With the two antagonists from the last meeting otherwise engaged, last night’s PD-15 meeting went smoother and accomplished more than the prior meeting’s tit, tat, and tut-tutting. Tiff-free it wasn’t, but patience, we’ll get there …
In a change of pace, the meeting was run by council member Jennifer Gates and while she mostly missed the prior meeting, she was able to guide us through a discussion sprouting from some discussion points provided by the absent Scott Polikov. I think most felt the group accomplished more agreement and offered more of a civilized Q&A session between the members. The added clarity was welcome.
I almost groaned as we headed to the Preston Road area plan yet again, but thankfully we swiftly agreed its recommendations could guide but not limit our work … and essentially avoided being pulled into the vortex of its (in my opinion) flawed assumptions (stay tuned for that breakdown tomorrow – shameless plug).
It was pointed out by a surprising source that the Plan said it will not diminish the existing land use rights of any parcel and that PD-15’s underlying zoning is based on MF-3. For fans of the Toll Brothers saga, you know that while MF-3 has no specific height limit, it does limit growth by other measurements, namely FAR.
FAR = Floor Area Ratio. FAR means that if I have a 1,000-square-foot lot with an FAR of 1-to-1, I can build a 1,000-square-foot structure of any configuration. A FAR of 4-to-1 (which MF-3 has) says you can build four times the area of the lot … in this case, 4,000 square feet of structure in whatever configuration.
In addition to FAR, the other limiting factor in PD-15 is the total number of residential units within the PD. I urged the group to set aside thinking about residential units as the be-all, end-all measure. The reason being that a residential unit could be 1,000 square feet or 10,000 square feet and they’d both count as a single unit.
Instead we must approach this the way the city defines zoning within other zoning classes. The reason is simple. The main issue the area needs to be concerned about isn’t the quantity of units. It’s the building’s footprint, height, depth, and location on a given parcel. As people not living inside, our concern must be how structures sit and interact on the land. Additionally, understanding lot coverage and setbacks has a direct effect on greenspace and view encroachment in a way units per acre never could.
Sure, you don’t want a bunch of 200-square-foot tiny house apartments, but that’s easy enough to combat. Getting a structure to fit into the landscape is a lot more problematic and deserves the time spent.
It was brought up several times that we should be focusing on Preston Place. We legally can’t do that in isolation from the other buildings within the PD. All development rights in a PD are shared and apply evenly to all parcels. If we “fix” Preston Place’s problem, that fix of additional development rights becomes the defacto solution for all. We must tread lightly and understand what we are doing. The way the PD is structured, there is no “fix one” option.
Some suggested that we could just fix Preston Place with everyone’s agreement and then come back and address everyone else’s needs. There is no way we would get 100 percent support for a “[wink, wink] we’ll catch you on the backend” type of plan.
All or nothing.
Who Are Voting Members of The PD?
It was again brought up that to voluntarily change the PD, we needed 100 percent support from the residents (call it 600 owners). That’ll never happen, let’s just go home now. I posed the question months ago whether each building could vote their majority. As posted and shared along with the August 29 meeting minutes, city staff answered (question four in your hymnal):
How are the ballots calculated for any zoning case? Are ballots calculated in the same manner for authorized hearings?
Reply forms are mailed to all property owners. If there is a condo, the governing body usually has the authority to respond on behalf of the condo development as a whole. The reply from the governing body [HOA board] would be reflected for all property owners. We have had one or two condo developments in the past 16 years that had by-laws or minutes to reflect that each individual property owner can reply on his/her behalf. If the latter is the case, each property owner must submit the by-laws or minutes along with their reply form that allow this. Staff would need to have 50% plus one of the property owners to respond in kind (support or opposition) for the reply to count. An authorized hearing is a zoning case.
Unless proven otherwise, I say we have six votes that are comprised of the majority sentiments of the owners within each of the six condominium complexes.
More than a few attendees’ surprise tells me we may have a selective memory or reading issue. And some huffed about changing their rules to force individual voting. If that happens, again, let’s just go home, because when it only takes one, there’s always, always, always one.
Your Moment of Drama
I sensed you were waiting on some tittle-tattle. Well, our little Love Boat had special guest star Charo Laura Miller, the former mayor of Dallas and PD-15 landlady. Even though this group isn’t structured for interactive audience participation, that didn’t stop Miller from repeatedly bursting in with her opinions.
Each time she was shouted down by both fellow audience members and working group members. And they were right, she’d have never put up with her own antics were she at the table.
Her comments were generally unhelpful and largely out of context. You know, first meeting, everything’s new and the other kids are ahead of you. It was especially rich to hear her question our transparency after the Preston Center Plan hijack she helped pull off last summer. The rest of the time we were “wrong” and “backwards” in how we were conducting ourselves.
At one point council member Gates had to tensely remind her that she was not a member of the working group and would have to wait her turn like the rest of the audience until the Q&A session. Miller barreled over that and kept talking while being shouted down. There was more than a whiff of reliving past glories commanding the center of the horseshoe.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.