I was more than a little amazed with Jon Anderson’s report on Thursday’s Plan Commission hearing down at City Hall, the meeting to approve the latest Transwestern blueprints for the development they would like to build, multi-family luxury apartment housing, at the corner of Northwest Highway and Preston Road. We thought that after MONTHS of conversations and compromise, and after a LOVELY meeting at Park Cities Baptist Church, Thursday would end a lot differently.
But no. The item was moved up and given a two-week delay. And everyone wanted to blame it on Ashley Parks, past president of the Preston Hollow East Neighborhood Association. A handful of the single family homeowners in the Preston Hollow East Neighborhood Association — the residences directly north of and bordering on the Pink Wall neighborhood — apparently called Lee Kleinman and claimed they were NOT informed about the new proposal.
The reason for that is simple: Transwestern changed their plan, which shifted the notification area. By law, a developer has to notify property owners within a 500 ft. radius (in this case) of any pending zoning change(s). Transwestern is now requesting a zoning change for a much smaller portion of the property at the Northwest Highway/Preston intersection. They are building completely within the existing zoning for about 2/3rds of the property, including the portion closest to the single family residential. Whereas 15 or 20 single family homes were originally affected by the total re-zoning of the 3 acres Behind the Pink Wall, now only 5 or 7 are affected.
Of course Ashley knew all about the hearing and the height changes. I placed a call to her shortly after publishing our story on March 21. I really wanted her take on it. She did not call me back. But she did answer my call today.
Ashley was also very unhappy with the story we posted about the Commission hearing, felt it was a personal attack.
“I am not playing games,” she told me. “I’m a mother, I work, but I am not knocking on 1100 doors to contact people. I know you called me in March, but I didn’t have time to call you back.”
Their homeowner’s association has a website and emails, and she posted the information and contacted everyone by email, she said. Maybe people don’t read emails in the summer?
“I did not ask for the two week delay,” she said. “Our association did not ask for a two week delay. And I feel like I’ve done everything I can. I don’t know why Margot Murphy asked for a delay.”
In her defense, too, Ashley sent out about 400 emails a few days before the August 20th Public Hearing.
I agree, she did her job. I know everyone in Preston Hollow leaves town for the summer, but I just find it very, very difficult to believe no one felt informed. This was sure a pro-active neighborhood when it came to quashing the Transwestern deal from the very beginning. It was not hard to knock on 1100 doors and plant “Not in Preston Hollow” signs from Northwest Highway to LBJ last year. Please do not ask me to post all the links to our stories, if I link to all the stories we wrote on this topic, this post would be nothing but links.
But also in her defense, I understand why the Parks are so vigilante about their property: it is hard to live on the very edge of a community. I don’t blame them at all for trying to control what is built back there. I have to be honest and say, I would probably react the same way. What does she feel about the latest Transwestern Plan?
“I’m more pleased with it, but I’m sold on the Land Use study,” she told me.
Of which she is a participant.
“I would want to see how the Land Use study turns out in May,” she said. “If this area gets redeveloped, there will be more traffic. Can it handle it? We already know traffic is an issue.”
Last week, urban expert Brandon Castillo spoke at the 17th Annual Dallas Homeowners League (DHL) Bootcamp at City Hall. He spoke of “The Return of the City” and what Dallas neighborhoods need to do in today’s changing urban environment. In his slide presentation, Brandon tabulated tax revenues brought in by various neighborhoods: West Village gives this city $290,320 per acre. Those 12 homes at Townhouse Row bring in about $78,000 on roughly two acres.
I appreciate the Parks looking after their property, but I think it’s time to look beyond our own backyards and think for the good of the whole city IF we want it to grow gracefully. Traffic is part of that growth whether we like it or not. The Land Use study, if truly objective, could advise for even higher density Behind the Pink Wall.
As for the delay, Ashley had nothing to do with it. I think it was more of a political move to protect Councilwoman Jennifer Gates, who had to recuse herself from this deal. I have a sneaking suspicion the phone lines were exploding with threats to run someone against her. Or worse. This delay was a CYA: make sure the i’s were dotted, the t’s crossed for future reference. (PS: After the Sam’s fiasco at City Place, I absolutely do not blame her.)
Of course, the stock market dropped today. In real estate, timing is everything. Could a two week delay make Transwestern change their mind about even wanting to spend $100 million on a Preston Hollow intersection?
In real estate, anything is possible.