Could your neighborhood, on its own, make enough noise to get the city to pay attention?
A few months ago, I attended a break-out session during the Dallas Homeowners League boot camp where Councilman Philip Kingston outlined the best ways to get the city’s attention when it comes to the needs of individual neighborhoods.
One of the biggest, he said that day, was to join forces with surrounding neighborhoods to organize and become a louder, bigger entity. It’s something Donovan Lord says drove him and others to form the Westhollow Society a few years ago.
“I started Westhollow Society out of a need for a cohesive force to better the Northwest Dallas area,” he explained. “I wanted there to be one organization that pulled the clout of all existing neighborhoods within our defined boundaries to work together to improve the area South of LBJ, North of Walnut Hill, West of Midway, and East of Dennis Road (roughly).”
In other words, Westhollow encompasses Park Forest, Royal Hills, Sparkman Club, Timberbrook, Royal Oaks, Royal North, Underwood, Northaven Park, Glen Cove, Highland Meadows, Coral Hills, Webster Grove, Walnut Hills, Royal Haven, Chapel Forest, Chapel Downs, Walnut Meadows, Northway Hills, Midway Hills, and Meadow Park.
Lord started Westhollow Society in 2012 and established it as a nonprofit to help raise funds for various projects in the area. “Our first endeavor was to design, raise money for, and put to a vote, the design for the sign toppers in the Park Forest development, which is part of the Westhollow area,” Lord said. “We did that successfully, and began working on other projects for the future.”
That signage was an important part of the group’s first goals because it was hard to explain exactly where their neighborhoods were — people knew what Preston Hollow is, but saying, “I’m near Preston Hollow,” often gave people the wrong impression.
“If I said I lived in Preston Hollow, as many would and still do, they would be imagining huge Strait Lane mansions, not the mid-century ranches that our area is so popular for,” Lord said. “I usually just said I lived over by Royal and Marsh.”
“Our area needed an identity and that is one of the main goals of our organization, to ‘brand’ our area so that we can better control our future with more clout and better marketing,” he added. Because the demographics in the area are changing, Lord said the group found that the discount stores and old strip malls were no longer what most residents wanted.
“It was a way also to band together all of the neighborhoods within our defined boundaries to work together for common goals.”
The next step, the group says, is probably a Public Improvement District. The society is currently in the exploration phase of the process, but so far they think the PID, can help with several issues the area faces, including an uptick in crime, bad streets and a deteriorating aesthetic, which “can all be solved in one fell swoop with a Public Improvement District,” Lord said.
A PID would assess a tax on commercial, condominium and single-family properties within the boundaries of Westhollow. The funds generated from that tax would then be used to address beautification, safety and other needs within the common areas of the district – kind of like an HOA. Current PIDs include Vickery Meadow, Deep Ellum, Lake Highlands, Uptown, and Knox-Henderson.
Westhollow’s PID would probably run 13 cents per $100 of appraised value as determined by the Dallas County Appraisal District. So if your DCAD evaluation was $300,000, you’d see a $390 per year increase on your tax bill.
Now, if you’re living in one of those neighborhoods inside the proposed district, you may be sitting up a little straighter right about now, and thinking you don’t really want to pay extra taxes.
You wouldn’t be alone. “Yes, we are meeting resistance about the idea of a PID, primarily by a select few from the Park Forest Neighborhood that have made every effort to ensure its failure as well as all efforts of the Westhollow Society,” Lord said candidly.
“We also have a great number of supporters who want the PID and feel it will revitalize and beautify our area,” he added, saying the biggest problem has been in having a chance to explain what the PID will do for the area, and who will be running it.
“Our primary issue has been communicating what we are and are not doing with a PID, educating what a PID actually is and is not, explaining that the PID would not assess any of the senior citizens or those with a disability and that the Westhollow Society would NOT be running the PID, it would be run by a newly created non-profit that would be headed primarily by volunteers from the area,” he explained.
“I personally would not have the time to nor would I be running the PID as I would continue to run the Westhollow Society as well as my Interior Design and Home Design businesses that I’ve had for over 12 years,” he added.
Mostly, Lord hopes his neighbors far and wide will give the group a chance to explain their goals for the area, goals, he thinks, will match up with what a lot of them have been wanting. The Westhollow Society, he says, “has always been about (the fact) that we together have far more clout and strength than as individual organizations.”
“Westhollow Society hopes to bring together all of the HOAs and neighborhood associations on board to fulfill our mission – which includes far more than the exploration of a PID,” he added.
Westhollow will be holding a PID workshop on January 23, 2016, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Holy Cross Lutheran Church, 11425 Marsh Lane, Dallas. Tickets are free for Westhollow Society members and $5 for non-members.