HICKORY CREEK — North Texas’ largest estate has gone commercial — but not everybody is welcoming the changes.
The Champ d’Or, a 48,000-square-foot French chateau-style mansion that sits on a 40-acre property in Hickory Creek, has been rebranded as the Olana, a wedding and event venue by Walters Hospitality, and more changes could come for the property.
Developers working with the hospitality group are seeking a zoning change that would allow the addition of a restaurant and a two-building hotel, a change that’s been met less than enthusiastically by some of the megamansion’s closest neighbors.
Residents in the town of 4,596 worry the additions will bring noise, traffic, drunk drivers and reduced privacy.
The Hickory Creek Town Council could vote on the changes as soon as Tuesday. If passed, the sprawling property that’s been on and off the market since its completion in the 2000s would be designated for use as a wedding and event venue with up to 60 hotel rooms, a restaurant and a spa/sauna. A previous agreement allows the property to operate now as a wedding venue.
The mansion, modeled after Paris’ Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomt, cost more than $50 million to build. Its name translates literally to “Field of Gold” and is a homage to its original owners, CellStar Corp. founder Alan Goldfield and his wife, Shirley. It once listed for $72 million.
Mayor Lynn Clark said she hopes a public comment period and two meetings have helped clear up concerns. “At the time, there weren’t enough details given by the applicant to the community,” Clark said.
Walters Hospitality, which operates wedding venues on large estates throughout Texas, declined to discuss its plan until after Tuesday’s meeting.
Clark said the venue will raise public awareness of the community, which she considers to be a “hidden gem,” and the restaurant will likely be open to the public.
For now, only conceptual plans are available. A site plan isn’t required under zoning for a planned development district, which the change would fall under. Clark said the designation gives the town greater flexibility over future plans and an ability to negotiate.
Plans submitted show a restaurant and two-building hotel surrounding a large pond on the property. The zoning requires a buffer and a 6-foot wall separating the area from adjacent properties.
But for some, the idea still isn’t welcome. Saratoga Drive residents living closest to the development area are most concerned because their backyards face the estate’s property. Multiple residents said they paid more for houses facing a greenbelt to gain added privacy.
Jason Lopez is one such homeowner. If the plans go through as he’s seen them, the hotel buildings would go up near his backyard and he’s extremely worried about the lack of privacy and noise it could bring. He also fears his property value will drop as a result.
Lopez planned to add a backyard pool, but he’s holding off as he awaits the town’s decision. If council approves the change, Lopez said he would consider selling his home and predicted he wouldn’t be alone.
Joshua Oehler, who lives in the same neighborhood but doesn’t face the estate, said he told town leaders the change “does not make sense and impedes on the privacy of current residents.”
“I don’t trust it,” he said, adding that even if amenities are open to the public during the week, weekend weddings would likely prevent residents from ever getting to use them. “I see no benefit.”
Others are more open to the changes.
Nancy Koket, who lives about two miles away, said she’s fine with the plan as long as the hotel remains small and the restaurant is open to the public.
“I just think we need to bring density here, and I think we need to bring things that are going to contribute to our tax dollars and things that are going to provide services to our town,” she said.
Martin Stein, who initially opposed the plan, now wants the council to approve it. He changed his mind after seeing conceptual plans and watching recent weddings go off without noise issues.
“I sense that it may have calmed down, and eased fears,” he said.
Consider next-door neighbors Evelyn Valteau and Theresa Webb skeptics. They don’t necessarily oppose the development and like the idea of having a restaurant nearby. But they do worry about property values and loss of privacy.
“I don’t need people looking into my backyard,” Webb said.
Valteau, whose home backs up to the estate, said she thinks neighbors who live farther away are generally less concerned.
“You bought your property that way,” she said. “We didn’t.”