In our continuing Dallas City Council election coverage (ha!), let’s take a look at the third of three precincts won by Laura Miller (and its adjacent precinct tie).

Miller ran her campaign on an anti-development platform that resulted in her winning just three precincts where redevelopment cases lit a certain NIMBY fire. The first two were easy to understand for CandysDirt.com readers as they involved the extensively covered Preston Center and the Pink Wall’s PD-15.

The third development case was highlighted by Candy back in April and involved the redevelopment of the former Mi Escualita Preschool on Webb Chapel just north of Walnut Hill by David Weekley Homes (see map above). At the time it was part of Miller’s campaign fodder, but the election’s over and it’s time to look a little deeper and talk about today.

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Recommendation carves Preston Tower separated to maintain existing commercial office space

The original, decades-old PD-15 documentation is faulted for its lack of clarity. Unfortunately, the new document reflecting city staff’s recommendations has its own issues with clarity (Draft PD and Presentation).  You will recall that last November, Council Member Jennifer Gates sent the second neighborhood committee home after being bogged down a second time by non-negotiable towers’ representatives. During the two ensuing months, city staff were to have created their own recommendations based on their research and experience. Unfortunately, given the output, I suspect work only began after the Christmas wrapping paper was cleared.

First, the document doesn’t stand on its own as an obviously understandable document. Instead, questions abound, requiring significant explanation by city staff at last night’s meeting. Hopefully as the draft tightens, these ambiguities are made clear to future readers.

For those who enjoy spoilers, the city’s recommendations call for the area between northwest Highway and Diamond Head Circle to support 240-foot heights, while from Diamond Head Circle northward to the alley could build to 96 feet in height. Overall, the PD would equalize density at 90 units per acre. The rough result would be 540-750 total units (405-615 new). Why the spread? You’ll have to read to the end.

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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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Laura Miller Ambush Gates

As promised, It’s time to see what’s been going on outside of view – a gift just in time for the holiday season. There was a meeting on November 1 at City Hall with Council Member Jennifer Gates, Plan Commissioner Margot Murphy, and a bevy of opposition to the Authorized Hearing within PD-15 behind the Pink Wall.

The opposition was a combination of the usual suspects and a few oddities:

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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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PD-15

The run-up to Wednesday’s tenth PD-15 meeting should’ve filled area residents with anger. The self-centered towers were at it again. On Monday, Athena management company ICI Real Estate sent residents an “URGENT!!!” call for Athena residents to attend last night’s meeting (Preston Tower did the same).

It said Bob Bowling from Preston Tower was going to make a motion to dissolve the authorized hearing and send developers directly to City Plan Commission. Athena representative Margaret Darden was scheduled to second the motion after which residents in the audience were encouraged to stand and applaud. It was so kindergarten, I’m surprised there wasn’t a warning about not eating paste.

Their argument consists of the same tired, disproven tropes as always – four high-rises, unprecedented traffic and 10 years of non-stop construction. Blah, blah, blah. If you want to sing that song, read this or this.

NOTE: ICI seriously overstepped their bounds by sending such a loaded, propaganda-filled email to residents under their own account. Darden and Dewberry should have sent their drivel opinions and plans from their own accounts. (Full disclosure: I send email wrap-ups and links to PD-15 stories to residents within the building under my personal account. I have never asked or even thought to involve the management company.)

You may recall back in July, I reported on an email Preston Hollow South Neighborhood Association (PHSNA) president John Pritchett sent to committee members where he said they’re “not the A-Team in terms of zoning matters.” Apparently, Towers representatives Bob Bowling, Tatiana Frierson, Margaret Darden and Barbara Dewberry agree with the assessment, so hot are they to disband the committee. It’s almost comical, too. The Laurel apartments on Preston Road and Northwest Highway are pretty universally disliked and yet these representatives are in the same camp as Pritchett, who —to hear him tell it — single-handily led the negotiations for the neighborhood with developer Transwestern.

NOTE: If any member of any committee feels too stupid to do the job, resign and stop trying to crater a process everyone else is working in good faith to complete. (more…)

Lincoln Katy Trail divided the building. Too bad it’s 75 feet of concrete instead of green space.

Lincoln Property has done some work to change their Lincoln Katy Trail project. Arguably, these changes should have been the result of the first thumbs-down from the Oak Lawn Committee (OLC) well over a year ago. Instead they come much, much later and only after having exhausted their ability to cram the project through the Oak Lawn Committee and the neighborhood before hitting a Plan Commission brick wall. This project continues to be a manifestation of hubris.

Since Plan Commission kicked the project in August, there have been changes. For example, the single, unending block-long building has been split in two.  The Katy Trail no longer faces a fire lane and the ass-end of an underground exposed parking garage and loading dock. The trail also gets a proper entry from the property to engage residents.

But the question remains – Should a 307-unit, 70-foot-tall building (not counting above ground parking garage) comprising 80 percent one-bedroom units, now with 70 percent lot coverage, rear setbacks cut in half to 15 feet, and 600,000 square feet – giving back a miserly 15 affordable units – be allowed to blowout existing MF-2 zoning? That zoning limits a building to 36 feet in height, 60 percent lot coverage, and wider setbacks. It’s also worth remembering the current complex contains 115 market-rate affordable units in a rapidly unaffordable part of Dallas. More troubling still is that this case will be used as precedent for future encroachments into this still affordable area.

Of note, city staff’s recommendation when evaluating the neighborhood and factoring in the affordable units is for 230 units – 77 fewer than Lincoln is asking for, which is “a 152 percent increase, or deviation, in the current allowable density.” Staff also recommends shaving the project to five stories or a 60-foot height limit, calling 70 feet a “detrimental effect” for the Vine Condos on Carlisle. Sixty feet would restrict but not eliminate privacy and views of existing neighbors who comply with the MF-2 zoning.

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Former Dallas mayor Laura Miller working behind the scenes to stall progress.

[Editor’s Note: The opinions reflected in this column are those of the author and are not the editorial opinion of CandysDirt.com. We reached out to Laura Miller for comment. Her response is included at the end of this opinion column.]


Author’s Foreword:  On Wednesday night, I resigned from the PD-15 task force because of behind-the-scenes machinations and actions that I could not agree with once I became aware of them.  Also, I refuse to work with people I can’t trust. This includes representatives from several area buildings, including my own. Those representatives also asked former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller to step in and help their cause. Here’s that story.

Earlier in the evening I was forwarded a letter being crafted by some members of the PD-15 task force but whose pen had been heavily guided by former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller.  I’m told the letter will be sent to council member Jennifer Gates in the coming days. In my capacity as a task force member, my name was listed as a supposed signatory, although I’d not been consulted on its verbiage.

Upon returning home I spoke with my HOA president and co-representative to see if she’d seen the letter.  She had not only seen it, but had been actively involved in its creation.

The letter seeks to put a clamp on any redevelopment within PD-15 that goes against the deeply flawed Preston Center and Northwest Highway Area Plan that was largely hijacked by Miller and written in secret with the help of the business interests in Preston Center.

I believe this is a distraction that does one thing well: it uses the element of time to kill progress. This is a tactic Miller is very familiar with.

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