Forget All About That Watersports Complex. DHA Convinced It to Move to Allen.

wwwdallaswatersportscomplex2.jpg
Saw a story on Channel 5 last night, which follows below, about how Chad Lacerte's building a wakeboard park up in Allen -- you know, the one that was supposed to open on Fish Trap Lake last summer, before Dallas Housing Authority president Mary Ann Russ drowned it last July. Not so long ago, Lacerte's proposed $2.1-million West Dallas development, known as the Dallas Watersports Complex, looked like the surest of sure things. After all, it passed the City Plan Commission, the council's Economic Development Committee and the full council without a single nay. Lacerte's project was embraced by city officials, who were only too happy to give him a $250,000 economic grant to make something out of nothing.

But then Russ cut the cables, insisting she wouldn't OK the park till the DHA completed its master plan for the lake and surrounding area. Albert Huddleston -- Bunker Hunt's son-in-law and a Park Cities developer -- got involved, funding nonprofits who began protesting the park. Then there was a dispute over water quality. And Lacerte thought about suing. Or taking the whole thing to Denton. Tom Leppert, who championed the project during his tenure as mayor, told Unfair Park last summer he was disappointed and surprised when the thing fell apart. But he suggested: He knew what happened.
The jobs that are created are perhaps not the jobs that an older generation would want to have there. Nevertheless, those are jobs that may put a kid through school, so in that sense they are valuable. Other people may want retail instead, and both of the objectives can be reached -- a watersports facility and do some retail elements as well as some of the other things, like local clinics.
Ultimately, Lacerte tells Unfair Park this morning, the whole thing fell apart after Russ sent him an email on February 21, in which she wrote that the DHA board would not consider moving ahead with the Dallas Watersports Complex without a business plan. Lacerte coudn't believe it. (Her email, and his response sent this morning, follow.)

"This is a person I'd worked with for two years, and she kept changing the time frame and the objectives, and it was absolutely ridiculous," Lacerte tells Unfair Park this morning. "Everything was approved by the city. I don't blame the city one bit -- except the old mayor [Leppert]. Everyone else at the city did their job. I needed DHA to give me right of way access. That's all I needed. A signature. And we would have had a $2-million development in West Dallas. I'm not the one who chased it away. DHA did."

Still, Lacerte says he'd still be willing to build the wakeboard park in Fish Trap Lake. Even after all he's been through.

"I still have hope," he says. "I'm still interested in dong something there. There are only a certain number of lakes we can do this on in DFW, and if it's popular I want to do it there. But they're not making it easy. I went there first because I was trying to change an area. I could have gone to any of these other cities before West Dallas, and I didn't do that. Nonprofits began saying we didn't involve them. I'd been working with the neighborhoods. I worked at Westmoreland Heights Community Center once a week. It was crooked from the get-go. But I'd still do it if there's a change in the DHA leadership."

Here's last night's piece from KXAS-Channel 5:

View more videos at: http://nbcdfw.com.


And here's the email exchange between Russ and Lacerte that essentially killed, once and for all, the Dallas Watersports Complex deal.
From: Chad Lacerte
Sent: Monday, February 21, 2011 7:47 AM
To: MaryAnn M. Russ
Cc: 'Terdema Ussery'; 'Pedro Aguirre'; 'Steve Stamos'; Mayela Lopez; 'Gates, John (US)'; 'Randy Skinner'
Subject: Dallas Watersports Complex - Business Plan

MaryAnn:

At the February Board Meeting, you stated you would have Tim provide me with a copy of a sample business plan that you want to see from us. Would you mind sharing that with us?

You also said you would send us a copy of some of the current leases that you have done (Cititrend, HIS bridge builders, Mercy Street Field for dreams).

We look forward to seeing how the Master plan turns out and look forward to working with DHA.

Thank you

From: MaryAnn M. Russ
Sent: Monday, February 21, 2011 12:40 PM
To: Chad Lacerte
Subject: RE: Dallas Watersports Complex - Business Plan

I cannot send you anyone else's business plan, nor would I share yours with anyone else. I can send you sample leases, although there is no reason yours would be like theirs.

