There are two columns today on the Oak Lawn Committee’s (OLC) latest meeting because there were really two agendas. First, was the business of reviewing the Crescent’s proposed redo of 2401 Cedar Springs and then the internal battle to wrest control of the committee towards a more developer-heavy make-up.

It began with a few bylaw changes proposed by a committee made up of four prior OLC presidents and Kyle Lyon who was later nominated as vice-president for the coming year. The changes were simple enough and targeted at strengthening the OLC’s position within the city’s development process. Those three changes were:

  1. Limiting membership to people who live, operate a business or own property within the PD-193 boundaries, but excluding investors who own shares in an entity that holds title to property. While every owner views their ownership as an asset, it was viewed that those who are merely investors (e.g. stockholders) were most interested in their investment over the neighborhood as a whole. It was said this change would affect one member.

In large part because of this proposed change, OLC vice-president Leland Burk sent an email to The Melrose Hotel, without OLC board knowledge, alerting them to the coming change and broadly hinting they would not be welcome under the new rules. The OLC board only found out when The Melrose started calling for answers. It was a disrespectful action, meant to whip up controversy.

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Packed House at Park Cities Baptist Church

If you’ve been following along in your prayer books, you know that over a year ago the Preston Place condos burned. You may also know about the failed attempt at negotiating an area redevelopment plan. I’ll even toss in bonus points if you’re aware of the Athena and Preston Tower working with former mayor Laura Miller to stymie everything.

All caught up?  Good …

Last night, Dallas City Council member Jennifer Gates assembled the neighborhood to discuss the history and next steps in the process. What was a surprise to most was that the authorized hearing, first mentioned last summer as having a two or three year waiting list, had been bumped up in the schedule and was beginning immediately. Gates made available applications for representatives on the authorized hearing committee.

But I get ahead of myself.

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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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Highland House

Well, hold my horses. I should have known better. Leland Burk does NOT own the Preston Doctor’s Center, yet. But if all goes as planned, he will own it by October. I should know the first rule of real estate transactions: it ain’t over until the contract is signed. What happened is that Leland asked the Planning & Zoning Commission to withdraw the plans for the Highland House proposal, the plans that were tabled pending the land-use study. The Dallas Morning News found out about the withdrawal, and phoned Burk, who was in London, and spoke to the DMN’s Tom Benning over the phone. Keep in mind, as I should have, that even Crosland Co. doesn’t own the property. The property is still owned, as it has been, by the same entities, two sisters, I hear, who are eager to sell, one maybe more than the other. Crosland had a contract to buy it, Rick Williamson had negotiated an extension of the contract, and Crosland has now assigned their contract over to Leland’s entity. I will claim vacation brain — I read Benning’s piece “Since then, developer Leland Burk purchased the property” and thought maybe the deal had transpired, even closed, while I was in Maine, which would have been like a miracle. (more…)

Editor’s Note: This is the first installment of our series of Dallas City Council candidate questionnaires. We attempted to contact each candidate in every contested race (10 races total), and those who responded with a working email address received the same eight questions. We gave them until April 5 to respond. Below you’ll find the answers to our questions, which we did not edit or abridge.

We chose District 13 candidates Leland Burk, Jennifer Staubach Gates, and Richard P. Sheridan to be our first questionnaires posted here on CandysDirt.com because, besides the District 1 race that pits incumbents against one another, and the wide field of District 14, this is the race to watch!

Leland Burk

 

Leland Burk

 

1. In your view, what are the strengths of the Dallas real estate market versus the rest of the nation?

As a longtime real estate investor in Dallas, I see firsthand that our city is booming. As this blog noted in a recent post, home values are on the rise. Dallas-area single-family home values rose 7% in January from one year ago, which was the 11th straight month of price increases. And we also have one of the best home equity positions in the country. Dallas’ real estate market is strong and will continue to play a vital role in the future of our community. As our economy grows, the real estate industry must lead with smart growth, working with communities on important issues such as transportation, infrastructure and other future needs. As someone who is deeply involved in the local real estate industry and current zoning issues, I look forward to working with fellow professionals growing our economy and being a strong voice for the industry.

