Update on City Hall's Outhouse Policy for Southern Dallas

Categories: Schutze

Small update here on the part of Dallas to which City Hall refuses to extend sewer service. We have spoken about it here several times. It's an area abutting the brand-new University of North Texas campus near Interstate 35E and I-20. DART is building a new rail station right there, but the station will have to operate with a septic tank because Dallas will not extend sewer service to it.

outhouse.jpg
Library of Congress
Artist's rendition of design for new southern Dallas DART rail station.

Just southwest of the campus is an area of several hundred acres with no sewers. The money for sewers for the area has been appropriated. A long public planning process several years ago called for sewers. The head of the city's water department gave property owners blueprints showing how the new sewer would be built. But there's no sewer.

The council person for that district, Tennell Atkins, refuses to allow sewerage to be extended to the area in question. The story I get on why he won't let it be done is that he hates the guts of Robert Pitre, one of the main property-owners. I asked Atkins if he hates Pitre's guts. He said no. Pitre said he doesn't know for sure if Atkins hates his guts, but he said it's possible.

At any rate, Atkins' official line on it is that the area is slated for major redevelopment associated with the campus, but no major developer has shown up yet with the will or the resources to do it. Therefore, Atkins says, it would be premature to put in sewer service before the ultimate nature of the redevelopment plan is known.

Pitre who owns 120 acres and other landowners in the area have told me they think the absence of sewer service is a barrier to redevelopment, and they want to know how many areas in white North Dallas have no service. Easy answer on that one. None. They want to know why the council member would want to run the redevelopment of the area entirely from City Hall and through city staff instead of bringing them in on the deal.

So last week I heard from elected officials including the mayor who told me they had discussed this very question with staff. The mayor ticked off a list of planning meetings and other public colloquies in the past that Pitre and other property owners had attended to show that they have not been excluded from the process. I am sure the staff was eager to provide him with all of those dates and places where the public was allowed to appear.

But that is not what this is about. This is not about public meetings. This is about a very important closed-door process going on right now at City Hall, shot-gunned by council member Atkins, in which a developer and plan are being sought for the area so that Atkins can lay the whole thing out as a fait accompli. The fact that it hasn't happened yet only means Atkins has not been successful yet, not that he isn't trying.

For his part, Atkins always tells me that Pitre and the others are welcome to come up with their own developer and their own plan any day. But, he knows the small business people in the area cannot come up with a mega-developer and serious money in the hundreds of millions on their own. He can say that all day long, all year long, because he knows they can't do it.

My question is this: When did we ever get the idea around here that major redevelopment of an entire area of the city should be run out of the hip pocket of City Hall? Why aren't the major land-owners in the area being brought to the same table with Atkins and top city staff when the fate of this area is discussed? I'm not talking about people standing up for three minutes at the mic in a public hearing. Why haven't the stakeholders in the area been deeply involved in discussions about the fate of their area?

Obviously the mayor and other elected officials have taken that question to staff. Just as obviously, they have been given some kind of bureaucratic ass-covering paperwork about public meetings.

But this is simple. Why aren't the property-owners in the deal? IN the deal. Not hearing about the deal at a public meeting. IN the deal, telling City Hall what they want to see done on their land, helping City Hall search for a developer. Oh, and one other question: Since the money for it has already been appropriated, would it be just too wildly extravagant and inappropriate to let them have some shit pipes?


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