citations.

Fishing is the least of the residents’ concerns about the picturesque little lake, however. They worry more about the drug dealing, illegal dumping, and illicit hookups between prostitutes and johns that also occur here — not to mention a city official’s sneaky attempt to pave the way for a 12-story upscale apartment complex against the residents’ wishes. Councilwoman Becky Haskin had her hand slapped over that one and created lingering suspicions among White Lake Hills residents, who have vowed to call the cops on trespassers and to keep a watchful eye on city hall shenanigans involving the property just north of I-30 at Oakland Avenue.

The latest development plan for this spot is getting better reviews than the upscale tower. Dallas-based developer WindRiver Management Corp. is proposing to build a retirement center on the 22-acre site. The land is owned by Fort Worth Housing Finance Corp., which spent (some say overspent) $285,000 on the property at Haskin’s urging in 2004. That deal was roundly criticized. “Public housing for the rich,” residents called it, and lodged an official misconduct complaint against her. Intense scrutiny by incensed neighbors killed the deal and gave the city a black eye for proposing to use funds meant for affordable housing to build a fancy high-rise.

Haskin, who is trying to tear down apartments in her Woodhaven neighborhood, had told East Siders that she would fight against multi-family housing on the East Side. “Then she tries to put a 12-story tower in here,” said Ray Carr, who lives near the lake.

This time around, the lame duck councilwoman is not involved. Instead, former Mayor Kenneth Barr and Fort Worth Housing Authority commissioner Alex Jimenez are representing the city in discussions with the developer and a residents’ committee.

“When we were first contacted, the city’s first words were, ‘Becky had no idea about this project,’” a committee member said. “They sent this team in, and, boy, they are smooth politicians.” Housing officials did not respond to the Fort Worth Weekly’s requests for comment.

Fort Worth Housing Finance Corp. is overseen by the city housing department and was created to help low- and moderate-income residents buy homes. That organization is now trying to unload the property.

Developing the site won’t be easy. A fairly steep slope dips down about 70 feet between Oakland Avenue and the lake, and only eight of 22 acres are suitable for development. Still, WindRiver is interested, and Carr is chairing a White Lake Hills Neighborhood Association nine-person subcommittee to determine the pros and cons. Without the neighborhood’s approval, the deal probably won’t fly.

Committee members were told to keep quiet about negotiations until a report is prepared in about a month. Members who agreed to talk off the record said the latest proposal is better than the first boondoggle, but not perfect. Benefits include new housing in the area and improved security for the vacant lot, perhaps ending decades of dumping and illegal activity. Drawbacks include the loss of a wooded area near the lake. Some people don’t want anything built on the lot, not even a park. They want it all to themselves. “The people that live around the lake don’t want it disturbed,” a committee member said.

Any new development on the city land will be clearly visible from Carr’s lakeside home. Still, he said he hasn’t made up his mind whether he is for or against the deal. The subcommittee’s upcoming report will present pros and cons but refrain from making a recommendation, he said.

Damon Dockstader, president of the neighborhood association, is keeping an open mind about the new development plans as well. “It fits in with our community unless there is something out there that I don’t know,” he said. The earlier plan for a 12-story building was “too big,” he said. The current proposal is for a building about a third that size.

WindRiver’s plans for White Lake are similar to a development called Champion’s Cove in Duncanville, a gated community for seniors built on nine acres. Apartments range in size from 736 to 1,264 square feet, and amenities include planned activities, a theater, and designated spaces for exercise, computers, and arts and crafts. But those apartments are rented at 100 percent of market value and aren’t designed as affordable housing. Some committee members said their understanding is that the company’s plan for White Lake includes affordable housing. WindRiver President Gary Fisher did not return calls seeking comment.

“Champion’s Cove is a wonderful project, but it’s 100 percent market, and this other one is not going to be — it’s going to be affordable housing,” a committee member said. “I would think the neighborhood, any neighborhood, would prefer market value. Neighborhoods have a hard time with affordable housing, period, no matter where you live.”

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