A "business plan" is a term of art. Any CPA knows what it means. It means you must show the amount and source of money you will use to develop the Wake Board complex, the projected income (broken down by source of income) and expenses (broken down by type of expense) from the complex for each of the five years covered by the lease, and an audited financial statement and balance sheet for the corporation that will hold the lease. In addition, we need specific information about the jobs to be created - how many will be full time with benefits, how many will be part-time (and how many hours per week/year) are these projected. We will need simple position descriptions for all the jobs so we can make sure our residents are prepared to hold these jobs.

The Board will not consider this proposal without the business plan described above.

I hope this is helpful.

MaryAnn Russ

From:
Chad Lacerte on April 15
To: MaryAnn Russ

MaryAnn

I didn't respond to your email [above] because I was deeply offended by such a condescending tone from a high ranking public servant.

After working in good faith on a plan to bring jobs and recreational activities to West Dallas over the last two years, it was very disappointing to receive this type of message from a government agency such as DHA.

Over time, it has become apparent, that you and Tim Lott do NOT want a wakeboard park in West Dallas and prefer to maintain the status quo. I sense that you regret giving us the authorization to obtain the zoning for the wakeboard park. I also feel that you regret DHA's approval of the Development Plan for the property last February and the widespread support the project enjoyed as the top ranked initiative of the Mayor's Task Force for the southern sector and the unanimous support this project garnered at Plan Commission and City Council.

The master planning process has been helpful -- it has demonstrated that the West Dallas community is not only ready for change, they are insisting upon it.

Word has recently filtered back to me that you are telling West Dallas community leaders that the wakeboard park is delayed because I haven't provided a business plan. Given how hard we have worked on this project, and given the overwhelming support we enjoy within the community, I don't appreciate that message.

We have shared our business plans with every jurisdiction that is interested in bringing this venue to their City and of course we have extended the same courtesy to DHA. We will be more than happy to share our business plans to any Board member or DHA employee that wants to see it. My contact information is below -- please have them call me directly.

I have also heard from a former DHA Board member, that you will only entertain a five year lease for a wakeboard park. If that is in fact true, then this entire exercise has been pointless and a complete waste of everyone's time. Any sensible business person would recognize that a capital investment of the magnitude that is required for a wakeboard park cannot possibly be amortized over such a short period of time.

DHA must recognize this -- your recent leases of unused properties on Hampton and West Commerce span 50+ years. These properties were very marketable - one property is 16+ acres on a major street and the other property is improved with a 50,000 sf maintenance and light manufacturing facility.

The Dallas Morning News reported yesterday that several Pinkston students don't want a wakeboard park at Fishtrap Lake and would prefer to have canoe rentals and fountains. This runs contrary to what I have heard from the dozens of Pinkston students that I have met with -- they have all expressed great enthusiasm for the promised jobs and activities this type of park could bring to West Dallas.

I would have appreciated an opportunity to meet with the kids that made the presentation to the DHA Board -- who showed them the wakeboard park presentation?

Why wasn't this presentation included as a part of the public notice of this meeting on Monday? As a government agency, I would expect your Board to be as transparent as possible, particularly on an issue that is being closely scrutinized by the public and the media.

The Dallas Morning News story was interesting to say the least -- the article concluded:

"Students raised concerns that a water park would make the lake inaccessible to anyone but customers".

That is an interesting observation because it is simply not true -- where did these students possibly hear that?

As you know, on several occasions I have asked for a meeting with the "Young Developers" group at Pinkston and I was never afforded that opportunity. I was told that the Young Developers group was only focusing on the Lakewest Town Center - you can imagine our surprise when this group provided their opinion about the wakeboard park since we have never shown them our plans or answered any questions such as public access to the lake.

You can inform those students that the lake is available for a canoe rental business in West Dallas. In fact, the lake has been available for that and any other use for over 70 years - but the lake still remains unused today. The community is anxious to see how much usage the lake enjoys this coming summer.

We are excavating two new lakes to open a wakeboard park in Allen this summer. It will be the only USA park that has opened with three separate cable systems. The lease in Allen was approved in late March and we expect to have wakeboarders enjoying the venue in June - it will be a world class facility.

On top of the recreational uses that are headed to Allen, we have already employed over 75 people in connection with the development of the park in Allen. NBC's local affiliate ran a story last night that shows the development in progress.

