At City Plan Commission: Food Trucks Drive to Council, But Gas Drilling Stays Parked For Now

thehotbox.JPG
Robert Wilonsky
The Hot Box parked on Flora Street back on October 31
I'd been all ready to settle in for a lengthy City Plan Commission meeting this afternoon, conditioned by months of long waits before commissioners got to talking about the things I'd come for -- old favorites like gas drilling or food trucks -- but today they took each of those up right from the start.

So in lieu of a furiously paced and typo-rich liveblog, here's a more reasoned account of how the CPC voted, first, to indefinitely delay XTO Energy's application to drill near Joe Pool Lake, and second, to approve allowing food trucks in the Arts District.

As I mentioned earlier this week, at least a couple commissioners weren't planning on approving XTO's Specific Use Permit today -- since the city council's already delayed the company's first drilling proposal till October -- but a good number of anti-drilling folks turned up anyhow to urge the CPC to deny the permit outright today.

Marc McCord, sounding a little like Hank Hill talking about propane, broke down some technical concerns he's got with XTO in particular, complaining the company "has one of the worst track records of any drilling company" and urging the commission: "Don't defer this. Let's kill this thing right now."

Ubiquitous gas drilling activist Raymond Crawford turned up to ask the commission to do away with the SUP application, telling the commission a story he says he's deliberately avoided mentioning till now about how sister's leukemia diagnosis last summer first got him interested in health problems that could be associated with gas drilling. (Benzene exposure was one of the risk factors for her type of leukemia.) Her funeral was two weeks ago, he told them. "There's too many unanswered questions. We don't know. We need this killed."

Liz Wally -- who'd been among those commissioners who recused themselves in the past because they own stock in Exxon, XTO's parent company -- was back in the horseshoe this time around; she told the room she's since sold her Exxon stock, which drew wild applause from the anti-drilling crowd clustered in the chamber's back-right corner. (As before, Ann Bagley and Sally Wolfish stepped outside for the XTO talk.)

"Under the circumstances of the unanswered questions we have," Commissioner Mike Anglin said to close things out, "I would move to hold this matter under advisement for an indefinite time," and it passed unopposed.

Veletta Lill, who's been spearheading this one all along, was on hand to speak to the commission about food trucks, outlining a number of issues she's been working on with city staff -- how to handle food trucks along Flora Street in particular. One way or another, she said, the city needs to get this done.

It's "extremely important to the vitality of urban neighborhoods," she said. "This is the trend of the future, to do this."

Lill says that as soon as they get approval from the city, they've got "at least five food trucks" on board to come into the Arts District.

Michael Siegel, with University Park's Green House, told the commission, "A food truck is an excellent opportunity to feed the masses," though it's also not a great way to offer them relief. He said it's pretty impractical to require food trucks to move around every hour if they don't have a "restroom agreement" in place.

Commissioner Peterson moved to cut that requirement -- and the city staff's recommended prohibition of trucks on Flora Street per Peterson's comment left below, the commissioner removed Flora Street as an allowed location for the trucks, leaving it up to staff and food truck supporters to work out specific agreements for Flora Street in the future.

Commissioner Ann Bagley said this would be an important step "if Dallas is going to be the cosmopolitan city that it wants to be" -- and the commission voted to send it to the council, unanimously.

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12 comments
Scottelledge
Scottelledge

I hope they approve the trucks to operate. The owners of these work hard and some have wonderful food, especially the Yum Yum truck. Please let them stay. for those of us that work down town, the truck is a great option because of the disappearing fast reasonably priced places for workers in downtown to eat at. We are proud to have you Yum Yum.

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

"Commissioner Ann Bagley said this would be an important step "if Dallas is going to be the cosmopolitan city that it wants to be" -- and the commission voted to send it to the council, unanimously. "

Food Trucks are going to make us a Cosmopolitan City ?

Veletta Forsythe Lill
Veletta Forsythe Lill

First of all, thank you to the City Plan Commission for unanimously supporting food trucks in the Arts District. We still have a lot of work to do, including a public hearing before the City Council to change our zoning to allow food trucks in our neighborhood. We are simultaneously working on other parts of the city code which act as barriers to food trucks - rules such as trucks must move every hour and can only serve a few food types. With changes to those codes food trucks would have more flexibility, not only in the Arts District, but in other areas of town where the zoning already permits food trucks. This is important to us, but our work will eventually impact many other parts of the city. The real advantage of food trucks is their ability to move to locations based on crowd volume taking advantage of the ebb and flow of audiences - capitalizing on employment centers, entertainment activities, etc. So they could be at in the Arts District for the theater crowd and another part of the city for a bar crowd.