2. What are the next areas/neighborhoods you feel are poised for high volume growth?

Obviously the Southern Sector is the #1 area poised for growth. I serve on the Oak Lawn Committee, a zoning review committee covering one of Dallas’ most important and fastest growing areas including Uptown, Victory, West Village and Oak Lawn. There is much activity there now and room to grow. I also feel great seeds have been planted in Wets [sic] Dallas with the opening of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. In my own district, the Vickery Meadow area could see a resurgence if we work together to solve that areas’ many challenges.

3. What areas/neighborhoods need the most help and any solutions?

District 13 will always be my top priority. We have the strongest residential tax base in the city and I see being an advocate for continual investment in the district as one of my top duties. Additionally, Southern Dallas is an enormous opportunity for the city. 45 percent of our city’s population lives in Southern Dallas, yet it carries only 15 percent of the tax burden. In order to increase the tax base, we must grow Southern Dallas’ economy. In order to grow the economy, we must provide the infrastructure and basic services businesses need to grow and thrive. And where appropriate, we must continue to provide prudent economic incentives. As a Dallas City Council Member, I will help spread the message that Southern Dallas is a safe place to work and live. The area is already home to successful retailers and the International Inland Port of Dallas – the region’s top distribution network and a catalyst for Southern Sector investment, job growth and development.

 4. Would you support retaining the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research to do a study of the root causes of decline in the City of Dallas, as it did for NYC during the Giuliani era, leading to one of the most compelling restorations of a major city in history?

Absolutely. I want to see Dallas continue to grow, and I believe the Manhattan Institute could play an important role in ensuring that our leaders are doing everything they can to keep Dallas on top. I suspect, however, that people are leaving or not even considering living in our city due to our public education system. In order to attract people back to Dallas, we must improve the quality of our schools. Even though Dallas City Council has no direct control over DISD and what goes on in the classroom, there are a number of things members can do to assist the District’s efforts in educating our city’s future. Such efforts include fostering public private partnerships and continuing to invest in the creation and maintenance of infrastructure.

 5.  Would you approving the zoning variance to allow an on-campus lighted soccer field at Ursuline Academy of Dallas, winner of 22 state soccer championships?

I am first and foremost a neighborhood advocate, and I’ve spoken with many neighbors in the area, therefore, I favor a compromise. I believe constructing a field with no lights is the best compromise for the surrounding neighbors and the school, a treasured asset in this city and District 13.

6. How would you handle the Museum Tower/Nasher Sculpture Center impasse? Should the Nasher also play a role and adapt some structural changes? Or is the burden purely on Museum Tower and future residential developments to mitigate impact on surrounding structures?

Let me put that in perspective. The Museum Tower/Nasher situation is a complicated issue with many parties involved who have the city’s best interest at heart. I love our arts district. In fact, I’ve supported the DMA and other institutions there for many years. The Nasher Sculpture Center is a vital part of the District and residential development in the area is important, too. I’ve spent my entire career as a businessman, banker and real estate developer bringing people together and negotiating through complex processes, and I believe Museum Tower and the Nasher must come together to find a solution that preserves the structural integrity of both buildings.

 7. Historic and conservation districts are a great way to maintain a neighborhood’s character, but some older districts have regulations that seem somewhat out of date. For instance, a homeowner in Junius Heights was cited for having xeriscaped his front yard in lieu of a traditional water-hogging front lawn even though our region faces long-term drought. Should alternative landscapes and eco-friendly materials be allowed in historic and conservation districts as a citywide policy change?

Yes. Again, as a real estate investor and neighborhood advocate I appreciate the importance of historic and conservation districts and how they preserve the character and integrity of our neighborhoods. However, we must evaluate and amend all restrictions with an innovative spirit and an eye for the future. In amending any regulations, I would bring the neighborhood together keeping in mind that our region and the State of Texas faces a severe drought. Since 25 percent of future water needs will be met by conservation, Dallas water utilities, City Council members, the Mayor and the Dallas citizens must continue to make conservation and reuse a priority.

8. What is your stance on hydraulic fracturing (better known as fracking) inside the city limits? Do you feel it poses a danger to residents and nearby businesses? Or does the potential income to the city outweigh overblown risks?

I am against gas drilling on park land, or any land in Dallas.

Jennifer Staubach Gates

Jennifer Staubach Gates

1. In your view, what are the strengths of the Dallas real estate market
versus the rest of the nation?

Dallas is blessed to have a strong, diverse economy that can endure tougher economic times better than other markets. Dallas offers great diversity in terms of neighborhood options and housing options. And finally, our City has a solid real estate community that is connected, and can work together in the private sector and on public issues to get things done.

