By Kevin McMahon
Recently, guest writer Barbara Dewberry expressed her opposition to the City Plan Commission’s proposal for updated zoning for PD-15. I would like the opportunity to offer a counterpoint and speak to the merits of the proposal. But first, I should state something up front some may consider relevant.
I am a former resident of Preston Place.
I lived there about four years. Our unit was the first home purchase my wife and I made, and we undertook a major renovation when we moved in, doing much of the work ourselves on nights and weekends. We aren’t real estate flippers. We had no intention of buying and selling and moving on to the next project. Instead, we put a lot of care and detail into our unit because we planned to call it home for many years. And then one Friday night, we watched with our then-5-year-old son as a fire indifferently consumed all that hard work.
Now two and a half years later, I see another destructive force at work in the neighborhood. It takes the form of hyperbole and fear of change which form the basis of much of the opposition to CPC’s proposal. Ms. Dewberry’s arguments are this hyperbole at work.
Nowhere does CPC’s proposal say anything about forcing private properties to set aside land to create a public park, as Ms. Dewberry fears. In terms of green space, the proposal does include some significant updates from the current zoning on improved streetscapes and open areas. These elements are strongly desired by the neighborhood. And the reality is these won’t happen unless the current zoning is updated. Same with saving trees. Without the updated zoning in CPC’s proposal, it is likely existing trees could be taken down precisely because of the current absence of setback/green space requirements.
In terms of building height and density, the allowance under CPC’s plan is consistent with the two existing towers in PD15, one of which is where Ms. Dewberry herself lives.
As for worries about traffic, a professional study – conducted at the request of the city planning commission – found no significant increase in expected traffic as a result of CPC’s proposal. The additional vehicle trips would be insignificant compared to the daily volume of Northwest Highway.
Finally, Ms. Dewberry ends with a plea for city council to deny the proposal, saying homeowners and developers should get back together to find a plan. The irony in this statement is the six properties within the PD have already worked to reach such a plan for the better part of two years. The CPC’s proposal exists today only because a minority of the properties remained unflinchingly opposed to every idea put forth over that time. When it became apparent the only change acceptable to this minority was none, CPC staff crafted its own proposal with substantial neighborhood input and which was overwhelmingly passed by CPC members in June.
Throughout this long process, there has been a repeated and not-so-subtle implication by some opponents that Preston Place residents are somehow selfish for wanting to recoup an investment that took years of work and discipline to achieve. A parched man in the desert is not selfish for filling his canteen at the oasis; he is selfish only if denying others the opportunity to fill theirs. Preston Place residents are not seeking to deny unit counts, or height restrictions, or greenspace, or road access, or property rights, or any other scarce resource from anyone.
Ask yourself just what exactly IS the scarce resource at the heart of this matter, who currently controls it, and who is seeking to deny it to others.
Meanwhile, Preston Place residents remain in financial purgatory until this zoning question is resolved. For my family, we’ve had to move twice as we tried to remain in the neighborhood. We had paid off our mortgage just two months before the fire, after years of frugal living and financial sacrifices. But today we find ourselves back in debt. The situation for others is more dire. Two and a half years later, some remain living out of hotel rooms. Others are staying with relatives because they cannot afford another place to live. Some are still paying mortgages on their Preston Place units. Two of us have died. To return to square one after more than two years of crawling forward would be a second devastation to these residents. And it would be irresponsible to those in the PD which have been diligent and thoughtful about how to make lasting improvements to the neighborhood.
I could point out the CPC proposal doesn’t necessarily go as far as I might prefer in allowing more density and more height, with fewer restrictions on setbacks, parking, etc. But instead I return to the earlier point about working constructively vs. just saying ‘no’ to everything. In these times, we often pull no punches in opposing any idea that doesn’t fully meet 100% of our wishes. Compromise is a dirty word and fear conditions us to try preventing it at all costs. But in taking such a rigid position, we often forget that inaction is sometimes the single biggest determinant of the future, and usually not in a good way.
An old lyric once pined “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” Rather than trying to positively influence this process, some have been so opposed to everything that they would “save” the neighborhood only by tearing it apart. Pitting one property against another, neighbor against neighbor.
It is my hope the city council will finally put this matter to rest by adopting CPC’s proposal; allowing Preston Place residents to finally move forward; allowing the neighborhood to heal and achieve the improvements it has asked for.I have lived in Dallas for about 8 years, and I work in the airline industry. Let me know if you need anything else.
Kevin McMahon has lived in Dallas for about eight years, and works in the airline industry.