Mayor Bill Souder got the Home Depot he wanted. It looked like tough going at first, because the Planning & Zoning Commission in North Richland Hills, Texas voted unanimously on April 27th. not to rezone 18 acres of land, including some residential property, for a Home Depot. After all, more than 100 citizens turned out to oppose the Home Depot. The Planning Commission agreed with residents that the Home Depot would lower their property values, and increase traffic and noise at the site. The citizens strongly stated their objections to a 139,000 s.f. store, noting also that the Home Depot would be located less than one mile away from a Lowe’s home improvement store in the town of Hurst. After rejection by the Planning & Zoning Commission, Home Depot appealed to the North Richland Hills City Council, which said it would hear the case if significant changes were made. The company then added a few trees and some landscaping, offered to change the facade from concrete to rock,and went to the City Council, where the Council voted on May 22nd by 5-2 to overturn the decision of the P&Z Commission and give Mayor Souder his Home Depot. According to the Star-Telegram newspaper, the vote was taken “with little comment” by Council members. After all, this is the same City Council that approved a Wal-Mart supercenter recently, much to the distaste of local residents. Here’s the irony of the story: Mayor Bill Souder is not the Mayor of North Richland Hills. He is the Mayor of the neighboring town of Hurst, the town that stands to lose revenue if Home Depot builds a store one mile from Hutst’s Lowe’s store. But it is Mayor Bill Souder who owns the land in North Richland Hills that Home Depot wants. So Hizzoner unloads his land for a handsome price, while homeowners in North Richland Hills take a valuation dive, and the store in Hurst gets a major new rival. As another poltician might have said: “All politics (of zoning) is local”. Despite strong opposition at every hearing, Home Depot got a second chance in North Richland Hills that it never deserved.
The question on everyone’s mind is: where will Mayor Bill Souder shop for lumber? In the Lowe’s that benefits his town, or in the Home Depot that takes business from his town, but sits on his land? Do the residents of North Richland Hills feel betrayed by the political system? Was the Planning Commission’s unanimous vote against Home Depot overturned on the merits of the case, or because of politics? What message does it send to the Planning & Zoning Commission that couldn’t muster even one vote for Home Depot? What goes unspoken, but is probably understood by most residents, is that neither community needs two home improvement megastores less than one mile apart. Residents could appeal the Home Depot rezoning on the grounds that such a decision was arbitrary and capricious, but they would have to raise legal funds to do that, and so the merits of the case will never be adjudicated.