Opposition Ebbs For Webb Chapel Development As Neighbors Educated

In our continuing Dallas City Council election coverage (ha!), let’s take a look at the third of three precincts won by Laura Miller (and its adjacent precinct tie).

Miller ran her campaign on an anti-development platform that resulted in her winning just three precincts where redevelopment cases lit a certain NIMBY fire. The first two were easy to understand for CandysDirt.com readers as they involved the extensively covered Preston Center and the Pink Wall’s PD-15.

The third development case was highlighted by Candy back in April and involved the redevelopment of the former Mi Escualita Preschool on Webb Chapel just north of Walnut Hill by David Weekley Homes (see map above). At the time it was part of Miller’s campaign fodder, but the election’s over and it’s time to look a little deeper and talk about today.

As happens in many zoning cases, there seems to be a few Negative Nancys hell-bent on stirring up opposition armed with scant or misleading facts. In this project’s case, notification signs were stolen (twice) and then the developer got accused of not posting them. A neighborhood meeting was set but a local “representative” told neighbors they weren’t public and not to come. So yeah, once the neighborhood finally showed up for a public meeting, there were a lot of questions and frayed nerves.

In the weeks since that “first” truly public meeting, the agitator has been sidelined and a new selection of neighbors are getting up to speed. They spoke with District 13 City Plan Commissioner Margot Murphy about their concerns and the lack of communication. Murphy agreed to postpone the original May 16 Plan Commission date so neighbors could finally have the time to evaluate the proposal properly.

Some who believed the Carmageddon scenarios painted have since understood that 35 homes, 16 more than zoned for, with one entrance/exit onto Webb Chapel will cause zero increase in traffic. True, the city will be evaluating a northern entrance to Love Field this summer that proposes to use Webb Chapel, but still, the traffic from 35 homes is tiny in the grand scheme of Webb Chapel. And besides, how much traffic was generated during rush hour by the former preschool?

Initially, the mini-development was to have been gated. The existing residents thought that was a bit standoffish and asked that the gate be removed. It has been.

The larger lots are precisely where you’d want single-story homes to retain privacy.

There is also a concern about privacy with the new development backing up to existing homes. My solution was simple: Have the builder construct single-story homes on those lots while reserving two-story homes for lots further away. This would eliminate concerns with peering. BUT, back when the “representative” was keeping the neighborhood out, I hear his insistence at having the lot lines match the neighboring homes caused those lots to become larger, guaranteeing two-story homes where privacy says they shouldn’t be.

Surely a few trees can be saved? Especially the one on the corner.

Neighbors are also unhappy that it appears none of the mature trees on the site are to be retained. Surely an arborist can be retained to see which trees are salvageable or moveable to retain shade and retain the lived-in look mature trees produce. Based on the site map, there’s to be a detention pond in the upper right above (FYI: Detention ponds are not continually full. They hold storm water before releasing into city drainage). Surely that large tree can be saved?  Can’t a few of the large trees in the “clump” similarly be saved and/or relocated? Clear lots make construction cheaper/easier, but mature trees are a long-term enhancement.

Blah homes fronted by saplings

Miller called the proposed homes “tract homes,” but at around $400,000, they’ll be priced fairly close to the existing homes. Local resident Clint Fendley liked the price-point noting that the nearby Chapel Downs development’s more expensive new homes don’t appear to be selling well.

Pricing-wise they’re not a tract home (in fact inside the loop, they’re something of a bargain), but they are likely to be very z-z-zuburban in design. Even when building in city environments, David Weekley doesn’t produce actual urban design, preferring brick and stucco with Austin/stacked stone accents. Definitely a far cry from the midcentury post-war ranch homes nearby. Definitely assembly-line design.

The neighborhood was more surprised by this development than they should have been had bad actors not been involved. Also, being an election poster-child surely didn’t help quell the propaganda. The opposition isn’t what it once was now that misunderstandings have become understandings. I wonder if Miller would still win this precinct?

This project returns to Plan Commission on June 6 along with the Pink Wall’s PD-15 – all that’s needed is Saint Michael and All Angels for a hat trick.


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 sharewithjon@candysdirt.com. Be sure to look for me on Facebook and Twitter. You won’t find me, but you’re welcome to look.

24 Comment

  • While I’m sure Mr. Anderson write many interesting and factual columns, this one falls short in my book. It provides no evidence to support its claim that opposition to this project is ebbing. Its basic point seems to be to establish that the author–perched somewhere else in Dallas, or Hawaiii–is better than everyone actually involved. Neighbors are derided as “Negative Nancys” and the developers designs a “z-z-z-zuburban.” Whether you are in favor of the development or oppose it, you are fool in his book.

