By now I’m sure you’ve read just about all of the postmortems on the infamous shout fest of a town hall last month regarding a proposed restaurant at Boy Scout Hill. But even if you’ve had your fill, I implore you, find room for just one more: Eric Celeste’s “Whose Lake is it Anyway?” in the June issue of D Magazine.
This is an important column to read because residents of Old Lake Highlands and other White Rock Lake-adjacent neighborhoods need to see what other Dallasites see, from the outside looking in. Whereas Lyle Burgin and Richard Knopf just wanted to build a restaurant atop what they thought was an underused portion of White Rock Lake Park, residents saw it as an abominable incursion on public space that was a slippery slope toward turning the “Crown Jewel of Dallas” into an amusement park.
Here’s Celeste’s perspective on the issue as a downtown Dallas dweller:
” … I believe many Dallasites would have welcomed the restaurant. And my initial thought was that these torch-bearing homeowners don’t speak for me and aren’t interested in hearing answers to their questions, so why do they get to decide? They don’t own the lake.
Sure, their house values are directly tied to what happens in and around the lake. They have a greater stake in its day-to-day activity than I do. But they don’t have exclusive rights to it, no more than I have exclusive rights to Klyde Warren Park just because I live within walking distance. So, as a longtime Dallasite who loves the lake (objectively, it’s a crap lake, but it’s our crap lake), I was appalled by the vitriol and closed-mindedness on display.”
Ah hah! That’s the kicker right there. As a lake dweller, many these people purchased their homes because of the added value a lake-area address affords them. And if you’re skeptical whether White Rock Lake can make or break a sale, consider how many homes listed in neighborhoods such as Lake Park Estates, Eastwood, Old Lake Highlands, Emerald Isle, Forest Hills and Little Forest Hills include “close to White Rock Lake!” in the summary.
So yes, they do have a greater stake, and yes, it’s important to protect the lake and maintain it, but East Dallas needs to remember that, while we love the lake and want it to be the kind of place our children’s children will enjoy, we don’t own it. Greg Brown was quoted by just about every media outlet saying “Not everything has to be monetized.” True. And when I asked him if he was concerned about development at the lake affecting the value of his Old Lake Highlands home, this is what he had to say:
This is not about my property values. I would not even know where to begin to understand how it would affect that. This really confused the developers who thought our issue would be money and PV’s. This is not about money. It is about protection and enjoyment of a public park and keeping it protected so that all citizens of Dallas can enjoy it in the future. It is about placing an additional burden on a lake that is already overcrowded on a nice day with walkers, runners, cyclists, picnickers, fishers, and doggists. I count myself within three of those avocations.
This is not NIMBY. This about all of the citizens of Dallas being able to use the Lake. However, our neighborhood is close to the lake and therefore we have an obligation to look after it. I imagine the property owners around Lake Fork and other lakes do the same thing. I don’t go to Lake Fork that often but I sure hope that there is an association that advocates for its care and sustainable use. Don’t you?
Unlike our concerns, the concerns of the developers are about one thing: the easiest way to make money. And I admire them for their audacity on this one. 1) Build a restaurant on the condition that you get the overwhelming proceeds, but throw out a little to some local groups to display your generosity 2) Let the city own and operate it (Do we want our city in the restaurant business now?) 3) Let the money roll in with no risk or real work on the part of the developers. 4) If the restaurant goes under, the developers suffer nothing, the city is saddled with a defunct property, and the citizens of Dallas pay for it. The result is three acres of green space are taken away from the citizens of Dallas, and the most beautiful view of the lake and downtown now has to be paid for to be enjoyed along with some greasy nachos and overpriced margarita
Now you get why there were jeers and sneers? This is the Old, Old Dallas way of doing things. The presenters had no idea of the dynamics of our neighborhood or the passion we have for the lake. It is obvious that they have been so engaged in group think that they were thrown for a loop when people actually questioned their ideas and motives. The meeting was about as civil as one could expect when presented with such a vague yet ludicrous proposal. Anyone who expects a black and white 50’s movie civil discourse is living in a dream world. This is how you convince your elected officials that you mean business. Do you think Sheffie’s mind would have registered anything else? Do you think the developers would have been able to spin it to a “rousing support by the community” had the mention of passionate incivility not been there? People are getting fed up with the fait accompli of rich old white men. Social networking makes it easier to rally and assemble resistance (just ask the entire Middle East). I will no longer settle for the status quo of under the table dealings. I will hold our elected representatives accountable. Now is not a good time to try to get an under the table deal done in this neighborhood.
Back to your original question. I do not care about my property values related to the proposed restaurant. PV’s are going up in OLH because the neighborhood is changing, the old wave is leaving and the new wave is coming in. And they are more connected and more passionate about their neighborhoods than ever before.
What do you think?