Here is a link to that story:

http://www.nbcdfw.com/news/sports/New_Wakeboard_Complex_Will_Open_In_Allen_Dallas-Fort_Worth-119879414.html

I will invite West Dallas residents and community leaders to Allen this summer so that they can see for themselves, first hand, what a wakeboard park looks like. That will enable everyone to make a determination of whether this is something that they might want to see in West Dallas. They will also be able to see firsthand, the employment opportunities that this venue will create.

I am not sure as to the status of the DHA master plan for the Lakewest area. The community leaders that I work with are very upset at the entire planning process. Many of them believe that the master plan was a tactic to purposely delay this project -- they feel that the planning process is nothing more than an expensive sham funded by their tax dollars.

At the first meeting of the master plan process, Tim Lott, the person at DHA responsible for hiring Craig Reynolds with BRW, boasted that he and Craig had been friends for 22 years.

This relationship and the lethargic pace of the planning process raises suspicions and casts doubts as to the objectivity of the planner selected by DHA and the objectivity of the entire planning process.

While DHA's master plan process started in September, 2010, no plan has been produced in over 8 months. Since the community is skeptical and tired of waiting on DHA/BRW, I am sharing OUR master plan of a wakeboard park with the Board.

Attached is the concept plan for the wakeboard park in Allen opening this summer. Hopefully this will give the DHA Board and West Dallas' community an idea of what a master plan for a wakeboard park might look like.

The wakeboard park in Allen is similar to the proposed venue in West Dallas in one respect -- both venues adjoin a high school and nearby baseball fields.

While we are very excited about the park in Allen, we still intend to work with the West Dallas community to improve the lives and well being of the residents in West Dallas. We still want to bring positive change, particularly in the form of new jobs and recreational activities, to West Dallas.

I am available for any questions and look forward to our next meeting.

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27 comments
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ARCHcowboy
ARCHcowboy

So a business man unable to create or provide a business plan wants to developed land that isn't his and is uPset because he was told 'no'? I think DHA is reasonable in requiring a plan, otherwise, they get left holding the bag of crap when a poorly executed and poorly managed business falls apart. I don't see how they are in the wrong here. Any reasonable business person can put together a plan. DHA even told him to talk to his CPA. Besides if there were SO many other cities excited to work with him, he would have built it someplace else by now. Smart call by DHA.

anon
anon

No, people in government are rude and condescending to peons who have bright ideas and who DO things (rather than talk, talk, talk and never lift a finger). Chad has a business plan- he had to provide that to the City Plan Commission in order to get the zoning changed, they didn't just go, "Oh well, we like your face, we'll change the zoning!"

I would have read that email from Russ exactly the same way. Also, he IS building his park somewhere else, and this isn't his first one either.

md
md

He was upset by the purposeful foot dragging of the Dallas Housing Authority, which is apparently in cahoots with Huddleston in some way. Basically, they screwed him around and this is his "fuck you" to them.

I particularly like this zinger:

"You can inform those students that the lake is available for a canoe rental business in West Dallas. In fact, the lake has been available for that and any other use for over 70 years - but the lake still remains unused today. The community is anxious to see how much usage the lake enjoys this coming summer."

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

Oh, so now we find out how a DISD high school ended up having a boat paddle on its campus--remember the one that was used to hit a student?

It must have come from a faculty member or student who had been canoeing on that lake.Mystery solved.

And MaryAnn must have been trained by DISD; her rude, condescending tone sounds very familiar.

DHAsucks
DHAsucks

hey duchbag ARCHcowboy - watch the Channel 5 video - he is building a park in Allen.

he said he will give them the business plan but he wants to do it in person

that sounds like a smart business call.

Misohooorrrny
Misohooorrrny

mr lacerte should know that albert huddleston always gets his Happy Ending!!!!

"a sizable settlement of a dispute in Vietnam arising from one of Albert's personal transgressions involving a female citizen of Vietnam."

http://www.bizjournals.com/dal...

NealK
NealK

Here's the deal. Lacerte didn't grease any palms. He had no chance against Albert Huddleston, who has a deep bench of captive and well-compensated southern sector preachers, hangers-on and house slaves.