    • mm

      “Negative Nancy” = Someone who can never be satisfied with anything. It’s fine to have concerns and to even be against a project. But if you’re unrealistically against everything, don’t be surprised when the discussion moves on.
      .
      The only issue I have with the project is it’s design boredom. In my “many interesting and factual columns”, you will see I am often unimpressed with Dallas architecture.
      .
      And while this will probably come back to bite me, looking at the notification area compiled by the city of property owners within 500′ of the proposed development plus DCAD records, the name on your comment isn’t listed.

      • Fair enough, Jon. Obviously it’s a column, not a piece of investigating journalism. Based on neighborhood e-mail exchanges, though, there does still seem to be a lot of agitation related to the project, so I’m not sure your claim that opposition is ebbing is accurate. What gave you that sense–your column only quotes one neighbor regarding price point. Lastly, I would add that I never claimed to be a property owner within 500′ of the proposed development and I’m not sure why that matters. I do live in the neighborhood, however, with my loving spouse/homeowner, two kids, and dog, and would prefer something other than a “z-z-z-zuburban” development be built on that site.

        • mm

          I looked you up because you questioned my proximity to the project hinting that since I don’t live next door I didn’t have standing to write about it. (If proximity was required, writers would have little to write about)
          .
          I never said the neighborhood was throwing a block party in support. But I think the disinformation has ebbed while neighbors look to understand more.

          • Gotcha–I think you are free to write about whatever you would like, to be clear. My comment about your location was a reaction to the lack of sourcing. I was alerted to the very existence of your story by neighborhood agitation related to the project, for example. In any event, happy writing!

  • mm

    Jon, another point: no property taxes were paid on the property when it was a church. It was a 1960’s era building and asbestos abatement was required. The church wanted to sell it because they had a $750,000 loan outstanding and come January $10,000 in property taxes due. The “agitator” is actually a former DMN reporter who told me they liked it when the school was there. Maybe they could have paid the taxes then? In any case, great example of how progress can be stymied by those who think they know all about real estate sticking noses into development plans. Lining up the lots — what does that do? One does not look out their backyard windows at the lot lines every day. Often, in fact, there are fences and camouflaging shrubbery. As for the home surfaces, Weekley probably has to go with what sells at those price points, and there is not much. We need to check back in with Mainvue Homes up in Frisco.

    • Hi Candy,

      The new Urban Commons development is an example of a project in Dallas that at least claims it’s going to be at a midrange price point while retaining interesting design. This land seems like it would be a good candidate for such a development, no, given the desirability of NW Dallas?

  • The David Weekley Homes Central Living product is a very unique product given the typical suburban homes that the company was largely built on and still today primarily builds. For starters, the Central Living product is almost twice as expensive per square foot and the package of standard features far exceeds its suburban product. David Weekley markets itself as a custom home builder that can build your home as nice or simple as you want it (almost unlimited choices of finish materials). You can have Calcutta countertops or you can have formica. You can outfit your shower with six body jets and two shower heads or you can build a standard shower. I sold my Mayfair condo to build a Villa in Oak Park, a David Weekley Central Living neighborhood and it is built with the same finishes as my Mayfair condo….and with far more extensive plumbing and electrical packages. Instead of green space, we have a dog park (in fact two). The neighborhood features Villas from 1250 square feet to about 2100 square feet. Garden homes (same concept but larger lot for larger homes start about 2300 square feet to almost 4000 square feet for the largest floor plan built with all additional flex space options….a feature of their brand.

    Laura Miller calls the proposed DW project track homes. Technically, I guess she is right if all you consider is the number of base floor plans offered. In Oak Park, like all other Central Living neighborhoods, there are 6 Villa plans and 4 Garden plans. That sounds a bit tracky…..but when you factor that each plan has 4-6 different floorplan options that change the appearance of the home coupled with 2 or more brick and stone options plus 5 paint options, the neighborhood feels more custom than it does track. But technically, it a high priced track concept that helps keep prices reasonable while sitting on urban land that would sell for two or three million dollars an acre!

