The attempt to get a Plan Commission re-vote on the Lincoln Katy Trail project has spectacularly failed. As reported on Dec. 4, Christopher Lewis, Plan Commissioner appointed by District 8 Council Member Tennell Atkins, filed paperwork to get the project reconsidered after it initially failed CPC on Nov. 15.

Today’s CPC session brought up the motion to reconsider with District 10 appointee Tipton Housewright seconding the motion. Almost immediately, Commissioner Deborah Carpenter motioned for discussion to be halted and a vote to re-vote simply held. That motion didn’t pass, which I’m sure caused a few white knuckles (including mine).

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Last week, CandysDirt.com reported the unusual move by one Plan Commissioner to call for a re-vote on the contentious Lincoln Katy Trail project. We can now report the request was made by Christopher Lewis, newly appointed by District 8 Council Member Tennell Atkins.  I noted at the time it was an unusual move for someone so new to the position.  It also has the potential to set a very dangerous precedent for the City of Dallas.

The last (easily discovered) time reconsideration was used was back in 2013 when some wanted to frack in the Trinity River floodplain. The CPC said “no” but then CPC chair and fracking supporter Joe Alcantar asked for a reconsideration. Seems a game was afoot to game the system because of who was missing from the first vote and who would be missing from the second. You may recall the city manager and city attorney were fired during the scandal.

The reason for the re-vote was the same as Lincoln Katy Trail. A CPC loss translates into a 3/4 majority at City Council for passage.

Interestingly enough for history buffs, three council members wrote to Alcantar urging his to reconsider the re-vote. Scott Griggs, Sandy Greyson and … Angela Hunt, who now sits with Lincoln on the Lincoln Katy Trail case.

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Mansion Park area under consideration

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).

If you want to catch up more, read this and this.

“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)

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On Dec. 13, Lincoln Katy Trail will return to City Plan Commission to have its case reconsidered. “How’d that happen?” you ask? According to insiders, any commissioner who essentially wants to change their vote from the majority to the minority can ask for a case to be reheard.

I’m told that since November’s twin Oak Lawn Committee and CPC losses, there’s been no additional community outreach, no change in plans, and certainly no return to the Oak Lawn Committee – just a do-over because at least one Commissioner wants to switch sides.

Do I believe in a guilt-fueled epiphany? No. I believe in City Hall lobbying by Lincoln Property Company. Lincoln and their representative, former Dallas City Council member Angela Hunt, didn’t stop knocking on doors after November’s CPC defeat – and it seems one commissioner was swayed.

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Lincoln Property’s Lincoln Katy Trail project failed to gain support from City Plan Commission. However, mimicking the Oak Lawn Committee’s own waffling, Plan Commission’s vote was tighter than it might have been had the OLC been more crisp and decisive in its own votes on this project.

Several Plan Commissioners voiced concerns about the OLC’s role in moving goal posts as Lincoln representative Angela Hunt claimed. One example given of “post moving” was the opposition’s desire for the building to be split in three sections instead of the two they got. Several Plan Commissioners and Commission Chair Gloria Tarpley said this was the first time they’d heard about the three-building desire. However when Lincoln first showed the original building broken in two last month, I checked the tape from the July CPC meeting and Vine condo representative Amanda Popken listed a three-building split as one of the desires. So no post-moving on this issue.

Commissioner Margot Murphy expressed the sentiment that view corridors are not protected. While I’d agree with that for construction of by-right projects, I don’t when view encroachment is the result of doubling the allowable zoning height. Zoning has to stand for something.

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News comes to us that Lincoln Property’s bid for Oak Lawn Committee (OLC) support for their revised plan has failed. You may recall the Lincoln Katy Trail project was essentially told last month by enough Plan Commissioners return to the OLC before returning to the City Plan Commission (CPC). Sources tell me that the OLC vote was five short. This is a backwards slide for the project, which had previously enjoyed the support of the long-standing neighborhood group by a single vote.

What happens next?

So far, Lincoln is due to return to Plan Commission tomorrow to pitch this revised plan. I’m hearing that this is still the plan even without OLC support. It will be very interesting to see how CPC plays this. As I’ve written, it’s been decades since a plan unsupported by the OLC has succeeded in passing CPC – and that plan (for Victory Park) required mayoral intervention – something I don’t see happening here.

Should CPC pass this plan, it severely hurts OLC and disempowers a neighborhood comprising Oak Lawn, Uptown, West Village, and Knox. I can’t believe the city would do this.  It would encourage developers to do less for the neighborhood, banking on CPC overturning any OLC denial of support.

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Oak Lawn Committee

Conceptual Image

Tuesday night’s Oak Lawn Committee meeting was chockablock with five projects. The first peek will be of the proposed Central Market in the perennial unsuccessful supermarket location on McKinney between the Lemmon split. You may recall it as Albertsons or more recently Minyards. At first glance, this is pretty spanky and cool, but the devil is in the details.

It’s proposed to be a whopping big development. There would be a five-level podium covering 95 percent of the parcel that balances two 360’ towers on opposing corners. The larger of the two towers would be a 21-story office building while the other would be an as yet unspecified mix of office, hotel and/or multi-family.

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Clairvoyance can be a terrible burden. Thankfully, it didn’t take any special powers to foresee Lincoln Property Company returning to the Oak Lawn Committee for their Lincoln Katy Trail project. After seeing the reactions of City Plan Commissioners on Sept. 22 to Lincoln’s plan to skip a re-blessing by the Oak Lawn Committee to their very different plan, I saw it as a foregone conclusion.

Had Plan Commission passed the project without renewed OLC support, it would have been precedent setting. I spoke with a few OLC old-timers and the only time any of them can remember that happening was when Victory was taking shape with the American Airline Center’s birth back in the 1990s. I was told that while OLC had a seat at the table, they were largely ignored as the area’s plan was being pushed with mayoral support.

I think we can all agree that the OLC’s success in managing Oak Lawn development has resulted in a lot better neighborhood than Victory. In fact, Victory got top honors as a failure in D Magazine’s recent “Dallas and The New Urbanism” special edition with the Perot Museum of Nature and Science called out separately for its poor streetscape, saying it makes “Field Street a miserable place to walk.”

Of course, what would this project be without arrogance?

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