2. What are the next areas/neighborhoods you feel are poised for high
-volume growth? 

Right now, I feel West Dallas is poised for high volume growth. The new Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge combined with the adjacencies of Kessler Park/North Oak Cliff, Sylvan Thirty and Trinity Groves make this area an up-and-coming community. While the NSO put in place will protect the La Bajada neighborhood, there is available land. Retail, restaurants and entertainment are coming, and this location is centrally located in our City – with easy accessibility to downtown.

3. What areas/neighborhoods need the most help and any solutions?

Vickery Meadows is a neighborhood in District 13, and one of our City’s crime “hot spots.” If elected, I am committed to reducing crime and helping to create neighborhood and school mentoring programs that may better engage this community, drive involvement and help create a more viable neighborhood.

4. Would you support retaining the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research to do a study of the root causes of decline in the City of Dallas, as it did for NYC during the Giuliani era, leading to one of the most compelling restorations of a major city in history?

Yes, especially if we can fund with private donations.

5. Would you approve the zoning variance to allow an on-campus lighted soccer field at Ursuline Academy of Dallas, winner of 22 state soccer championships?

The CPC approved the proposed Ursuline Athletic Field by a
14-1 margin, including the vote of Ann Margolin’s appointee. I would be
inclined to support the CPC’s recommendation, unless there is new opposition
or new information regarding the impact of the plan on the surrounding
community.

6. How would you handle the Museum Tower/Nasher Sculpture Center
impasse? Should the Nasher also play a role and adapt some structural
changes? Or is the burden purely on Museum Tower and future residential
developments to mitigate impact on surrounding structures?

It is critical that this issue be resolved in a manner that allows both institutions to be successful and that we are able to protect the credibility and spirit of partnership that has allowed our Arts District to thrive, and protect the pension fund of our Police. It is up to these two institutions to determine what they are willing to agree on.

7. Historic and conservation districts are a great way to maintain a neighborhood’s character, but some older districts have regulations that seem somewhat out of date. For instance, a homeowner in Junius Heights was cited for having xeriscaped his front yard in lieu of a traditional water-hogging front lawn even though our region faces long-term drought. Should alternative landscapes and eco-friendly materials be allowed in historic and conservation districts as a citywide policy change?

We must strike a balance between honoring our past and protecting our future. I would support amending some of these guidelines and restrictions to allow for environmentally-friendly materials and landscapes that not only protect our natural resources but also echo a theme of conservation that is critical to the City, especially in regards to water planning.

8. What is your stance on hydraulic fracturing (better known as fracking) inside the city limits? Do you feel it poses a danger to residents and nearby businesses? Or does the potential income to the city outweigh overblown risks? 

I am opposed to fracking in neighborhoods or near public spaces. There are limited areas in Dallas where fracking would be considered, and these should be addressed on a case by case basis. But as a rule, I will always place a higher priority on protecting neighborhoods and the health of our residents.

Richard P. Sheridan

Richard P. Sheridan

1. In your view, what are the strengths of the Dallas real estate market versus the rest of the nation?

The value of Metroplex real estate has not declined as nearly much as the real estate values around the nation. Texas economy and a good jobs market has been the stabilizing forces in keeping the Metroplex real estate values up. However, Dallas growth has been relatively flat, in the 1 to 2 % range, where neighboring suburbs have experienced good growth, and good increases in property values.

Why has Dallas real estate market been relatively flat, and why have people been moving out of Dallas? Quality of life, crime, and property taxes. Dallas infrastructure is deteriorating, we have a pot hole epidemic, Dallas property taxes are too high, the DISD is amongst the worst in the nation, and 96% of the cities in the nation are safer than Dallas.

2. What are the next areas/neighborhoods you feel are poised for high-volume growth?

Dallas southern sector offers Dallas a tremendous real estate development opportunity, and an opportunity to GROW SOUTH DALLAS PEOPLE. We must combine Mayor Rawlings “Grow South Dallas” program with a “Grow South Dallas People” program. Without the latter, the grow South Dallas program will just be another gentrification program, And not address Dallas root problem, and that is RACISM.

A GROW SOUTH DALLAS program will involve a comprehensive jobs and neighborhood redevelopment program, from empowering a fleet of street vendors, retail shop keepers, cooperative supermarkets/stores, to a Civilian Conservation Corp like program to revitalize South Dallas communities.

