On August 16, 2016, the City Plan Commission voted 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.”
That request was made in response to the (since approved) Toll Brothers high-rise (the large plot left of the “Subject Area” tag). The request for the authorized hearing was made by local homeowners from surrounding low-rise townhouse developments through their representative law firm Jackson Walker and former Council Member Angela Hunt (who has been fighting a protracted battle to upzone property on the other side of Turtle Creek for Lincoln Property).
“Council Member Kingston invites you to a community meeting to hear from property owners, residents, and other individuals regarding interest in amending the zoning in the area shown in the map above … Council Member Kingston would like to know what, if any, changes should be made to the existing zoning regulations for this area…” (Click here for what little info there is available and here for invitation)
I’m told the Oak Lawn Committee will be attending the meeting. Their role/opinion will be interesting to understand. They’re the protectors of PD-193, of which this area is part. Will they be providing input? Will they vote to support or not support any zoning change – as they do for every other zoning request? I’m comforted by their attendance but curious just the same.
Given that this area is pretty much zoned for unlimited height (but low enough for Love Field planes to land), the only way to go is down – no one seeks an authorized hearing because “status quo” is the desired outcome. It’s especially true when the original applicants live in low-rises, whose actions to stop Toll Brothers highlighted their desire that development come down to their height.
Should the authorized hearing conclude the area should be downzoned, and that recommendation then passes Plan Commission and City Council (pretty unlikely), parcels in the area will be worth a fraction of their current value. The city will, in essence, be taking money out of landowners’ pockets. A cursory look around for similar legal cases says those landowners would have very good odds suing the city for their lost value.
Also, much as it annoys me sometimes, this is Texas – a state with a very long history of strong property rights. How likely is it that Plan Commission and City Council would back such a plan, regardless of legal exposure, without iron-clad support from the neighborhood? Wholesale support is unlikely to achieve.
First, any developer-owned lands would vote against plans that take away rights they’d paid for. Second, anyone living in an aging low-rise who bought in the area because it was zoned for high-rises is unlikely to jeopardize the “retirement fund” held in their land.
I can only foresee support coming from:
- Neighboring high-rise owners who have already taken advantage of the zoning to build high (Plaza I and II, Mansion Residences, and who knows, Toll Brothers?).
- Neighboring owners of newer low-rise townhouses and flats. Largely built in the last building cycle, they’re in great shape and higher-dollar than the aging low-rises who’d want to sell.
Going out on a limb, I’m going to say that these two groups aren’t going to be able to put together the overwhelming support needed for a downzone to succeed. It’s richer versus poorer (the meeting is at The Mansion after all), newer versus older, higher versus lower.
Were I a landowner in this area, I’d darn sure be at that meeting.
Remember: High-rises, HOAs and renovation are my beat. But I also appreciate modern and historical architecture balanced against the YIMBY movement. In 2016, 2017 and 2018, the National Association of Real Estate Editors recognized my writing with three Bronze (2016, 2017, 2018) 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. Be sure to look for me on Facebook and Twitter. You won’t find me, but you’re welcome to look.