Council responds to eminent domain challenge by local business along 377


by A.C. Hall

Not every business along 377 is pleased with the way Benbrook is going about widening the busy street.  Last week the council responded to an issue raised by Russell Feed and Supply store as they contested the condemnation of a nearly 6 foot wide strip of land at the front of their property.  This land was taken by using eminent domain, which sees the owner of the property offered market value for the land.  If that offer is refused, then the property is seized, with the property owner receiving an amount of compensation determined via a meeting of specially appointed commissioners.

In this case, Russell Feed and Supply says they feel that Tarrant County did not have the right to use eminent domain on them, arguing that the county didn’t have authority to invoke eminent domain since they didn’t have prior authorization from the City of Benbrook.

The City contends that a memorandum of understanding between the City and Tarrant County in 2012 established that prior authorization.  The memorandum laid out funding and responsibility details for design and construction of the 377 project, including the responsibility of Tarrant County to acquire needed properties.

While the city and county stand firm that this memorandum established the needed consent for the use of eminent domain, council unanimously approved a new resolution that consents to the exercise and use of the power of eminent domain by Tarrant County within the city of Benbrook.  City staff stated that this will help clarify that the city has fully consented to the county’s use of eminent domain within Benbrook.

According to Benbrook city staff, Russell Feed and Supply store is appealing the condemnation.  The Grizzly Detail will follow up on this process and provide future updates on what becomes of the Russell Feed and Supply store’s challenge.

Sign ordinance challenge

Earlier this month, the Benbrook council also heard a challenge to their sign ordinance from Chisholm Trail Dental and Orthodontics, which is located on Mercedes Street.

Kelly Clark spoke on behalf of the company, hoping to get the council to change their ordinance regarding LED signs.

“The world is going digital,” Clark told the council.

Currently in the city of Benbrook, any digital sign that changes more than eight times a day is prohibited unless it is displaying time and/or temperature.

“With our ever changing advancing technology, this ordinance will eventually need to be changed to accommodate the need for information and the way society receives it.  New mediums open new opportunities.  We need to change with the rest of society, or we will be behind the curve,” Clark said.

She spoke about the ability of things like digital billboards and signs to keep people up to date on important information.  Clark also spoke about the advances in technology and the way in which people get information these days.

Listing cities that allow digital signs that change, Clark highlighted Colleyville, Grapevine, and Southlake, saying they allow digital signs as long as they don’t change more often than once every ten seconds.      Clark went on to speak about the ways digital signs in the city could help.

“Our sign will help spread the word about community events,” Clark said.

She went on to list things like business grand openings, school information, public interests, promoting other businesses, and weather alerts as other things the digital sign at Chisholm Trail Dental could feature.

Council member Ron Sauma asked if there would be a charge for listing things on the sign.  He was told that’s never been discussed by the business.

“What we would like to do is come into this community and bring something of substance into it,” Clark said.

Sauma continued to question the use of the sign, asking if there would be any restrictions in place when deciding which other local businesses to feature on the sign.

“I think we would have to use some discretion, yes, depending on what type of business it is,” Clark said.  “We would have to look at each option and weigh why we’re putting them up.”

She stated that the dental office would need to believe in the business before featuring it on their sign, talking about the difference between promoting a family friendly restaurant and a tattoo parlor.

Deputy City Manager Dave Gattis informed Clark that the city doesn’t allow businesses to advertise off their own property, meaning the dental office wouldn’t be able to feature other local businesses on their sign.

Council member Jim Wilson also spoke on this matter, asking what specific change the dental office would want in the ordinance.  He was told that they would want something more like other cities, with one frame per 10 to 20 seconds.

“If we change the ordinance it would be across the city,” Wilson stated, saying this would open up the possible use of changing digital signs all over Benbrook.  Council eventually made a motion to forward this issue along to the Planning and Zoning commission for their review.  That motion passed 6 votes to 1.  Once that board considers the issue, they’ll send back a recommendation to council for what action, if any, should be taken.