Some Oak Lawn Residents Attempting to Down-Zone Neighbors to Fight Development

Downzone 1

“Double, double toil and trouble; fire burn, and caldron bubble.”

In Macbeth, Shakespeare’s witches were casting a spell to double Macbeth’s toil and trouble.  It seems some Oak Lawn residents are looking to double developers’ trouble by asking the city Plan Commission to downzone parts of Oak Lawn covered by PD-193.  I’ve written about these proposed developments here, here and here.

I’ve been sent emails dating back to April 2016 from a townhome owner diagonally across from the proposed Toll Brothers apartment building on lots at the southwest-ish corner of Welborn and Congress. Those lots are currently occupied by aging three-story structures but are pretty well surrounded by mostly 1990s or newer townhouses.

The April emails have some of the propaganda, bombast and petitions typical of protesters … laced with claims the other side says are false. In this of all years you should know this story cold.  But I will say even in my lay capacity, the down-zoners do seem to inflate. Here’s just one example …

The note states that Toll Brothers has no association with Dallas.  Even a cursory look at their website shows them building communities in Flower Mound, Coppell, Fairview, Southlake, Colleyville, and Plano along with a buttload in Frisco. While none of these single-family home communities are in Dallas County, it would be more accurate to say that this apparently would be Toll Brothers’ first local apartment development and one that they reportedly will retain ownership of.  Either way, it’s not like Toll Brothers is some lottery winner looking to slap up an apartment complex to give his unemployed brother-in-law something to do. The company expects to build approximately 6,000 homes in 2016 and have already generated $3.31 billion in revenues during the first nine months of 2016 based on average price of $845,000 per home sold. Hardly the stuff of heebie jeebies.

Other statements have simply changed with the passage of time. Based on community input the current design is no longer a high-rise so their implorations for FAA intervention are unneeded.

There’s also plenty of NIMBY with, “This isn’t San Fransisco [sic] … do you think those renters care if they live on Welborn or Shelby? If I was one of those people I’d rather live closer to the bars.” Wow.  Stereotype much?  Toll Brothers want to build apartments in a hot area, not a halfway house for fallen Betty Ford dropouts of the <gasp> homosexual persuasion.

And if you doubted the sender’s street cred, there’s this closing, “They know me and what I have managed to stop in this area before, so I think I can get a good hearing.”

As is usually the case, there’s a pinch of hypocrisy with this ringleader. The 2,344-square-foot townhome he lives in was built in 2000 (same year as The Plaza).  Where was his righteousness when the developer of his complex bulldozed what were clearly the same type of tumbledown structures he now seeks to hamstring?

His argument seems to be that that was OK, ignoring the passage of at least 17 years and the desirability changes that now value the land beyond the capability of townhouses to support.  I also get the feeling he was unaware of the zoning of these properties (including his) … in place since the 1980s … when he purchased in 2004. Although The Plaza high-rises a block away may have been a clue.

Fast Forward to August

Downzone 2

On August 18, the City Plan Commission voted to 12 to zero, “…to authorize a public hearing to determine the proper zoning on property zoned an MF-3 Multifamily Subdistrict and an O-2 Office Subdistrict within Planned Development District No. 193, the Oak Lawn Special Purpose District in an area generally bounded by both sides of Welborn Street on the northwest, Cedar Springs Road on the northeast, Sale Street and Enid Street on the southeast, and Fairmount Street on the southwest.”

Note: While the City Plan Commission meeting notes and wording do not say “downzoning”, it’s not a stretch to assume that requesting a hearing to “determine the proper zoning” isn’t to keep the status quo nor upzone the property.

Downzone Map 2

Petitioned downzone area

As you can see from this map, both the Toll Brothers and Teixeria Duarte’s Turtle Creek Haus (at Hood Street and Dickason Avenue) are scooped up in this net. As you can also see it includes The Plaza high-rise buildings.  While I believe their opinions should be quashed in this battle, their existence has stood as testament to this area’s future for 16 years.  Besides, it seems a little two-faced were The Plaza to vote to limit the rights of neighbors that they’ve already benefitted from.

For those seeking to keep zoning where it’s at, Renaissance, Melrose, Heritage Auctions, Centrum and the coming 16-story Hillwood/Perot building should all be used as exemplars of this area’s changing landscape.

The down-zoners (in their newer townhouses) will self-servingly say that more townhouses are the way to go. But it’s not difficult to see that townhouses are no longer financially viable in the area … the land is too costly.  How many years since the last one was built?  The only way to return to that bygone era is to impair the value of their neighbors’ properties, their assets, to such an extent to make townhouse construction financially viable.  To me this plot to down-zone is just a fancy name for theft.

On the upside, at the most recent Oak Lawn Committee meeting, no one was talking about downzoning. And the OLC holds tremendous sway with the City Plan Commission.

As with all things, the only winners will be the lawyers.

Remember:  High-rises, HOAs and renovation are my beat. But I also appreciate modern and historical architecture balanced against the YIMBY movement.  If you’re interested in hosting a Staff Meeting event, I’m your guy. In 2016, my writing was recognized with Bronze and Silver awards from the National Association of Real Estate Editors.  Have a story to tell or a marriage proposal to make?  Shoot me an email


4 Comment

  • Oh my, let the games begin.
    I do wish TDRE would take care of the land they have already bought, the weeds are over the 12″ code violation and getting worse. They could cut the brush and board up or tear down the empty structures while the battle rages on. Your Betty Ford clinic comment made me laugh out loud at work. Thanks for the update.

  • Last townhome was completed on Congress in 2016. If you’re going to criticize us, at least get your facts straight. Fact number two-recent OLC action without a doubt has decreased the value of my townhouse and every single family/townhouse property which surrounds the proposed Toll Brothers development.

    Proposed tower is what will decrease current residents property values.

    You are the one using scare tactics.

    • mm

      “…are pretty well surrounded by mostly 1990s or newer townhouses.” I believe 2016 would be considered a “newer” townhouse. 2. Do you have proof (not gut feeling) that values are decreasing? Have there been before/after sales with numbers to prove your point? Reaching back to 2000, did The Plaza decrease values or did it bring focus and appreciation to the area? Where are your facts?

  • Bill Hicks appears to know about as much about valuing real estate as Richard Tettamant. Please explain how you reject $100+ million in development, downzone your neighbors by another $50 million, and somehow make up the difference by manipulating the value of residential structures, an inherently depreciating asset. The downzoners’ logic is all based on the greater fool theory that they can somehow sell out undamaged despite the inevitable drop in unit values as their structures age and their downzoned land value becomes a larger component of their property value. Or is it that they are the ones, wittingly or unwittingly, carrying water for development interests that want to buy up the neighborhood on the cheap? Or is it that they plan to exempt themselves from the downzone with some grotesque gerrymander? Hicks brags that he has already spent $15000+ buying lawyers and and a planner for the downzone effort with another $10000 committed to the cause, all to defend the supposed value of a half million dollar condo. Do the math; the guy obviously has another agenda or does not know what he is talking about in terms of real estate values.