Diane S.W. Lee
The City of Grapevine and Grapevine Heritage Foundation on Wednesday filed a defendant's plea in Tarrant County District Court and a motion to dissolve a temporary restraining order that has halted changes to Nash Farm.
A court hearing on whether to dismiss the lawsuit filed last week by more than a dozen Nash Farm neighbors is scheduled for June 20.
"We are asking the court to set a hearing in advance of the scheduled hearing on the temporary injunction," Grapevine city attorney Matthew Boyle said. "We don't believe that the trial court has jurisdiction due to defects in the plaintiff's pleadings."
In recent months, the city's historic farmstead has seen some changes with the addition of about $18,000 of Faith Bybee Collection furniture and the property's designation as a historic landmark.
Eighteen Nash Farm neighbors on June 7 filed a temporary restraining order against the city and the foundation, blocking additional changes to the property. A court hearing is scheduled next week in Fort Worth to decide whether a temporary injunction should be granted.
Temporary restraining order
Plans to move the 1930s-era Soil Conservation Service Office to the property and install a perimeter fence with three additional gates were put on hold after Tarrant County District Court Judge Dana Womack granted the order to temporarily stop the following acts on Nash Farm property:
- Conducting any further construction;
- Moving any farm animals;
- Moving any structures or buildings including the Soil Conservation Service Office;
- Installing and/or erecting a perimeter fence;
- Designating, installing or preparing any parking on or around the perimeter.
“If the court does not issue the temporary restraining order, [homeowners] will be irreparably injured because, exceeding out of pocket expenses, the damages to the [homeowners] cannot be measured by any certain pecuniary standard, as it is impossible or near to impossible to determine how the construction and changes to the subject property will affect the values of their property,” according to court documents.
Homeowners contend that the city and foundation breached 12 violations under land use restrictions. One violation noted that the pole barn, equipment shed, smokehouse and chicken coop did not comply with land use restrictions and the city's building code and fire prevention code. Another violation cited that the Soil Conservation Service Office failed to meet land use restrictions.
“The exterior walls are not 70 percent masonry, including, but not limited to, natural stone, brick stucco, or a veneer,” the neighbors argue in their filing.
Other concerns included the presence of “too many chickens in a confined space” and “debris and 'junk' located throughout the subject property that creates a unsanitary condition.”
The city and foundation say the homeowners cannot prove that the improvements on the structures will violate the land use restrictions, according to Wednesday's filing. The land use restrictions only apply in the event of a commercial use of the subject property and do not apply to government/public uses, according to the filing.
The City Council in May approved rezoning Nash Farm property from Grapevine Vintage District to Governmental Use District.
City Manager Bruno Rumbelow, Grapevine Heritage Foundation chairman Curtis Ratliff and Grapevine Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director Paul W. McCallum all referred questions to the city attorney.
"We believe that the case is based on questionable motives, especially given the fact that the city and the Grapevine Heritage Foundation have been excellent stewards of the historic Nash Farm," Boyle said. "The city and the Heritage Foundation are firmly committed to continuing that level of stewardship."
The foundation previously approved plans to move the Soil Conservation Service Office to Nash Farm property, tucking the historic building near the pole barn for use as a classroom, exhibit hall and a training facility. Board members previously said they wanted to develop Nash Farm into an education center by adding furnishings, animals and buildings on the property.
The foundation recommended constructing a 5-foot fence of woven wire with barbed wire on natural cedar posts to secure future animals on the property. The Grapevine Historic Preservation Commission on April 25 approved the fencing.
On May 23, the commission approved the construction of gates at specified locations on Nash Farm: one service gate near the pole barn, one pedestrian gate along College Street and another pedestrian gate along Homestead Lane. In another motion, commissioners also approved plans to make changes to the farm's barn such as removing the wall inside the straw crib, and adding a new wall, door and flooring inside the feed crib.
A court hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. June 20 at the 342nd District Court's Family Law Center, 200 E. Weatherford St. in Fort Worth. The court hearing for a temporary injunction is set for 9 a.m. June 21.