    But how reasonable is price. Here is the rub! Like the proposed development, Oak Park markets homes from the $400’s. The smallest Villa (one has NEVER been built BTW) is two story (no two story Villas have been built either) has 1250 square feet and is advertised for low $400’s if it has no upgrades, wood floors, patios, decks, custom paint etc. That floor plan has never been built in going on 4 sections of the neighborhood and approaching 100 homes out of 140 ultimately planned. So what’s reality….currently the cheapest Villa on the market is 1600 square feet at prices just under $490,000. Villa prices of currently on the market homes go up to over $570,000 with the average around $540,000. Most are built as custom homes, not spec, and are finished a little higher in price but normally with builder concessions. Current Garden homes available start at $628,000 and go up to the low $700’s. A custom Garden home currently being built with all available flex space is well over $800,000. Prices and finishes are not very track home in the Central Living product which I think should draw a distinction to the notion that the proposed development are track homes. Located in Oak Lawn, Oak Park has brought property values surrounding it UP….not down, which I trust would be the case of the proposed development. David Weekley does NOT landscape well and needs to do more but homeowners paying upwards of $300 a square foot or more for a home usually have yards professionally done. In time, the common area should be too.

  • Jon –
    Regarding your Candy’s Dirt posting, please consider some corrections / balance for your presentation. You have permission to print anything I say below or attached.

    First, some background you need from us “Negative Nancys.” I am a former DMN reporter who moved behind the church
    on Timberview Circle in 2003. Before we purchased this home, our realtor was assured by Grace Presbytery that the property would always be a school or church because it was written into the deed as the original owner’s intention.

    Apparently, David Gleeson, the David Weekley developer (and sole source for your posting,) succeeded in getting the
    deed restriction removed without any notification of neighboring property owners,so, yes, we were surprised by the sale. This property was never marketed publicly. For that reason, we don’t know if another developer might be willing to build under the current zoning, which would allow 18 or 19 homes. We do know that Mi Escuelita (not Escualita, please) intended to sell to a church, and that at least one congregation had expressed interest. Then, suddenly in October, we learned that Mr. Gleeson had a pending contract to purchase.

    Some specific issues with your posting:

    – There was never any posting of the zoning case on this property until April 4. After an initial meeting I arranged with a few alley neighbors in November, we were ignored when asking Mr. Gleeson, Ms. Murphy and Jennifer Staubach Gates for a status on the zoning case. We kept asking if there had been a filing because there was no posting. From my back yard deck I can see the entrance where they claim to have posted signage Feb. 1. There was no sign ever posted, and the city planner in charge confirmed that Mr. Gleeson had not picked up any signs and that there was no affidavit attesting any posting on file for that reason. After Laura Miller began making inquiries in March during the election ramp-up, a sign appeared April 4, and the affidavit was finally filed. That was months after the plan commission filing, which we learned had been made Jan. 28. Mr. Gleeson accused us of stealing the first sign and damaging a second. He lied. I have photographic evidence that there was never any posting until April 4. That sign had a single, center stake was was damaged by high winds and rain in a summer storm. Nobody touched it. Nobody stole anything. My security cameras can prove that, but who cares when the developer’s word can simply be taken as Gospel?

    – There was never any second neighborhood meeting set by Mr. Gleeson until the Church of the Nazarene session. After ignoring all of our requests for concessions, Mr. Gleeson asked me to set up another meeting. I asked him why. He had already said none of our requests would be considered. And why was it my responsibility to set up a meeting for him anyway? By the way, we have not been “sidelined” on this issue. I have opposition commitments from more than 50 percent of the property owners within 200 feet. (I sent you our “Letter to Commission and Gates.”) The reason we did not stick around for the second “meeting” is that he continued to misrepresent events surrounding the sale and our position. It was a waste of time.

    – On traffic: When completed, there will be more than 100 cars moving to and from this development just south of the dangerous Webb Chapel trail crossing and the sharp “deadman’s curve” south of Merrell. That is a prescription for disaster. (An SUV has already taken out the lights at the trail crossing, by the way.) Regarding your question about “rush hour” for the Mi Escuelita pre-school, here’s the answer: There was never any traffic issues because the school really never started operating there. It was used as an administrative office with occasional classes, but Mi Escuelita never completed its expansion plans.

    – Neighbors were never told this “mini-development” was to have been gated. Nobody asked that the gate be removed because Gleeson never had one in his plans. He is making that statement in an effort to show he accommodated us in some way. He has not, as you can see in the attachment I sent along p/m.

    – This statement is totally unfair and wrong: “BUT, back when the “representative” was keeping the neighborhood out, I hear his insistence at having the lot lines match the neighboring homes caused those lots to become larger,
    guaranteeing two-story homes where privacy says they shouldn’t be.” Nobody ever kept the neighborhood out of
    anything. Mr. Gleeson told some of us that he was not going to schedule any neighborhood meetings until the election was over because he didn’t want Laura to show up and expound on the issues involved. And I have no idea what you are saying here about the lot lines. The only thing we have said on that subject is that planners should consider that another developer may well want to build with existing R-10 zoning and larger homes on larger lots. Larger lots would likely mean back yards in most cases, which would be much better buffers against privacy intrusion overlooking our homes. Mr. Gleeson may be the first to attempt to redevelop this parcel, but he is certainly not the last and only option.

