"Don't Get Run Over By a Small but Loud Group of Protesters" — Battle Behind the Pink Wall

NE corner Preston Northwest HighwayCharles Sartain  lives on Northwood, has lived there since 1988, and as such is pretty darn close to the proposed Transwestern multi-family development proposed for the northeast corner of Preston and Northwest Highway. But he is thinking outside of the “No” signs we see everywhere. He’s the one who said in a Letter to the Editor of the Dallas Morning News last week there IS a need for upscale, luxury apartments in the area and he would like to see a traffic study and more information. 

He also says “no negotiations”, as the signs indicate, are not the prevailing opinions in the neighborhood, which stretches from Hillcrest all the way to the Dallas North Tollway, including homeowners with the ’50′s ranches on Northwood to the tree canopied and creek-lined estates of Old Preston Hollow.

Sartain_Charlie_432x262 I caught up with Charles, who is a litigator, by phone. As expected, he tells me he loves his neighborhood and wants the very best for it and his property values. But what he told me sounded a whole lot different from what I have been hearing from others in this neighborhood.

“The people opposed to this project are very much into hyperbole,” he said. “They make many emotional statements that really don’t help a rational debate.”

Charles would like to see that rational debate. Why are we saying no, he asks, when we don’t even know what we are saying “no” to?

“It looks to me like they (a few neighbors) are trying to intimidate Transwestern into going away,” says Charles.

He did not go to the park rally, but he did go to the first meeting at The Black Eyed Pea where Transwestern made it’s introductory attempt to have a cohesive conversation with the neighborhood and explain the development.

“There were three or four in the audience who were openly hostile,” he says. “One lady accused the developer of not telling the truth before the developer even said anything.”

Charles Sartain is happy to have attorney Mike Jung on board, saying he’s smart and reasonable.

“I’m in a question asking mode,” says Charles, ” Not a fighting mode. And I can think of three or four others here who also just want to have questions answered.”

What are those questions?

How will the development REALLY impact the neighborhood traffic, given the congestion on Northwest Highway? Studies that are more than ten years old put the traffic at 23,000 to 57,000 cars per day, though sources tell me it is now more like 80,000. Is adding another 400 to 600 cars to that a drop in the bucket? And will those tenants really be staying at home, or out at second homes, as Transwestern says they will be?

“Traffic is a legitimate concern,” says Charles. “Show me a traffic study, then I might be able to make up my mind.”

Likely there will be traffic studies squared: Transwestern will commission a traffic study, and the Neighborhood will commission one, as well. Cannot wait to see what each reveals.

“I think the Planning Commission and City Councilman Lee Kleinman have an obligation to maintain and improve the city tax base,” says Charles. “To maintain the highest and best use of the property.”

There are other Dallas constituents to consider besides the several dozen north of Northwest Highway with “No” signs in their yards, says Charles. And he saw nothing offensive in the brochure.

I asked him: do you think the development, if it goes forth as planned, will affect your property values on Northwood?

“With a greater value in the real estate here, I think it’s more likely my taxes won’t go up,” he said.

Charles speculates that the city will pull in more taxes from the development, quelling any need to raise tax rates.

Edgemere“Show me where rezoning that corner is going to reduce my property value,” he says. “They said the same thing when the Edgemere was built — didn’t happen. My property values have gone up over the last ten years, not down.”

I asked – do you think this will initiate a Pandora’s Box of zoning nightmares where, if Transwestern obtains a change, other developers will follow suit with panting tongues ready to develope the rest of the garden style apartments Behind the Pink Wall? I have heard reports that Trammell Crow (who bid on Townhouse Row, and Transwestern beat the bid by $2 a square foot) is working on a  deal to buy The Imperial House. At least one owner I spoke with at The Imperial House, who is an editor at The Observer, tells me he would entertain an offer.

“I’m no city planner,” said Charles, ” but I’ve been told that zoning cases are considered one by one, there is no domino effect. Every parcel is looked at on it’s own.”

Though his mind is no where near made up, Charles Sartain is thinking outside of the “No” box, and he says he is not alone by any means. Dallas is getting bigger and bigger, he says, maybe it’s time to ask ourselves if the zoning Behind the Pink Wall is outmoded and NOT good for the city as it is?

The loudest in any battle may not always be the most sensible, and to manage growth in a great city, maybe we need to think of what’s good for Dallas, not just one neighborhood?

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