Klyde Warren Park

Dallas’ landscape is crisscrossed with interstate highways that cut through and divide our city’s neighborhoods. The lasting effects of these high-speed thoroughfares on our city have been felt for years, but until recently, the only option was to grin and bear it. With an acute lack of will to remove them, urban planners had to come up with a solution for restoring the connection between neighborhoods. The answer: deck parks and connective parks.

Our first in North Texas was Klyde Warren Park, and our city can’t imagine what life would be like without the deck park that connects Uptown to downtown Dallas. And the city is planning a second deck park over Interstate 35 near Highway 67  to connect North Oak Cliff to the Dallas Zoo, though that project wasn’t without contention. Even Plano is getting on board with deck parks, with plans in the works for a park over the Dallas North Tollway that would connect the Shops at Legacy with Legacy West.

To further explore this growing trend, the Dallas Architecture Forum is hosting a panel discussion called “Deck Parks and Connective Parks in Dallas” moderated by Elissa Izmailyan, senior director for community and economic development for the Trinity Park Conservancy. The panel will feature Tara Green, past president of Klyde Warren Park and principal of OJB Landscape Architecture; Diane Jones Allen, director of Landscape Architecture at UTA, CAPPA; and Molly Plummer, Parks for People Program Manager for the Trust for Public Land in North Texas.

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Dallas Builders Association executive officer Phil Crone says that the Dallas ordinances on parks and trees need refinement before a final vote.

By Phil Crone
Executive Officer, Dallas Builders Association

On May 16, the Dallas City Council heard separate proposals concerning a new Park Land Dedication Ordinance and revisions to Article X, which concerns tree planting and conservation in the city limits. A vote on each is expected before the council’s July recess.

My personal involvement on the tree ordinances dates back to 2009, when the Dallas Builders Association began to talk with stakeholders about possible improvements. Article X has created challenges for new development, especially in South Dallas. The premise of the ordinance is to assign fees to the removal of trees on private property. Property owners can attempt to reduce or eliminate fees by preserving the existing tree canopy, replanting desirable trees using best practice methods, and/or other sustainable development methods.

The new draft of Article X does provide property owners with more carrots, but it also adds more sticks and lacks transparency on key items such as the fees and how they are used. Another problem

Phil Crone

is that the ordinance now assigns a mitigation fee to nuisance trees such as Hackberries and thorn-ridden Mesquite trees, albeit at a lower rate than others. Hackberries are found in large numbers on property throughout Dallas, meaning that several small fees add up to one large fee when it comes time to remove them. The larger a Hackberry grows, the more brittle and dangerous it becomes. Their leaves attract aphids that drip honeydew on everything below. Eventually, black sooty mold grows on the honeydew. In other words, a Hackberry has no redeeming qualities. The Dallas Builders Association is proposing a measure that allows property owners to remove smaller, less desirable species, defined as Class 3 trees in the ordinance, without paying a fee.

Article X currently lacks the credit for new replacement trees now required by state law. House Bill 7, which became effective in December, was supported by the City of Dallas and the Dallas Builders Association in the most recent legislative session. By focusing on credit for planting replacement trees, we felt this was a better alternative to more aggressive proposals that sought to remove municipal authority from tree preservation entirely. The proposed changes to Article X outline the process that, in most cases, should achieve the result state law allows. However, inclusion of language from the statute would guarantee property owners no worse than the outcome provided for by the legislature.

Our final concerns with Article X deal with transparency. (more…)