ForwardDallas or Backward? The Transwestern Project Behind the Pink Wall

New Transwestern rendering Preston Rd

By Claire Stanard
Guest Contributor

In the CandysDirt.com re-cap of the August 27 Town Hall meeting regarding Transwestern’s proposed four story apartments, she concludes by stating:

“This is what we pay them for: the Dallas City Council will vote on the zoning change, basing their decision on the highest and best use of the land not for me, or … anyone else, but for the City of Dallas.”

So is this all about reaping more property tax dollars from developers, simply because we can’t develop a quality Dallas school system to attract home owner families?

And, if Transwestern receives their zoning variance, how can the Planning Commission or City Council say “no” to the next developer Behind the Pink Wall? It has been rumored for two years that Mark Cuban is just waiting to see what happens to Transwestern’s zoning application before he proceeds.

Before this domino effect takes place, we need an overall strategy in development for the neighborhood. Most of us thought that was the City’s plan, partly based on the Dallas Observer’s October 23, 2014 reporting that the Transwestern project had been withdrawn and “toppled” and that “if Transwestern and Crosland’s example wasn’t enough to scare other developers off those corners, Councilwoman Gates took Laura Miller’s suggestion and put in place a de facto moratorium on major rezoning cases while the city conducts a land-use study.” According to the article, a template was to be established for development on the NE corner of Preston and Northwest Highway, the northern tract on Northwest Highway owned by Mark Cuban, and Preston Center.

(Editor’s note: not all reporters understand real estate.)

But guess what? The City of Dallas already has a template for determining re-zoning requests: the Dallas City Council and its Planning Commission are charged with following a very specific set of policies and implementation measures as elucidated in “forwardDallas!” This is a comprehensive, Developmental Policy Plan for the City of Dallas which went into effect June 14, 2006 as Ordinance No. 26371. It has a 9 page section on “Neighborhoods” and the guidelines for re-zoning requests are to “protect existing neighborhoods,” for “safety,” “walkability,” “pedestrian friendliness,” “minimizing spillover parking” onto streets, “maintaining the scale and character of existing neighborhoods in relation to adjacent buildings,” and “maintaining the quality of life” of the neighborhood.

By the way, Behind The Pink Wall is designated on the forwardDallas Vision Illustration map as a “Residential Neighborhood.” It is not designated an urban nor commercial area.

Flying way under the radar, who knew that Transwestern had amended and re-submitted their zoning variance application on April 13, 2015? Mainly, those within the 200 foot radius of the Planned Development. I don’t blame the immediate residents for being scared to death that something worse than Transwestern’s latest plan for 165 apartments could be developed at the site. However, if the Planning Commission attempted to follow the guidelines of forwardDallas in regard to re-development of this neighborhood tract, every developer would be required to adhere to the MF (1) (a) zoning in consideration of the future, safety, and quality of life of the entire neighborhood.

“Dallas needs to develop its skills at encouraging alternative HOMEOWNERSHIP products that fit a small site. Although this goal represents a change for Dallas, it will not be achieved at the expense of existing residential neighborhoods.” (Sec. 3.1)

“Recognize adopted area/neighborhood plans in guiding development and zoning decisions.” (Sec. 7.1.5.4)

This small site of 3.2 acres was zoned as MF (1) (a) for a good reason – the density allowed was the appropriate maximum number of units for the amount of land and the location of the parcel at the Preston/Averill entrance of Behind The Pink Wall area. The Drexel was able to develop 131 units under MF-1 on 6.8 acres with underground parking. The Renaissance was able to develop a lovely complex under the MF (1) provisions. The Edgemere and Edgemere on The Park did the same. Many of the condo’s in our area have deed restrictions of two stories already in place, so don’t be counting your money yet folks! But the only tract sitting on a major thoroughfare entrance to a neighborhood of 1100+ residents must add 55 units more than the zoning designation calls for? What is now already a bottleneck intersection off Preston Roadwill now be “corked” with traffic, moving vans, ingress/egress, parking entrances/exits, trash pick-ups and more wrecks.

Is this what “forwardDallas” represents?

NO-to-Transwestern-Deal

“Dallas has a strong tradition of neighborhood self-determination which should be promoted to ensure the continued vitality of all neighborhoods.” (Sec. 7.1.1.1)

Although PHENA and Behind The Pink Wall residents joined in holding rallies in February 2014 with over 300 in attendance, distributed over 500 yard signs against changing the MF (1) designation due to traffic and density, gathered over 1500 signatures on online and door to door petitions, sent hundreds of letters to Mayor Mike Rawlings, Jennifer Gates’ office and Lee Kleinman in opposition AND raised monies to hire an attorney to represent our views, the August 20 Planning Commission online video refers to us as “people not willing to spend their time attending the meeting.” By the way, there was absolutely no formal polling ever conducted of the Behind the Pink Wall residents in regard to the Transwestern proposal. And, a PHSNA committee has no authority.