    – Thank you for acknowledging that Mr. Gleeson should save the trees. This is a mature, natural pecan orchard with
    abundant wildlife, including a family of redtailed hawks that nest in the cell tower and hunt in the field and right-of-way. Yes, surely a few trees can be saved. Especially the one on the corner. Mr. Gleeson will not consider hiring an arborist and saving the trees. Ask him.

    – Thank you for acknowledging that this development does not fit with existing homes and that they are ugly assembly-line designs. We believe the developer’s plans fail three key policies from the forwardDallas! guidelines:
    1. Strengthen existing neighborhoods and promote neighborhoods’ unique characteristics (1.1.5)
    2. Establish clear objective standards for land use planning (1.2.2)
    3. Promote strong and distinctive neighborhoods to enhance Dallas’ quality of life. (2.5.1)

    – Mr. Gleeson has feigned interest in neighborhood input. Although he said Weekley homes regularly makes
    concessions like avoiding direct sight lines of second-story windows overlooking our alley, he has refused to do so in this case. The reason: Weekley homes does not want to change their cookie-cutter floor plans. (See the attachment sent you, “Gleeson Response.”)

    – Our effort has nothing to do with the election. We thank Laura for getting the word out on this development. We believe Mr. Gleeson has purposefully attempted to quash neighborhood inquiries and involvement, and we were being ignored by Ms. Gates and Ms. Murphy at a critical time in the process so, yes, we welcomed her involvement.

    Please see the attachments I sent you for more background and contact me with any other questions. And I have one last question for you to answer, if you don’t mind. Would you want to live 10 feet behind a development like this in your back yard? I think in know the answer. As it stands now, this proposal includes up to a four-foot retention wall on the northeast side of property at the alley. That means the two-story townhomes along that border will wind up towering over other alley properties by more than 40 feet. That is a massive wall of masonry with only six feet between the homes and minimum rear setback. To help you imagine, see Mr. Gleeson’s sketch attached, “LO.2 DWH.”)

    Best,
    Doug Bedell
    3467 Timberview Circle

    • That is absolutely correct, Doug.
      The editors need to respond to your points about misleading developer info.
      It is shameful.

    • mm

      Unless you live next to a public park or a body of water, you should always consider your surroundings as unset. As you have found, deed restrictions can be lifted. Realtor “assurances” mean nothing. The church may have thought 16 years ago that the property would be forever unchanged. It wasn’t. The church chose to sell to whomever for whatever their reasons – the church didn’t approve your buying your home, you don’t get to mediate their sale. You can be upset by these turns of events, but them’s the breaks.
      .
      Unless the extinguishing of the restrictions was handled illegally, you have no legal footing or standing to challenge (or I suspect you would’ve). Them’s more “breaks”.
      .
      At 35 homes, you shouldn’t be dreaming of a buyer who could have built less, you should be thankful they didn’t want more – maybe changing zoning to MF-3 zoning with hundreds of apartments.
      .
      So far the first part of your comment reads like “sour grapes”. And you’re entitled to stew, but it’s not productive.
      .
      Opposition within 200 feet is a great tool to get concessions from a developer – arborists, designers, etc.. But your goal appears to be killing the project and turning back time. Regardless of what happens with this developer, that’s not going to happen. The school isn’t coming back and it’s doubtful a developer is going to want less.
      .
      100 cars is chump change compared to the tens of thousands of cars daily on Webb Chapel (and you appear to be counting 3 cars per home).
      .
      By no means was this column saying objections had died – clearly you and others will never be satisfied. But the neighborhood and city people I’ve spoken with have seen a more positive change between the stakeholders in recent weeks that was worth calling out.
      .
      Finally you asked how I’d feel if this were in my backyard. With as many up-zoning cases as I’ve seen in recent years, I’d thank my lucky stars. Then I’d get to work on making the project workable for the neighborhood and the developer.
      .
      You’re right, Weekley/Gleason isn’t the only developer in the world, but it could be so very much worse, something you appear blinded to.

      • Point taken on the deed and sale, Jon, but several of of alley neighbors within 200 feet have been attempting since November to get even the most minor concessions from this developer. As my exhibits show you, he is not interested in entertaining any. Beyond that, he has taken an aggressively adversarial stance with anyone who questions his motives and actions. Witness the baseless, inflammatory accusations that we stole his signs when they were never timely posted. We have been willing to work with him but he is not receptive. Just the opposite. And that doesn’t bode well for our future with this project.