Dallas Habitat for Humanity is already doing some of this work, placing new homes in blighted communities, as a “plug of new grass” that they are, with revitalization radiating out from these new or rehabilitated homes.

3. What areas/neighborhoods need the most help and any solutions?

Again, South Dallas needs the most help.

4. Would you support retaining the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research to do a study of the root causes of decline in the City of Dallas, as it did for NYC during the Giuliani era, leading to one of the most compelling restorations of a major city in history?

Yes I would support any outside help to both help reinforce the need to Grow South Dallas people, and to apply any program that works in other parts of our country. Dallas crime stats are primarily due to the lack of jobs in the Black minority community.

5. Would you approve the zoning variance to allow an on-campus lighted soccer field at Ursuline Academy of Dallas, winner of 22 state soccer championships?

This is a neighborhood issue, the details of which I am not up to date on. As long as it what the residents will allow, then the lighting can be installed.

6. How would you handle the Museum Tower/Nasher Sculpture Center impasse? Should the Nasher also play a role and adapt some structural changes? Or is the burden purely on Museum Tower and future residential developments to mitigate impact on surrounding structures?

The Nasher was there before the Museum tower. It’s the Museum tower that is causing the glaring light problem, and it is their responsibility to resolve the problem.

7. Historic and conservation districts are a great way to maintain a neighborhood’s character, but some older districts have regulations that seem somewhat out of date. For instance, a homeowner in Junius Heights was cited for having xeriscaped his front yard in lieu of a traditional water-hogging front lawn even though our region faces long-term drought. Should alternative landscapes and eco-friendly materials be allowed in historic and conservation districts as a citywide policy change?

We must prepare for a long term water shortage, and begin to change our ground cover, and watering culture. Perhaps we should provide some incentive to the homeowners who voluntarily change their ground cover to effect significant reductions in irrigation water. In New York City there was a $125 incentive to replace higher water using toilets to lower water using toilets. New York will be saving about 30 million gallons a day when the toilet replacement program is complete.

8. What is your stance on hydraulic fracturing (better known as fracking) inside the city limits? Do you feel it poses a danger to residents and nearby businesses? Or does the potential income to the city outweigh overblown risks?

If not properly regulated Fracking poses a health danger to residents and nearby businesses. The City of Dallas just spent almost 2 years developing a new Fracking ordinance. However, the process has become so political that the City’s planning Commission was forced to vote on a permit application without the new ordinance. In addition, the process has become way too political and secret with city Manager Mary Suhm working out a back room deal to get Trinity East a permit in a park area which has always been forbidden in either the existing and proposed ordinance.

There is a bill now before the Texas state legislature which would transfer the Fracking regulating authority to the state. This has been done in New York State and it makes a lot of sense to have a regulatory body that knows what it’s doing instead of having novices, who know very little about fracking, develop technical regulations.

BURKGATES

The Dallas Real Estate Council made its recommendations for all contested Dallas City Council races, but there’s a bit of bitterness over the council’s choice in District 13.

Rudy Bush at the DMN’s Local Politics blog has the full story. Basically, by choosing Jennifer Staubach Gates over Leland Burk in District 13, the council showed that “the fix was in,” campaign manager Clayton P. Henry said. Staubach Gates’ husband, John Gates, is on the board of the Real Estate Council, Henry offered as evidence.

“Pulling strings will not sit well with the voters of District 13,” he added.

Folks on the sidelines see this race going down in a spending spree. Both candidates are heavyweights with big budgets and connections. Outgoing District 13 representative Ann Margolin has endorsed Leland Burk, and Jennifer Staubach Gates has a pedigree and connections that would take ages to sort through.

In District 14, Bobby Abtahi added another nod to his list of endorsements. (Full disclosure: Candy Evans, founder of CandysDirt.com, endorsed Abtahi for District 14.)

The Real Estate Council made no recommendation in District 4, wh

Other endorsements include:

District 1: Delia Jasso (incumbent)
District 2: Adam Medrano
District 3: Vonciel Hill (incumbent)
District 5: Rickey Callahan
District 6: Monica Alonzo (incumbent)
District 7: Carolyn Davis (incumbent)
District 8: Tennell Atkins (incumbent)
District 11: Lee Kleinman

Do you agree with the endorsements?