“The City will create and maintain a neighborhood network database, and develop and provide resource materials to establish regular communication between residents and the City.” (Section 7.1.1.4)

If the residents had known about the meeting, we would have attended. Although Jennifer Gates’ and Lee Kleinman’s offices have been provided over 1500 email addresses of concerned citizens, I received an email message from Jennifer Gates about the Budget Meeting on August 25, 2015, but no notification about the Planning Commission meeting on August 20, 2015. Gates may have recused herself from voting or personal involvement, but her office still has the responsibility to inform the neighborhood of such an important meeting, in view of the community activism demonstrated. Those within the 200 and 500 feet radius may have been informed by law, but the other 1000 residents were not directly informed – which should have been a priority out of respect for our having been so demonstrative in our neighborhood involvement.

Uncontrolled re-development is going backward. Cities without zoning restrictions have not stood the test of time. Saying yes to every zoning variance application in order to get more tax dollars and ignoring the safety of established neighborhoods is not progress. The City of Dallas established a Vision in forward Dallas – let’s honor that Forward vision by controlled zoning and re-development.

Claire Wright Stanard is a long-time resident of the neighborhood and lives on on Bandera.

Claire-Wright-Stanard

6 Comment

  • I agree that this type of development is misplaced in Preston Hollow. Forward Dallas is all about walkability and joining neighborhoods together. This type of auto-centric mid-rise apartment is not in keeping with those goals. A better use would be brownstones or street-level retail with apartments or condos above.

    • There is no proposal for brownstones or ground floor retail with residences above (it makes no sense to dream about what could be). Misplaced? This proposal is for an all residential building (in keeping with current usage) with minor zoning adjustments. It will be as walkable as possible in Dallas with both Preston Centers and their shopping, restaurants and grocery store. Some may even work in the existing high-rises (and walk to work). Transwestern is a beginning, not the be-all, end-all of Preston Center development that will take place in years to come.

  • “Many of the condo’s in our area have deed restrictions of two stories already in place, so don’t be counting your money yet folks!”

    This is confusing. If all the condo owners sell to a developer who then tears down the buildings and builds a totally new project, wouldn’t the deed restrictions for the old condo association be null and void since the condo association is gone? And I thought the condo association deed restrictions are not law for the city but only “law” for that particular condo association?

    • It’s confusing because there’s no detail on what the writer means. There are deed restrictions that are filed with the city and are actually part of the deed. There are Planned Development Districts (that I wrote a bit about) that are also filed with the city but are different than a deed restriction. Then there are covenants that are part of a condominium’s incorporation that while on record with the city, are actually part of the individual condo docs. I would find it difficult to believe that condo incorporation paperwork includes things like height restrictions and density calculations. Those would be filed with the city in either a deed restriction (which I would doubt exist because there’d be no reason back in the 1960s to do this). There is a Pink Wall PD and I’ve written about that. Without clarity from the author, there’s just confusion.

  • Please note – some deed restrictions carry with the property in perpetuity and others do not. The point is, all condominiums Behind the Pink Wall should not only check their deed restrictions as filed in the county records, but recognize that the neighborhood has a defined character of two stories which many projects included in their deed filings originally. We do not need a Planned Development on the corner of Preston and Averill Way when it is already appropriately zoned MF-1 in a residential neighborhood. Acquiring the Planned Development zoning could allow commercial/mixed use in the future. That is great leeway once an owner has gotten PD zoning. Preston Center is a Planned Development.

    • That couldn’t be more wrong. A PD is a legal description of the components of a particular area. They can be anything – residential, commercial or mixed. Any PD created that wants to change IN ANY WAY would have to apply to the zoning commission just like any other zoned parcel. A PD is not an “express lane” to commercial development just because of a PD designation. To hint at it is just fear-mongering. (Yes, Preston Center is a PD, so is the Athena/Preston Tower, et al and so are 373 other areas in Dallas). FYI, your “2-story character” also includes two high-rises and the 3-story Preston Place (part of the all PD-15) and 3-5 story more recently constructed “character” east of Edgemere – which if I’m not mistaken replaced lower buildings.