At the southeast corner of Rockhill Road and North Brook Drive, there’s an undeveloped 3.5 acres of land. The land sits inside a neighborhood of over 300 homes. To the south is an apartment complex. Across the street from the land is an entrance to the new Wilson Creek Trail. Just down the road is Al Ruschhaupt Park.
West of the land is U.S. 75 and the auto dealerships of the Tomes family, Bob Tomes Ford and Brandon Tomes Subaru. The plot of land is currently zoned for residential. Residents say the land has been for sale for several years. They’ve heard rumors of more apartments or houses being built on the land. Nothing has come of any of the rumors.
But if the Tomes Auto Group has its way, the land will be rezoned from residential to light industrial so Tomes Auto Group can build a parts warehouse.
Residents of the nearby neighborhood are fighting back, saying that the commercial property has no place in the middle of their neighborhood and fear that the truck traffic generated by the warehouse could be dangerous to the neighborhood’s children. The concerned residents also worry about the increase in noise and air pollution that the trucks would bring to their neighborhood.
Stacy Tritt lives in the nearby neighborhood with his wife and their 2-year-old son. When he learned of the zoning change request from Tomes, he was surprised. He recalls saying to his wife upon learning of the warehouse plans, “Why are they doing that here? That’s a residential area.”
Tritt told TownSquareBuzz.com that he is worried about the warehouse’s impact on the entire neighborhood. “It would change the neighborhood,” he said. “It’s not zoned to be that way. It’s kind of like having a Tom Thumb in the middle of your neighborhood, except it’s not a grocery store. It’s a parts warehouse.”
Another of the nearby residents, Janet Cobbel, told TSB that many in the neighborhood fear that if the zoning is approved, it will be the beginning of an industrial complex in the middle of their neighborhood. “If they allow the zoning to take place, there will still be 18 empty acres next door to this property,” Cobbel said. “And you all but guarantee that you’ll have a whole warehouse complex right next door.”
Tritt agrees. “That whole area could go commercial,” he said. “I don’t want that.”
“If it can happen in our neighborhood, it can happen anywhere.” – Local Resident Stacy Tritt
Neither Cobbel nor Tritt say they are anti-business or anti-Bob Tomes, but they just don’t want the warehouse to be right at the entrance to their neighborhood. “Mr. Tomes is a very nice man,” Cobbel said. “I like him. I like his business. I hope he can grow, just not here. His growth can’t be at the expense of all of us.”
To that end, Cobbell, Tritt and others in the neighborhood have mobilized in an effort to prevent the warehouse’s construction from moving forward. They’ve begun to tell their neighbors about the warehouse and have found that many were of the requested zoning change but were not aware of what may be built on the site.
“I don’t think people are really aware of what’s going on,” Tritt said. He’s been knocking on doors and trying to make his neighbors aware of the planned warehouse. “People are not really happy about this,” he said. “Why would they put a warehouse in our neighborhood?”
The project cleared its first hurdle on Oct. 8, when the McKinney Planning and Zoning Commission approved the initial zoning change request. The request was approved despite the city’s planning staff recommending denial of due to the request not conforming to the city’s comprehensive plan.
According to city documents from the Oct. 8 meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commision, the city’s planning staff recommended denial of the zoning change request, stating “Given that (1) the surrounding adjacent properties are zoned for residential uses and the proposed land uses would not be compatible with those residential land uses and (2) the proposed land uses are generally not in conformance with the Comprehensive Plan’s Future Land Use Plan, Staff is unable to support the request for light manufacturing uses on the subject property.”
According the minutes from the Oct. 8 meeting, Bob Roeder, the attorney representing Tomes Auto Group, told the P&Z Commissioners, “That he felt the proposed development was on the edge of residential development and would have a less impact than other uses that could be built on the property under the current zoning.”
Roeder was asked about the reasoning for choosing the proposed location and said, “That its proximity to the dealerships was the major reason they chose this site. He (Roeder) explained that they did not want to cross U.S. Highway 75 (Central Expressway) due to construction issues.”
Bob Tomes was also present at the P&Z meeting and told the commissioners, “that he was willing to build a nice structure that he felt would blend in with the surrounding neighborhood. He (Tomes) felt the proposed use would have considerably less traffic than an apartment complex that could be built on the property under the current zoning.” The proposed design of the warehouse is shown above.
Roeder told the P&Z commissioners that there would be one or two semi-trailers delivering parts to the warehouse every day and the automotive staff would retrieve parts using their own trucks.
The increase in traffic concerns Tritt and Cobbell. “We’ve already had some issues with the traffic on Rockhill Road,” Tritt said. “People zoom up and down that street. You’ve got kids playing. There’s more of a chance that someone could get hurt.”
Tritt is also worried that the warehouse could have an impact on the property values in the neighborhood. “It’s going to bring the property values down,” he said. “Who’s going to want to move into our neighborhood?”
Tritt said he’s been collecting signatures from his neighbors who oppose the project. Cobbell said they’ve launched a website to spread the word and that he hopes that many of his neighbors will join him at the council meeting to speak out against the warehouse when the city council votes on the issue on November 5.
“I would be highly disappointed if the council couldn’t connect the dots and put this all together,” Cobbell said. “I hope there is a chance that they’ll listen to us. I would be highly disappointed if they did not.”
Tritt worries that the council could set a precedent if it approves this zoning request. “We hope that the council won’t allow this to happen,” he said. “If it can happen in our neighborhood, it can happen anywhere.”