The Fight Over CityPlace Sam's Club Zoning Isn't Over After All

Categories: Development

SamsClubPlanCOmmission.jpg
Attorney Alex More speaks to reporters following the City Plan Commission meeting on Thursday.
Under the city's development code, the proper time for opponents to voice their concerns about the Sam's Club proposed next to CityPlace was a year ago this month, before the City Plan Commission and City Council unanimously approved a zoning change for the property to allow a 100,000-square-foot warehouse store.

That neighbors generally weren't aware of that possibility, having understood the project as West Village-style collection of shops and restaurants, was neither here not there. And so, when they arrived at the Plan Commission Thursday to speak out against the development plan, they were stymied with a terse declaration from a city attorney: "This is a ministerial function of the Plan Commission. This is not a public hearing."

But the matter isn't quite as settled as it seemed. Just after the Plan Commission voted to delay a decision on the development plan for 60 days, Commissioner Bobby Abtahi slipped a letter to David Cossum, the city's interim director of development.

The letter, signed by Abtahi and seven of his colleagues (a majority of the body), asks the city to consider reopening the zoning process for the Sam's Club property.

This isn't just a pretty-please. Under Plan Commission rules, the letter automatically triggers a public hearing within 30 days, at which time the commission will decide whether or it wants to formally review the zoning of the property. If a majority votes yes, then the Plan Commission and City Council decide whether to make any changes. In theory, at least, this means the city could rewrite the zoning to ban big-box stores.

"I actually think it's important to get input from the public and city staff and the city attorney's office to determine what the options will be moving forward," Abtahi tells Unfair Park.

It's too early to speculate on what those options might be, he says, but he's hoping there's a way to keep sprawling, 100,000-square foot retail stores away from the urban core.

"My position is we deserve a better project from the developer, regardless of who's going in there."

Alex More, a Dallas attorney helping organize the anti-Sam's Club forces, says it will be a major coup if the Plan Commission votes to reopen the zoning debate. As it stands, opponents are limited to scouring the development plan for elements that might conflict with the current zoning ordinance. With the zoning process reopened, there's a chance of actually stopping the project.

"The bottom line is, we want to remove the language from the ordinance [allowing 100,000-square foot retail and home-improvement stores] and still have mixed-use development with retail and restaurants," More says. "That's the development were looking for in that area."

Trammell Crow's zoning rep has not yet responded to a request for comment.

Plan Commission's Request for Authorized Hearing on Sam's Site


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68 comments
holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

Don’t want it downtown . . .

Don’t want it in Uptown . . .

Don’t want it in Deep Ellum, nor on Central or or Old East Dallas.

Leave the Cedars as is, and don’t touch the M Streets.

So where DOES Bobby want it?

South Dallas?

Yeah!  those people don’t care, right?

Somebody needs to ask Bobby the zoning guy what’s appropriate. But catch him on a good day.

This town’s being run by Scarlett O’Hara. 

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

The hundreds of restaurants, retailers, c-stores, caterers, event organizers . . . and many, many more businesses who do not have the corporate purchasing power to buy in bulk rely upon Sam's and other Big Box discounters to buy food and supplies to resell.

If you like those neighborhood businesses in and around the central core area, then we also need a neighborhood location where they can replenish.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

Oops!  This just in from Wilonsky:

[Editor's note: This item has been updated since it was originally posted. It now includes talk of a lawsuit, as well as never-before-seen renderings of the proposed Sam's Club.]

"Several sources familiar with this say that if the plan commission does somehow alter the zoning, that will very likely trigger a lawsuit from Trammell Crow Co."

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

If you read between the lines in today's Steve Brown piece on West Dallas apartment development, very high land costs and too much high end product may be coming on line in Uptown/East Dallas.

I realize Dallas (metro) is the hottest new apartment market in the nation right now but developers are old enough to know better (except young Mr. Beck - ha!).

