This statue of Robert E. Lee overlooks Lee Park in Dallas. Could removing this statue celebrating a controversial Confederate leader hurt Turtle Creek real estate?

[Editor’s Note: This post reflects the opinion of the writer and should not be interpreted as the editorial position of CandysDirt.com.]

I lived in Dallas for at least 10 years when I asked someone, “Who is Lee Park named after?” I assumed it was a great city forefather.

Robert E. Lee, I was told; the man who surrendered to Union troops in the bitter War Between the States, the only civil war in U.S. history.

Now, a movement that is growing like a snowball rolling down a mountainside — and crescendoed Saturday night at an anti-hate rally reportedly attended by thousands in front of Dallas City Hall — wants our city to rid itself of Lee Park’s eponymous statue. Duke University removed their statutes yesterday. However, this is also not an overnight movement: some Dallas City Council members have been working on a removal since last April.

I’m not sure if changing the name of the park will follow. The statue was built in Dallas during the Depression in 1936, when the Civil War was well over. Though the war ended, deeply rooted racism was not wiped out with Lee’s unconditional surrender at Appomatox Courthouse in 1865.

I’m not a native Southerner, so I have to wonder why the statue was erected in the first place. This is not Lee’s hometown; he was a native of Virginia. After Virginia, Texas has the largest collection of  Robert E. Lee monuments in the nation.

Why look up to a man who fought to let human beings own other human beings?

And last week, Jennifer Staubach Gates, City Councilwoman in District 13, who is making a lot of mayoral-like noise, wrote her conservative, wealthy constituents that the statue must come down:

My office has received a number of inquiries about the removal of Confederate statues in the City of Dallas, so I want to be clear on my position. 

I strongly support the removal of these statues. Symbols of white supremacy, neo-Nazis, the KKK or other hate groups are unacceptable and must be removed from public spaces that serve all of our citizens, including our public schools. The issue should not be whether or not they are removed, but rather the process of how they are removed, and I look forward to an open dialog on moving forward. 

The sooner we complete this process and remove these unacceptable symbols in public spaces, the stronger we will be as a City. If you have questions about this issue or thoughts on the process, please feel free to contact my office.

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On Monday, the City of Austin filed suit against the Texas Comptroller's Office over the state's ad-valorem tax system.

On Monday, the City of Austin filed suit against the Texas Comptroller’s Office over the state’s ad-valorem tax system.

The end of sales price non-disclosure might be near, if the suit filed by the City of Austin against the Texas comptroller’s office is any indication. Austin Mayor Steve Adler, who submitted the 10-page suit on Monday, argued that the ad-valorem taxation system is unconstitutional because it isn’t “equal and uniform.”

Texas is one of the few states that, instead of relying for sales figures for tax purposes, employs an appraisal system. However, with skyrocketing values for residential properties in Travis County, commercial valuations haven’t grown nearly so much. It’s becoming a big problem, the suit suggests.

“The lack of sales disclosures has made it nearly impossible for appraisal districts to comply with their statutory and constitutional duty to assess all properties at market value so that taxation is equal and uniform,” the lawsuit states.

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frisco power lines

After months of preparation, the State Office of Administrative Hearings today began proceedings in Austin regarding a proposed 138,000-volt transmission line across Frisco. This power line has been at the center of a hotly contested debate between Frisco homeowner associations and Realtors on one side and Brazos Electric, CoServ Electric, and the Public Utility Commission (PUC) on the other.

“All the witnesses are done [as of this evening], with briefs due Aug. 28 and reply briefs due Sept. 11,” said Adam Majorie, Government Affairs Director for the Collin County Association of Realtors (CCAR). He spoke to CandysDirt this evening after finishing the day in the hearings. “Once all the briefs are done, the two administrative law judges will go about the task of rendering their decision.”

Of the 715 intervenors testifying (most through written testimony), 683 were part of the Bury the Lines Campaign. The remainder of the intervenors were people from the city of Frisco, Brazos Electric, homeowners not represented by the Bury the Lines campaign, and the PUC staff.

The West Frisco Homeowners Coalition (WFHOC) and CCAR joined forces in September 2014, creating a grassroots campaign, burythelines.org, to oppose the above-ground high-voltage transmission line built by Brazos Electric on behalf of CoServ Electric. They say the line, which will be built through heavily populated neighborhoods along Main Street or Stonebrook Parkway to the Dallas North Tollway, will adversely affect property values and infringe on homeowner property rights. The campaign wants power lines buried, instead.

From the beginning, this has been a highly unusual situation, with Collin County Realtors fighting side-by-side with homeowners.

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starbucks

If you think coffee is only good for getting you moving in the morning, this new study will wake you up. Apparently, it can also provide a jolt nearby home values.

That’s according to Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff and Chief Economist Stan Humphries. In their New York Times bestseller, Zillow Talk: The New Rules of Real Estate, they crunched the numbers and found that houses located within a quarter mile of a Starbucks location appreciated more quickly than houses overall.

