Yesterday’s Dallas City Council meeting saw Toll Brothers present their project that has wound its way for 18 months through the Oak Lawn Committee, an Oak Lawn Committee sub-committee, and back to the Oak Lawn Committee before last month being unanimously passed by City Plan Commission.
Throughout, we’ve seen various arguments against the project thrown at the wall only to slide off with a splat from either a lack of evidence or contradictory statements and actions.
Given that so little opposition showed up at Plan Commission and even fewer at yesterday’s council meeting, it seemed to be a fait acompli.
Council members were treated to a pair of opposers who were nowhere in sight for the Plan Commission hearing nor were they opposing Starbucks and its heavier traffic footprint. And yet, traffic and the heebie-jeebies of emergency services access were again raised. Tellingly, both spoke a variation of NIMBY … “we don’t mind development, just not HERE.” One even saying if it were on a main street like Oak Lawn Avenue (a single short block away) he’d be OK.
Here’s the thing with the emergency services: Short or tall, regardless of what’s built, the road is the road. Short or tall, the traffic is the traffic because the two designs differ by three units.
Then Oak Lawn’s Dallas City Council member Philip Kingston had his say. He thinks the current zoning is a decades-old mistake. But as Oak Lawn Committee president Brenda Marks said at the Plan Commission hearing, zoning might have been a worthwhile chat decades ago when the area was rezoned, but “that horse had left the barn, and was likely dead by now.”
Absent from Kingston’s points was the acceptance that the taller Plaza condos didn’t ruin the neighborhood and they’re even more interior to the neighborhood (and with their stucco lusciousness, less attractive that what’s on offer from Toll Brothers).
He called the current zoning “tricky and complicated.” No, it’s MF-3 and has been for decades. What he calls “tricky” is really buyer’s remorse from residents who, as one supporter pointed out, never checked before buying (one of whom is an architect – for those keeping score, that’s two nearby architects not checking the zoning under and around their own homes).
In the ensuing month, Kingston thinks he can personally eke out another scintilla of goodness from the project to satisfy the habitually absent opposition … although clearly while not in the room, they must certainly be in his ear. So he asked for and got a 30-day delay to “take another crack at it” to wring some fraction of a percent change from the project. Two council members opposed this 11th hour delay.
He even admits that the zoning variance comes down to increased floor-to-area ratio in exchange for stepping the building back from the street … exactly the kind of trade-off that makes sense for all involved. As I’ve said all along, a by-right plan would be worse for the neighborhood.
Weighing in support of the delay was District 11 council member Lee Kleinman who mysteriously opined, “I think the message here is build by right, it seems like every time a zoning case comes forward there are reasons to stall, so the message is build what you can and quit coming to us.” And yet through the frustration in his voice, he supported a “reason to stall” by agreeing with Kingston. His message to developers is to quit trying to do better? That’s what Teixeira Duarte is doing on two Oak Lawn lots. Let’s hope we’re pleasantly surprised.
The real question is “why” the delay?
After all the hoops passed, are we to believe in the month since Plan Commission that Kingston has suddenly had a construction-related epiphany? Will the results of the coming month force the project back to Plan Commission? Also, noticeably absent was opponent-for-hire Angela Hunt. Either she’d been bumped from the case or she knew there was no reason to be there. Either way it will be interesting to see if she resurfaces.
Regardless of who and how, clearly something happened off the record in the month between the Plan Commission hearing and Council meeting. And I’m betting the only thing it didn’t have to do with was Toll Brothers.
City government at wait work.
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 Candysdirt.com Staff Meeting event, I’m your guy. In 2016 and 2017, the National Association of Real Estate Editors has recognized my writing with two Bronze (2016, 2017) and two Silver (2016, 2017) awards. Have a story to tell or a marriage proposal to make? Shoot me an email email@example.com.