And it may be over-retailed too.  


becoolerifyoudid
becoolerifyoudid

I might have to show up and ask for a Waffle House.  I think that's what that part of town really needs anyways. 

dallasdrilling.wordpress.com
dallasdrilling.wordpress.com

Congratulations to the residents and a big thank you to Commissioner Bobby Abtahi for listening to residents concerns about being left out of the conversation. Asking for a "do over" is the right thing to do and those of us in Oak Cliff wish we had someone who was brave enough to get into the middle of our ongoing saga at Dallas Executive Airport. 

Unfortunately we have a Mayor who is ready to write a $13 Million check to the Commemorative Air Force without our input or knowledge, all while saying that he's ready to slash DPD, Fire Rescue, and Animal Services this past Wednesday.

Hopefully that will change next week when the City will host a town hall meeting at 6:30 pm at DEA. Y'all come. We need to get our hands on that check and tear it up.


http://deaneighbors.com/

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

Ha! If Crow bought the site for legal development of a Big Box store pre-sold or pre-leased to Sam's or a Costco based upon its approved zoning change . . . 

they will cleave the head off the taxpayer.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@holmantx 

there is a Sam's Club in south Dallas.

if your point is the City and the CPC should have included the design standards everyone is now demanding in the PD that was granted previously, we can agree.

that sure isn't what you seem to be saying. you seem to be stuck on the use, which is not the primary complaint.

it also isn't wrong for those who have a say in the matter to raise their hands and say Wait! we were under the impression you were developing an urban, rather than a suburban, project, and if we can't trust you to build what you told us you were building we are going to make sure we get what we were sold, even if we have to change the rules along the way.

the game of real estate is a full contact sport. TCC used the process to get the advantage it wanted, now the other side of the table is using its leverage to get what it wants. as Yogi said "It's not over til it's over".

it's not over until the permits are issued.

lakewoodhobo
lakewoodhobo

You make it seem like these businesses can't drive a few miles north to Timbercreek.

Udidit
Udidit

@holmantx  I like the sound of Trammell Crow Co..  And I really like the sound of Wilonsky and his fingers of fury.  We can expect this current lot of writers to be here forever and ever...ahem. 

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@holmantx 

from Rudy Bush's artcle:

"Whatever money is to be made in the short term at Crow, the long term cost for the company will be high if it builds this store. It will lose respect in the community; every zoning case it submits from now on will get the fine-tooth comb. It will win this fight and lose in the long run."

TCC should heed his advice...

MikeWestEast
MikeWestEast

@becoolerifyoudid  A Waffle House as big as a Sam's Club or Ikea?  Now that is what the urban fabric needs!

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@becoolerifyoudid

The first Waffle House in the nation with valet parking.

lakewoodhobo
lakewoodhobo

@holmantx This is Trammell Crow's opportunity to come up with a compromise. Sam's Club could still be part of it if it's a mixed-use urban development.

ozonedude1
ozonedude1

@holmantx Trammell Crow has way too much at stake in Dallas proper to sue it. And it owes the City way too many favors for all the crap they've been allowed to build in the past. Lawsuit ain't gonna happen. And Walmart has just as much at stake in Dallas as does Trammell Crow. So ditto on the lawsuit. Anyway, Walmart gets slapped with hostile zoning actions over and over across the US all the time. So this to them is the same story, different day - they'll just move on to a different location and go at it again.

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

The funny thing is if it were a Costco I don't think people would really care. But a lot of people loathe anything Walmart.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@mavdog @holmantx

Just read TC's application for the requested zoning change dtd 15 June 2012.

The proposed Sam's Club does not conform to that request.  Not even close.

If that is the only action TC has filed, they are SOL.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@lakewoodhobo

then if you want neighborhood services, then go north to where people understand what a neighborhood is - a living organism, not a static display of what one should look like.

some parts look yucky.  but needed.  

Want restaurants and neat places where  people hang?  You need utilities and services to facilitate those functions.  Stop trying to ad hoc drive the situation.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@mavdog @holmantx

Down to quoting cub reporters editorializing their personal opinions, eh?