TheRealDirtyP1
TheRealDirtyP1

finally got to post on here, for some reason I couldn't earlier.I'm going to call this what it is, and some people aren't going to like it. Wakeboarding is "too white for this area." Departments like this should be encouraging businesses, not blocking them.I agree that Lacerte got his feelings hurt too easily. Anyone that's ever worked with a government entity knows that's what you deal with. You can't treat them like they're your buddy, they're straight and to the point; the government doesn't train them on tact and feelings. He should have taken a deep breath and counted to ten before he replied.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

Another day in Dallas, another shakedown, as the City sinks further and further under mendacious leaders whose primary focus is leveraging public positions for private gain.

KSK
KSK

Editing point:

"I'm still interested in dong something there... ."

Leave it that way, it's funnier.

Cowtown
Cowtown

Probably for the best. The wakeboarders would have had to wear bulletproof vests.

Juan Valdez
Juan Valdez

Dallas Backwards!!!

What brings tourists into a city? A world class city park? A water sports complex?NOOOOOA bridge.

Coming from a country that has massive tourism, Dallas is doing everything wrong on so many levels..you guys have no idea.

locoDbag
locoDbag

Don't forget the groovy light shows at our underpasses!

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

I've discovered one thing w/ DHA over the years, and its the fact they're one of the most shady groups in city/county politics. They like to intentionally lie or "forget" about details, such as the Cliff Towers debacle and this issue as well. When Dallas loses out to Allen for a project of this nature, we as the citizenry have to ask two things:

A) Why arent we raising hell?B) Why havent we rode these people out on a rail?

Im going to throw down "The card" in this situation and call it what it is: racism. DHA doesnt like people who are anglo and have a great business plan on how to make "their part of the city" nice. At its root, its the "good ol boy" method of business and its alive and well in Dallas..

TimCov
TimCov

People talk about making Dallas a "world class" city, and this happens. Things like this wakeboard park and other tourist destinations are a key component in a "world class" city. For people from outside the area, what is their to attract them to Dallas:- Mavs and Stars games, I'll give you that one- Six Flags, that's in Arlington- Rangers games, that's in Arlington- Cowboys games, that's in Arlington- A themed entertainment district, I can't really think of one for Dallas. But, Fort Worth has Cowtown and the associated tourist dollars

What is there in Dallas that would make people from outside of Texas think they want to spend their vacation time and money here? I honestly can't think of anything other than family and friends who live here.

Anonymous
Anonymous

State Fair, but you said outside of Texas.

Downtown Resident
Downtown Resident

I forgot to add, Russ wanted to wait for the "master plan" before letting the build out go forward. Wasn't the threat of delays from a "master plan" also the tool that certain local politico's in the county commission court tried to use to shake down Richard Allen in South Dallas? What a coincidence.

Salazargotpaidforajunkyard
Salazargotpaidforajunkyard

If the Biz Plan was good enough for Allen, then what does DHA want?

Lacerte didn't pay to play - plain and simple!!

so the master plan is a sham - wow

Dallas Diner
Dallas Diner

Oooohhh, sounds like Mr. Lacerte neglected to make sure that someone got their "equity, equity, equity!"

bink sez
bink sez

Yet another great project lost to Dallas because of the behind-the-scenes manipulations of some of Dallas' creepy, self-absorbed leaders.

Joe
Joe

Not to defend MaryAnn Russ, but I think Mr. Lacerte overreacted to the letter she wrote him. I have learned over the years that emails, which are meant to be shorter than formal letters and more to the point, can be taken as "short" or condescending. Mr. Lacerte's response ended up sounding emotional and full of accusations. If DHA wanted a business plan, then that's what should've been provided to them.

DHAsucks
DHAsucks

the guy is freaking under construction in allen - don't you think he can hand the stupid bitch a business plan if he wanted to?

RS1963
RS1963

I'm confused - Lacerte asks what kind of business plan Russ wants to see, and she explains what she wants. In his response, he says he has a business plan and he'll send it to anyone who asks.

Obviously there's a LOT more going on than just that (Dallas is going to shut down a multimillion dollar facility because a couple of Pinkston students complain about not being able to canoe? Are you KIDDING ME!??!!), but it sounds as if Russ' request and the more roadblocks she put up just finally sent Lacerte over the edge.

I wish he would come forward with what I'm SURE are requests from different "groups" for "equity" in the project.

And as someone who has dealt with the city on numerous projects, I can assure you that "we've been buddies for 22 years" is something you hear constantly. The trading of favors and the "relationships" that city staff have with contractors/consultants/etc. would make the average Dallas taxpayer's head explode.

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