After attending my first Dallas Planning Commission meeting yesterday, I called my doctor for some anti-depressants to keep from cutting myself. I’ll give Commissioner Margot Murphy credit for putting attendees out of their misery quickly by moving the item up in the docket, but fault her for asking for a two-week delay in what has been nearly two years of tedium (history here, here, here and 25 more stories posted on Candysdirt.com). When the vote was taken to postpone, clearly not everyone was a “Yea” but no one had the guts to rock the boat and say “Nay.”
Why was the delay asked for? Shenanigans. Plain old political shenanigans.
Ya see, the Preston Hollow EAST Homeowners Association (PHEHA) which is directly north of the proposed development is apparently claiming surprise at the Planning Commission vote and in general at not being notified of the latest Transwestern proposal that’s been floating around since March. (You remember March, that was when we were hoping for a little rain.)
Ashley Parks, previous president and current PHEHA board member for the seemingly new post covering “zoning,” apparently missed the stories in the press, the discussions from the Preston Center Task Force meetings (of which she’s an appointed neighborhood representative) and the meeting last Thursday at the Baptist Church called by homeowners to talk one last time with Transwestern.
Oh, and apparently Parks missed the strings of communications sent directly by and to her and current PHEHA president Judy Smiley. Here’s a refresher …
March 20, 2015: A detailed letter was sent by Transwestern to the presidents of all the area HOAs and neighborhood associations (including Parks specifically) that discussed the specifics of the latest proposal and included a rendering of the new building.
April 15, 2015: Parks types, “With a total of 164 rentals …” Even though she was tardily responding to that nearly month-old email, clearly in mid-April she was aware of the new proposal and the number of units the new proposal contained, 164.
April 20, 2015: Parks responded to an email that copied others in PHEHA, “I’ve been in contact with our board and we’ve solicited feedback from our group as well.”
April 21, 2015: Parks tells City Councilman Lee Kleinman, “I just wanted to reach out to you personally regarding the Transwestern proposal.” Again, this is from April 2015 not August.
April 23, 2015: PHEHA sends email to residents asking them to take a survey because, “Tranwestern has made another proposal.” That survey was on the PHEHA website until August 16th, but still viewable here. So neither Parks, Smiley nor PHEHA residents can claim ignorance.
Question 4 of that survey asked, “Transwestern has approached neighbors again about redeveloping the NE corner of Preston and Northwest Highway into an apartment complex. The area North of Averill way would be 3 stories (no zoning change) but for the area between Averill Way and Northwest Highway they are asking for a zoning change for a 4 story unit (current zoning allows for maximum of 3 stories).” So again, no way for PHEHA to claim surprise.
Oh, oh, oh, and let’s also not forget Parks’ husband James was part of the group negotiating with Transwestern on what PHEHA wanted from the development. His name was read into the record at the City Plan Commission as a member of the behind the Pink Wall Planning Committee.
To claim PHEHA wasn’t informed is either a sign of cognitive decline or, more likely, unlike the 40-ish other people who did show up (including PHEHA residents), they had more important things to do yesterday than bus over to City Hall and make their case.
Now Parks’ home does sit on Preston Road directly opposite of the northern edge of the Transwestern proposal and she is a PHEHA board member covering zoning issues, so she has a perfect right to voice her concern – as she has. But sheesh, it’s like the countdown clock in every action movie ever made where the clock ticks down only to be stopped at the last second by the unlikeliest of events.
Do Parks and the rest of PHEHA really believe they’ll get a better project from someone coming in and following the current zoning to the letter? That would mean the green space that Transwestern has added to Park’s end of the proposed development would almost certainly disappear (which buffers Parks’ property). It would likely be replaced with an identically-tall 3-story building as close to her lot line as is allowed. It would probably mean no underground parking, which would leave residents and visitors to park on her street. It might even encourage someone to build balconies looming onto her backyard.
Perhaps PHEHA believes scaring Transwestern away would stop anyone else from developing the corner and bringing change to the area. One only has to look at the tacky corrugated steel rental units that would be bulldozed by this development to know that’s a false assumption.
So in two weeks, the Planning Commission will be treated to a more robust selection of naysayers making convoluted pleas to quash the deal. Yippee! With luck, we’ll be regaled with implorations to wait for Councilwoman Jennifer Gates’ $350,000 be-all, solve-all master plan with a cherry on top … because THAT never gets old. (And didn’t I already solve that problem?)
We saw some of that “nay-ing” today with Steve Dawson (clearly he knew about the proposal and Planning Commission meeting). You remember him, he’s the guy who represents Zone 4 (Pink Wall) on Gates’ task force even though his home is in Zone 3 (PHEHA). Shoot! I almost forgot, his family does own a small 1960s Pink Wall rental building a hop/skip from all those (proposed) bright, shiny, new Transwestern apartments (but I’m sure that must be a conflict coincidence, right?).
So Dawson opens his comments with the oft repeated yarns about how the increased density will cause traffic and congestion problems. After the meeting, I stood (literally) in the middle of Bandera near Averill Way in front of his apartment building at “rush hour” and counted 6 cars in the space of a half hour. Whew, all those apartments might generate what … another 10-20 cars per half hour? If the power goes out, I’ll certainly know where to get my hair blown dry by the whoosh of passing cars.
Alternatively, can Dawson really believe these few apartments are going to make a dent in the long-standing rush hour Michelin-conga at Preston Road and Northwest Highway? That’s like believing throwing a tray of ice cubes into a Dallas swimming pool in August will put a chill into the water.
Dawson also handed the Commission a document purporting to make the case that there’s an easement on or near the proposed development that the City of Dallas must formally release before the deal gets approved. Commissioner Neil Emmons asked Dawson, a retired attorney, to “be blunt” and explain what his document meant, because it was so haphazard and unclear he couldn’t figure it out.
Dawson explained his theory and at one point referred to seeing something on TV recently where someone got into trouble from an existing easement. The City Attorney basically called bullshit (my interpretation) on that and moved on. I can only assume the easement issue was just another red herring meant to embalm Transwestern in more paperwork and municipal procedure.
On the well-represented “Yes” side (including some unsurprised PHEHA residents), Pink Wallers spoke positively about Transwestern listening to neighbors, adding value to a dog-eared area and bringing in much-needed new blood. Sure some of them are hoping a developer will ride in, so they can ride out with a fat check, but many just want the area to improve, as do I.
When I spoke, I asked (unanswered) what the Commissioners thought was going to be presented in two weeks that would change the outcome? I mean if PHEHA asks for time, personally I’d like to know to what end. Will there be an alternate 13th-hour plan? Do they plan to gazump Transwestern and turn the land into a park? Will German band Texas Lightning pop out of a cake to sing their Eurovision 2006 entry “No, No Never?” What? Where will we be in two weeks – besides two weeks older?
At the end of the day, it’s just delays, delays, delays – waaay tedious for a fact-driven, make-a-decision guy like me. Because from what I could see, there wasn’t a fact anywhere near the nightstand when these counter-arguments were dreamt up. If there were, trust me, I’d be sharpening my pitch-forked tongue.
This death by 1,000 municipal paper cuts continues on September 3rd. Stay tuned, ‘cause I’ll be there (on a Prozac drip) to provide the straight poop, hopefully wrapped in a chuckle or two.
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