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@mavdog @holmantx

Well then we should let the neighborhood make an informed decision whether or not they want retail.

Then force a developer to risk millions on their whim.

becoolerifyoudid
becoolerifyoudid

@MikeWestEast  It will be a world class scattered, smothered, covered, and chunked and possibly even peppered Waffle House. 


Finally, we will be able to take advantage of the Waffle House Index to gauge the seriousness of weather emergencies which will help Gavin immensely. 


becoolerifyoudid
becoolerifyoudid

@ozonedude1 @holmantx  Rudy Bush just put up a good article on this.  He is right that if Trammell Crow carries through with this they will be under scrutiny for every deal that comes before planning after this.  But I am a bit skeptical since I remember the whole TimberCreek fiasco and Trammell Crow doesn't appear to have changed its stripes since then.

WylieH
WylieH

@P1Gunter That's not what I'm hearing, at all.  Big box retail of any sort is entirely inappropriate for that site.

fred.garvin.mp.713
fred.garvin.mp.713

It may just be me, but I, too, loathe Wal-Mart or any store with a similar corporate philosophy (Target, Cabela's,etc.). Looking at the long game, the City of Dallas will be much better served by allowing more of an East Village deal than yet another big box store, although the neighborhood may not be quite yet gentrified enough, but such was the case when West Village was developed. If you build it, they will come.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@holmantx 

you have that wrong, TCC and Denton Walker, the partner on this project, are very smart.

look at how they pulled off the rezone!

yes, they are really smart.

but in this case they may have proven themselves to be too smart.....

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@mavdog

And Trammell Crow's people too, apparently. 

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@holmantx 

dogs are "man's best friend". they serve people well.

and they are a lot smarter than you apparently.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@holmantx 

that's pretty funny coming from an individual that is known for plagarizing other's work, and known to not attribute the work you steal to its rightful author.

classic.

if you have a problem with what Rudy wrote, express it. but that would require actual thought, so likely won't happen....

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@mavdog @holmantx

If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you.  This is the principal difference between a dog and a man. – Mark Twain

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@holmantx 

what's the phrase, "doesn't take a rocket scientist...".

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@holmantx 

The fact they presented a mixed use development with the name "East Village", a clear attempt to convey similarity to the West Village project, to the parties involved in approving the request for a rezone of the property says TCC knew well there was opposition to a development of a single user 100,000 SF project.

that was a known known. TCC did see it coming.

unfortunately for the neighborhood and the city, they were just too gullible....played like a fiddle.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@mavdog

And did they factor in the added risk that Bobby doesn't like Big Box retail?  “I am not a fan of 100,000-square-foot retail, no matter who the retailer is.”

Why, Trammell Crow - an old and respected eveloper, should have seen that one coming, right? 

I mean, there. knowns and unknowns and then there's unknown unknowns.  

Man you sure are smart.  Why, you would have seen that one coming.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@holmantx 

you have no actual knowledge of what "risk" was "present" at closing. did they have a committment from any user? were they working on multiple prospects? did they have an idea of what type of project they would build? were they considering a residential/retail project? did they have a lodging use in their mind as well?

developers and investors take on risk when they close on property. noone forces them to take the risk, it is their decision.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@holmantx

the developer risked their money when they made the investment in buying the property. noone forced them to close and take on that risk.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@holmantx 

there is not anyone who is attempting to "force a developer to risk millions", period.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@holmantx 

"already is" what?

it is not "mixed-use".

it is not an "urban development".

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@holmantx

wow, you sure know a lot about that situation. were you at the Council meetings to hear what was said?

what was the "bad deal"?

What did Fidelco request to change? didn't Fidelco have a partner?

what was Trammell Crow's agreement with the city?

what City are you talking about?

your first person reporting is great!

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@becoolerifyoudid @ozonedude1 @holmantx

Thanks to what some see as a bad deal made in 2005, Bayonne taxpayers may have to pay back $29 million to the developer of part of the former Military Ocean Terminal property. 

