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.

Nope.

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After a session going well past 5 p.m. last Thursday, the City Plan Commission finally heard the case for Toll Brothers’ desired residential high-rise at the corner of Welborn Street and Congress Avenue. In the end, there were fewer fireworks than most expected.

Dallas Cothrum from Masterplan set out Toll Brothers’ case. In a nutshell, it was “here’s the bad high-rise we could build within zoning” … “here’s what a shorter, equally dense building looks like” … “here’s the better high-rise resulting from work with the neighborhood and Oak Lawn Committee.”  In numbers, they could have built over 400 units within zoning, now they’re wanting 271 units.

And as is the CPC way, the opposition spoke first …

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Exterior 1

Toll Brothers’ Latest Plan for 2728 Welborn

Before even entering last night’s Oak Lawn Committee meeting I knew it was gonna be spark-able.  See, I parked in back of the off-duty Dallas policewoman hired to keep the peace. We walked in together … my first armed escort (check that off the bucket list).

A typically packed agenda really revolved around a single issue … Toll Brothers’ plans for 2728 Welborn (yes, yes, two minutes were also spent on Reverchon Park’s baseball field turning 100). The site, south-ish and west-ish of Welborn and Congress, is just north of the Plaza high-rise condos.  The Toll Brothers project is slated for rental units.

About a year ago, this project, destined to be a high-rise, was knocked down by neighborhood pearl-clutching to a squatty, lump of a building. Well, destiny won.  A 21-story high-rise is now penned for the site that will include 271 units whose average size will be 938 square feet (63 larger than required).  It will contain a mix of one- and two-bedroom units with a smattering of penthouses and nine street-level townhomes.  Nearly a third will be two-bedroom units.  So far, there are four penthouses, but that may increase as the interior floor plates are fleshed out and if the market tells them the larger units would be leasable.

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Two very different Oak Lawn projects hit CPC Thursday night

It’s difficult being (unpaid) on the City Plan Commission. It’s 9 p.m. and they broke for 10 minutes for a bite to eat before plowing through on another case. Following the lot replatting cases and a West Dallas mobile home park, two Oak Lawn Committee cases hit the horseshoe about the time most of you were solidly into Happy Hour.

The other difficulty must be the variety of cases you see in a given session – anything from a palace to a “solid waste disposal” project. It must be a roller coaster bouncing from the cool to the banal of city planning. In this case, the roller coaster included the well-liked 2727 Turtle Creek mixed use development and the contentious Lincoln Katy Trail project.

It’s also got to be frustrating when every protester seems to say, “I’m not opposed to development, but …”

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It’s difficult to be in two places at once.  That’s what a reporter’s contacts are for. In addition to last night’s Pink Wall towers’ meeting at the Athena, the Oak Lawn Committee held their monthly clambake (their first since the Lincoln Katy Trail ordeal).

As if to bookend that contention, Prescott arrived with their proposal to redevelop 5.5 acres on Turtle Creek sandwiched between The Mansion on Turtle Creek and the Turtle Creek Gardens condos.  The site at 2727 Turtle Creek is the former home of Republic Insurance.

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Capacity crowd on hand to watch the OLC fritter away its credibility

By a narrow margin, Lincoln Property won support from the Oak Lawn Committee in a 16-to-14 vote for their Lincoln Katy Trail project on Carlisle and Hall Streets Wednesday night.  This pivotal vote essentially opens up MF-2 zoned properties (36 feet in height) in the area east of the Katy Trail, from Uptown to West Village (if not further afield), for redevelopment.  I say “opens” because, should City Plan Commission and Council approve this project, developers will use it as exemplar for increased density in Oak Lawn and the OLC will have lost their credibility to stop them.

Already we know that the Carlisle on the Katy, located across from the Lincoln project, plans their own up-zone. The last plans called for a pair of high-rises with former Dallas City Council member Angela Hunt signed on to help. Additionally, on the next block, Sutton Place had been seeking a developer buyout for several years.

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Lincoln’s same old-same old project. Look closely to see indented garage entrance.

I wonder if this project should be renamed Beetlejuice. It seems like Lincoln believes that by showing the same unpopular plan over and over, neighborhood approval will suddenly appear. Lincoln representative Angela Hunt whizzed through an incomplete deck of slides in record time.  I say incomplete because one Oak Lawn Committee member had the original presentation from many moons ago and wondered where all the pages had gone … you know, the detail.  Hunt said she left those pages out for brevity.

It was an excuse echoed by Lincoln’s Jeff Courtwright.  In this case he was responding to a query about why Lincoln had ignored the very specific data requested months ago concerning how shade would fall across neighboring buildings.  This time Courtwright said he made the decision not to provide what was asked for but instead give them only what he wanted.  You’ll recall, I called Lincoln out for ignoring requests, essentially disrespecting the neighbors.  Of course the reason it was ignored was because the result was bad.  I’ll even go out on a limb and say some computer whiz ran the data and saw it was bad, so it was buried.

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Third time is a charm I suppose.  Today’s city council vote wasn’t unanimous, but one vote shy didn’t matter.  I will give council member Philip Kingston credit for finally bringing it home.  After all the pros and cons were done he called the compromise a “no brainer” and urged approval.  I’ve certainly given him enough grief for diddling around with this and giving false hope to those wanting to stop it … and I stand by that.

As I’ve said to friends in recent days, it’s like you want to break-up with your boyfriend. Is it better to do that the day before Valentine’s Day or the day after? They’re hurt either way, but “after” they know they were a pity-date and the roses a consolation prize. So yeah, I think he could have brought this ship into the harbor quicker and spared some of that false hope.

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