@Notthesuburbs - I am unsure what calendar you are looking at regarding events, however, we entertain more than a 1.5 million visitors a year in our venues. This weekend the DMA will be open until midnight with bands, movies, tours and more; the Crow Collection of Asian Art will have a Chinese New Year's Celebration on Flora, the Wyly will be hosting Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, the Dallas Opera will perform "Romeo & Juliet,' the DSO will do a production of Billy Joel hits, and author Kevin Brockmeier will be at the DMA as part of the Arts & Letters Live series. In addition, to the arts institutions - their patrons and employees, we also are an employment with 5 high rise buildings within a block of the district, a high school with a 1000 students and 4 churches (including the Cathedral with one of the largest congregations in the nation). Today many of these people either dine within their buildings or migrate just outside of the district for dining choices. Our centralized location for food trucks can attract those folks. As more commerical buildings and residences are built, "The Park" is completed, more programming is created for the streets and the trolley comes up Olive there will be even greater opportunities. Placemaking on this scale is not simple, but each step will contribute. Food trucks are an important step.

Justin B.
Justin B.

Completely agree with everyone, but wanted to chip in my two cents.

I can't understand why this (food trucks) is such a hard issue to get to pass. At the worst, we try the experiment and it doesn't work out. The city still will get a small amount of tax revenue from the trucks and all of us crying out for mobile eateries will have gotten our shot. At best, the idea really explodes and helps ignite a transformation into what the planners have been envisioning in the Dallas 360 plan. I mean, what's the difference between a glass box slinging popcorn and a tin box serving up gourmet dishes?

NotTheSuburbs
NotTheSuburbs

I'm glad to see the food trucks proposal making progress. It's a step in the right direction for the Arts District. My concern is that they're not going to stick around very long or be there very often.

First of all, there is never anything going on on Flora at lunchtime. I walk through there almost daily around noon. It's one of the quietest spots in downtown. The way I understand it, the trucks wouldn't be allowed to go anywhere else in downtown where they coulld attract a lunch crowd.

So they come to the Arts District at night where they will be busy for a short time before and after an event. They will also need to sit around for several hours with no business during the event. In order for any of this to make sense for the vendors, there would need to be multiple events going on with staggered and end times. This extends the window where the vendors will be profitable.

I may be totally wrong but it doesn't seem like that happens now in the Arts District. I'm on the mailing list and it seems I never see much going on. Maybe the City Performance Hall will be busier than the Meyerson, Wyly and Winspear. How about Annette Straus Artist Square? It was finished last fall and I've yet to see any event held there?

The only way I see this working is to allow the trucks in other places downtown at lunch and add a lot more programming to the Art's district at night. It would also help to coordinate events to stagger the start/end times better than they do now.

Downtowner
Downtowner

Finally, some street life in downtown Dallas? I'll believe it when I see it.

Columbiasooner
Columbiasooner

Great job Veletta for spearheading the Food Trucks! This is great for Dallas.

Dr. P
Dr. P

Actually, I moved to not include Flora St. as a place where the trucks could be located. This will permit the Arts District folks to request the city to issue permits for trucks on Flora when Chap 17 is ammended. WOW that is really bad zoning wonk sh*t!

Relledge
Relledge

Thanks Veletta nice job with the Plan Commission now we have to get approval to park on City property to make the Food Trucks thrive.

NotTheSuburbs
NotTheSuburbs

So the Winspear, Wyly, and Meyerson each have one event this weekend and are dark the other two nights or are there a bunch of private events in addition to the public ones that aren't on the calendar?

Cheesy Food Truck TX
Cheesy Food Truck TX

I agree with Veletta on who will attract who. With modern, gourmet food trucks in Arts District, the trucks will attract people to the area regardless of special events. In fact, they'll bring new people to the area everyday! It's a perfectly natural place for the trucks. www.cheesyfoodtruck.com

Thank you Velletta!

Patrick Michels
Patrick Michels

Thanks for the correction, Dr. P -- I'll cop to missing exactly how that arrangement happened during the meeting. Fixed now, though.

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