Rascoff and Humphries knew the traditional guideline for finding real estate that would appreciate the most – good schools, easy access to major job centers, or a quick drive to the grocery store. They wanted to dig deeper.

“We were looking for other markers that could tell us where home values would appreciate the most, and in doing the research, we found that if you live near a coffee shop, chances are your house outperforms other houses further away,” Humphries said. “When we dug even deeper, we found that living close to a specific coffee shop – Starbucks – was the best indicator your house would out-perform other houses in the area.”

This trend held true nationwide, although results varied by region. In North Texas, there was a 7.2 percent difference during the time measured.

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Power lines

As expected, on Jan. 15 Brazos Electric Power Cooperative filed a certificate of convenience and necessity (CCN) to build to build a 138,000-volt transmission line across west Frisco. In response, several Frisco homeowners have retained legal counsel to represent their interests to the Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas.

Their attorney, Francis B. Majorie of The Majorie Firm Ltd., will be compensated solely from fees arranged for by the Collin County Association of Realtors (CCAR) from the Texas Association of Realtors Issues Mobilization Political Action Committee. Majorie does not represent the CCAR or the West Frisco Homeowners Coalition (WFHOC); he only represents the individuals who have retained him.

“I was approached by several interested homeowners who have retained me and have asked me to be available to answer questions and enable the homeowners to present a united front in that they all have a common interest in asking that the power lines be buried,” Majorie said.

In order to answer questions, there is a town hall meeting Wednesday, Jan. 28 at 6:30 p.m. in the cafeteria of Pioneer Heritage Middle School, 1649 High Shoals Dr., Frisco.

As we reported in November, the WFHOC and CCAR joined forces in September 2014, creating a grassroots campaign, burythelines.org, to oppose the above-ground high-voltage transmission line. Through that website, they have gathered names of potential “intervenors” who could be a part of the legal proceedings surrounding the CCN.

“An intervenor is someone who is directly affected by the imposition of the power line, who chooses to appear and be a party in the proceedings,” Majorie said. “Because they are a party, they have a right to appear at all the hearings, the right to offer evidence, they have to be available to provide discovery to others. It’s the functional equivalent of being a party in a lawsuit.”

A 45-day period where people can voice their concerns to the PUC began when Brazos filed on Jan. 15. The PUC then has up to a year to make its decision regarding transmission line route and if the line will be above ground or below ground. Jump to read more!

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Photo courtesy tenchiro via Creative Commons

Photo courtesy tenchiro via Creative Commons

All eyes are on Collin County as Brazos Electric Power Cooperative plans to apply for permission next week with the Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas to build a 138,000-volt transmission line across Frisco.

A rare partnership between Frisco homeowner associations and realtors to fight the proposed above-ground power lines has caught the attention of regulators in the state capitol.

“Realtors don’t get involved in regulatory issues very much—Austin is paying very close attention, and the regulatory community as a whole is definitely interested in this issue,” said Adam Majorie, Government Affairs Director for the Collin County Association of Realtors (CCAR). “It’s rare to have such a pronounced public outcry, and the PUC acknowledged this in our meeting yesterday.”

As we reported in November, the West Frisco Homeowners Coalition (WFHOC) and CCAR joined forces in September 2014, creating a grassroots campaign, burythelines.org, to oppose the above-ground high-voltage transmission line built by Brazos on behalf of CoServ Electric. They say the line, which will run through heavily populated neighborhoods between the Dallas North Tollway and Farm-to-Market Road 423, would adversely affect property values and infringe on homeowner property rights. The campaign wants power lines buried, instead.

Their efforts have already had an impact: The power company’s application to the PUC next week is expected to include underground line options, in addition to the original proposal of an above-ground, 120-foot, double-circuit power line along either Stonebrook Parkway or Main Street in Frisco. The official name given by Brazos is the Stonebrook Transmission Line and Substation project. Jump to read more.

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At the recent Frisco town hall meeting, a Collin County Association of Realtors member said above-ground power lines like those proposed by Brazos/CoServ would negatively impact home values by 5 to 20 percent along the selected route. Map: CCAR

At the recent Frisco town hall meeting, a Collin County Association of Realtors member said above-ground power lines like those proposed by Brazos/CoServ would negatively impact home values by 5 to 20 percent along the selected route. Map: CCAR

The gloves are off in northern suburb Frisco as homeowners fight against a power line proposed by Brazos Electric Power Cooperative Inc. and CoServ Electric.

But in an unprecedented twist, Frisco Realtors are fighting side-by-side with homeowners for their home values and property rights.

At the heart of the issue is a suggested above-ground, 138,000-volt, double-circuit power line along either Stonebrook Parkway or Main Street in Frisco, built by Brazos on behalf of CoServ. The power line will start at an existing transmission line west of the Dallas North Tollway, and run between 2.7 and 4.1 miles, depending on the approved route, to a new substation to be built on King Road, west of Farm-to-Market Road 423. The new power line would serve growth in Frisco, Little Elm and The Colony, one of the fastest growing areas in the nation.

