By Claire Stanard
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City’s plan, partly based on the Dallas Observer’s October 23, 2014 reporting that the Transwestern project had been withdrawn and “toppled” and that “if Transwestern and Crosland’s example wasn’t enough to scare other developers off those corners, Councilwoman Gates took Laura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. 220.127.116.11)
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?
“Dallas has a strong tradition of neighborhood self-determination which should be promoted to ensure the continued vitality of all neighborhoods.” (Sec. 18.104.22.168)
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 22.214.171.124)
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.