• October 25, 2014

Progress is fine, but don’t build on our meadow

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Posted: Friday, March 21, 2014 4:30 am

My wife and I love our little neighborhood meadow.

Nearly every morning, we open our kitchen blinds and look across a pleasant expanse covered in native grasses and dotted with oak, cedar and mesquite trees.

Over the four-plus years we’ve lived in our home, we’ve occasionally seen deer in the field, as well as a few gray foxes and a host of other animals — especially at dusk.

You might think I’m describing a piece of land out in the country, or at the very least, on the edge of town. But this open space is right in the middle of a Harker Heights subdivision, as it has been since the homes in my neighborhood were built more than 30 years ago.

Having this quiet meadow across the street from our front door — instead of someone’s driveway or tool shed — was a major factor in buying the house in the first place. I’m sure our neighbors up and down the block feel the same way.

Needless to say, I’d like to see this undeveloped piece of land stay that way for as long as we own our house. It’s a quiet oasis of nature in the midst of what is becoming an increasingly sprawling city.

But last week we received a notice from the city that it was having a public hearing on expanding the Farm-to-Market 2410 Overlay District to include much of our neighborhood meadow.

I know the intent of the overlay district is to promote reasonable, planned growth and prevent zoning conflicts — that’s a good thing. But the map made me realize that while the meadow may be largely pristine right now, it could be targeted for development at any time.

This isn’t the first time this stretch of land has been in the crosshairs. Two years ago, a developer approached the city about a rezoning change in order to build a complex of townhouses on the south end of the property. Homeowners at that end of our street — faced with the prospect of multifamily housing right up against their property — turned out in force before the planning and zoning commission to protest the planned development. Ultimately, they prevailed.

But as the city continues to grow in the area surrounding Harker Heights High School, developers are becoming more interested in the undeveloped area nearby. It’s only a matter of time before our peaceful meadow is seen as a prime location for potential development.

Earlier this week, I talked to

Mayor Rob Robinson about the overlay district, and after some checking, he told me the meadow property is zoned for single-family residential development. That means we’d have some say in the matter if a developer wanted to get the zoning changed in order to build a multifamily or commercial development. But as the mayor said, if the owner were to sell the property to someone building single-family homes, we probably wouldn’t know about it until we saw the construction equipment.

If my wife and I were to wake up to that sight, it would break our hearts. It would also have us putting out the “For Sale” sign.

Our home was custom-built, as were many others in our neighborhood, by the man who owns the meadow. Before we moved in, I was told, the owner had a horse who used to roam the property. No doubt, that picturesque meadow is what gave our Country Trails subdivision its name — and it’s still what sets the residential area apart.

If homes are built on that property, the subdivision will change forever — and not for the better.

I realize nothing can stay the same indefinitely. I also know that sometimes the money can be too good to turn down.

But just this once, I’d like to see someone resist the urge to pave over every square foot of this community.

Is that really too much to ask?

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