        • mm

          If there is more than 20% opposition within 200′ of a proposed zoning change, it requires a 3/4 supermajority to pass. Developers don’t like this for obvious reasons.
          .
          So on June 6th, show up at CPC with a list of reasonable and specific asks and documentation showing your requests have been ignored.
          .
          Don’t show up all “woe is me” and NIMBY (as you have here). That won’t play well.
          .
          I suspect Gleason wants little compromise to make the project more appealing (cheaper) to Weekley. (BTW, that’s the tree issue – cheaper on construction costs to knock down mature trees and plant saplings).
          .
          I’m all for neighborhood involvement, but demands must be clear and realistic.

  • Okay. Thanks for the advice., Jon.
    This developer won’t address over-peering privacy concerns of alleyway homeowners, but maybe he will consider one-story homes on the perimeter to play nice with the neighborhood? Please do read his responses to our request for concessions. You obviously have not. We are not being unreasonable. Weekley is trying to bully us into acquiescence. The company goes through the motions as if it is sincerely interested in our concerns. Meanwhile it ignores everything about and from our neighborhood.
    By the way, if this project were going into your back yard, would you expect there should be a time limit on how long this construction noise, dust and life disruption can continue? It is a good bet that this proposed fill-in subdivision will not sell at the $400k price point. Across Webb Chapel, the Court at Chapel Downs is going nowhere after three years. There are 11 lots carved into the old Chapel Downs Community Club property. Three $700k units are being constructed. None have sold. At this rate the neighborhood will suffer development intrusion for next two decades. Bordering properties are slumping in value as people move away from those monstrosities and the constant noise. You and Candy seem to believe the primary reason to approve such high-density fill-in’s is to help the city with higher tax receipts. Neighborhoods be damned, huh? I am very disappointed in the tone and accuracy of your publication. You two are obviously agenda-driven and poorly informed on the real issues that matter to us taxpayers.

    • Once again, Doug makes a great point.
      Why trust people who have shown themselves to be less than honorable / truthful?
      I think the pro-developer bias of this publication is hiding in plain sight.

      • mm

        Hardly. I rip on developers wanting to build crap all the time.
        .
        I’m a realist. My advice is to always work the deal on the table. It may work or not, but neighbors have no choice but to take all deals seriously and that includes dealing with a developer you might not like. This isn’t the same thing as trusting (for the record, I do think some of Gleason’s problems are self-inflicted).
        .
        Keep in mind, petulance and hyperbole are rarely rewarded.
        .
        Oh, and I don’t give a rip about a project’s tax potential. Never have, never will. My only opinion on property tax generation is that it’s fair and accurate.

      • mm

        Thank you. We are a real estate publication, we advocate for high quality, nurtured development. Would you prefer stagnation of properties? Look what happened to the stagnant Ambassador Hotel. Development is not a bad word, it simply has to be balanced.

    • I think you are wrong about Jon and developers! In fact, quite the contrary. He is very critical of cheap construction and materials as well as any architecture that is simple and lacks a level of interest and beauty that adds to the quality of the neighborhood. You don’t have to believe me, just click his name and read his last 10 columns! I don’t always agree with him but it’s not because his thinking was bias, poorly researched or lacking logic….to the contrary, he is well informed on these matters and very insightful. Again, don’t believe me, just read his body of work on Turtle Creek or PD-15. As for Candy, I think she sometimes favors certain realtors but you can’t question her love of Dallas and her commitment to promoting growth worthy of that love. If you, like Laura Miller, just want to kill growth or redevelopment that impacts you, then you are also not for Dallas evolving with the times and needs of its changing economy and demographic. Candy and Jon both, promote and support development that fits that bill…..particularly when those developments are quality designed and constructed so that they contribute to the horizon for many years to come. Neither need anyone to stick up for them……just read their body of work. Good luck battling David Weekley Homes. They ARE (Gleeson and Doug Woodard) stubborn and they need to be held accountable for a quality product and sustainable development. Their Dallas developer group IS the weak link in my opinion and the project managers provide constant cover for them. We had and are still having numerous issues surrounding the finishing of our section. The good news is that David Weekley himself is very reachable (I’m happy to share his email address with you privately). We have had ongoing discussions and I have found him VERY customer and community focused.

  • We certainly can agree on that point, Candy. The problem here is that the developer refuses to balance the neighborhood privacy and aesthetics with his own insistence on maximizing profit.