This prospect has the West Frisco Homeowners Coalition (WFHOC) and Collin County Association of Realtors (CCAR) working together oppose the 12-story power line, proposing instead that Brazos/CoServ build the line underground. They say the above-ground high-voltage transmission line, which will run through densely populated neighborhoods, will adversely affect the rights of homeowners.

“This is not simply about lowering property values—we see this as a huge home ownership, private property rights infringement,” said Adam Majorie, Government Affairs Director for the CCAR. “We think [the above-ground lines] will have a detrimental impact on homeowners themselves, because it affects on the whole neighborhood, and it impacts the homeowners’ nest eggs.”

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NE corner Preston Northwest HighwayCharles Sartain  lives on Northwood, has lived there since 1988, and as such is pretty darn close to the proposed Transwestern multi-family development proposed for the northeast corner of Preston and Northwest Highway. But he is thinking outside of the “No” signs we see everywhere. He’s the one who said in a Letter to the Editor of the Dallas Morning News last week there IS a need for upscale, luxury apartments in the area and he would like to see a traffic study and more information. 

He also says “no negotiations”, as the signs indicate, are not the prevailing opinions in the neighborhood, which stretches from Hillcrest all the way to the Dallas North Tollway, including homeowners with the ’50′s ranches on Northwood to the tree canopied and creek-lined estates of Old Preston Hollow.

Sartain_Charlie_432x262 I caught up with Charles, who is a litigator, by phone. As expected, he tells me he loves his neighborhood and wants the very best for it and his property values. But what he told me sounded a whole lot different from what I have been hearing from others in this neighborhood.

“The people opposed to this project are very much into hyperbole,” he said. “They make many emotional statements that really don’t help a rational debate.”

Charles would like to see that rational debate. Why are we saying no, he asks, when we don’t even know what we are saying “no” to?

“It looks to me like they (a few neighbors) are trying to intimidate Transwestern into going away,” says Charles.

He did not go to the park rally, but he did go to the first meeting at The Black Eyed Pea where Transwestern made it’s introductory attempt to have a cohesive conversation with the neighborhood and explain the development.

“There were three or four in the audience who were openly hostile,” he says. “One lady accused the developer of not telling the truth before the developer even said anything.”

Charles Sartain is happy to have attorney Mike Jung on board, saying he’s smart and reasonable.

“I’m in a question asking mode,” says Charles, ” Not a fighting mode. And I can think of three or four others here who also just want to have questions answered.”

What are those questions?

How will the development REALLY impact the neighborhood traffic, given the congestion on Northwest Highway? Studies that are more than ten years old put the traffic at 23,000 to 57,000 cars per day, though sources tell me it is now more like 80,000. Is adding another 400 to 600 cars to that a drop in the bucket? And will those tenants really be staying at home, or out at second homes, as Transwestern says they will be?

“Traffic is a legitimate concern,” says Charles. “Show me a traffic study, then I might be able to make up my mind.”

Likely there will be traffic studies squared: Transwestern will commission a traffic study, and the Neighborhood will commission one, as well. Cannot wait to see what each reveals.

“I think the Planning Commission and City Councilman Lee Kleinman have an obligation to maintain and improve the city tax base,” says Charles. “To maintain the highest and best use of the property.”

There are other Dallas constituents to consider besides the several dozen north of Northwest Highway with “No” signs in their yards, says Charles. And he saw nothing offensive in the brochure.

I asked him: do you think the development, if it goes forth as planned, will affect your property values on Northwood?

“With a greater value in the real estate here, I think it’s more likely my taxes won’t go up,” he said.

Charles speculates that the city will pull in more taxes from the development, quelling any need to raise tax rates.

Edgemere“Show me where rezoning that corner is going to reduce my property value,” he says. “They said the same thing when the Edgemere was built — didn’t happen. My property values have gone up over the last ten years, not down.”

I asked – do you think this will initiate a Pandora’s Box of zoning nightmares where, if Transwestern obtains a change, other developers will follow suit with panting tongues ready to develope the rest of the garden style apartments Behind the Pink Wall? I have heard reports that Trammell Crow (who bid on Townhouse Row, and Transwestern beat the bid by $2 a square foot) is working on a  deal to buy The Imperial House. At least one owner I spoke with at The Imperial House, who is an editor at The Observer, tells me he would entertain an offer.

“I’m no city planner,” said Charles, ” but I’ve been told that zoning cases are considered one by one, there is no domino effect. Every parcel is looked at on it’s own.”

Though his mind is no where near made up, Charles Sartain is thinking outside of the “No” box, and he says he is not alone by any means. Dallas is getting bigger and bigger, he says, maybe it’s time to ask ourselves if the zoning Behind the Pink Wall is outmoded and NOT good for the city as it is?

The loudest in any battle may not always be the most sensible, and to manage growth in a great city, maybe we need to think of what’s good for Dallas, not just one neighborhood?