While Councilman Anthony Chiappone chastised Trammell Crow for threatening suit, saying the city had given the company a tax abatement, others said the agreement with Trammell Crow two years ago kept the city's municipal budget from going into default when H.R. Horton pulled out of a development deal in June 2006.

John Wisniewski, the attorney for Trammel Crow, said the change requested by Fidelco would violate the city's agreement with Trammel Crow.


mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@becoolerifyoudid 

the question is this: is it legal for the City to change its mind on the land use regulations it granted to properties?

if the "state of law" is the City can legally bring up for reconsideration what uses and restrictions are to be granted and make changes in those uses and restrictions, clearly it is legal.

frankly, IMHO TCC brought this on itself by not being straightforward with the City and with the neighborhood on what they were planning to build. The blame is with the City staff in not tying the project down better and more congruent design with City land use policy, and TCC did make statements to the community that are hollow (some might say disingenious) in hindsight.

becoolerifyoudid
becoolerifyoudid

@mavdog @becoolerifyoudid  I said relied upon. 


An ordinance was passed a year ago that had a specific provision allowing retail of 100,000 square feet (big box) for PD 889.  It is in plain language in the ordinance.  Now the developer wants to build a use in compliance with the ordinance.


The property owner should be able to rely on the state of that law while developing/marketing said property.  There are many that advocate revisiting that ordinance.  If that occurs, then property owners really won't be able to rely upon the law and will need to undergo projects with the assumption that they must rush all projects before the law changes (so they can be grandfathered in if there is a change). 


mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@becoolerifyoudid

And the law can be relied on, unless it was passed without anyone reading it and people want to come back a year later to debate the point, right?

uh, no, the law should be followed. is that not what is being done? apparently you feel the law is not being followed, can you elaborate?

becoolerifyoudid
becoolerifyoudid

@mavdog @holmantx  So it may be inappropriate for there to be a PT's strip club in Lake Highlands, but it was allowed.


And it may be appropriate to have a yard's landscaping be xeriscape especially during this drought, but in some conservation districts it is not allowed.


And the law can be relied on, unless it was passed without anyone reading it and people want to come back a year later to debate the point, right?



mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@holmantx

the question you posed was "Inappropriate? To who? the neighborhood renters?"

The forwardDallas land use guidelines answered your question.

zoning doesn't answer "appropriate" or "inappropriate".

zoning answers "allowed" or "not allowed".

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@mavdog @holmantx @WylieH @P1Gunter

Nice brochure.

What's that got to do with current zoning?

If a developer cannot rely upon the zoning ordinance, what do you recommend?

Survey the neighborhood to what's appropriate then go to the City for the requested use?

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@WylieH @P1Gunter

Inappropriate?  

or not a listed use under current zoning.

Inappropriate?  To who?  the neighborhood renters?

becoolerifyoudid
becoolerifyoudid

@holmantx @becoolerifyoudid @James_the_P3  I am sure Bobby Abhati will be reminded of who funded his last campaign.  Of course, he must have already decided that serving the old guard doesn't help him.  But this is a turning point for his political career.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@becoolerifyoudid @holmantx @James_the_P3

By the time this comes up on the docket, Crow's lawyers will have already quietly read the City the riot act on what action they will take if the City retroactively so damages the value of the tract it cannot be sold for what they paid for it.

becoolerifyoudid
becoolerifyoudid

@holmantx @becoolerifyoudid @James_the_P3  Personally, I would rather there be a shop that I would actually go to rather than a Sam's I won't go to. 


But I also believe in minimal government and having settled law. Between this, the drilling fiasco, and JWP shaking down the southern sector, Dallas is sending a clear message that trying to develop here is too much of a gamble to be worth it.  I have no sympathy for TC, but it is a bad precedent to reopen zoning ordinances that have been on the books for over a year because a developer wants to develop in a manner consistent with the zoning ordinance.  But as they say, bad facts make bad law.

becoolerifyoudid
becoolerifyoudid

@James_the_P3 @becoolerifyoudid @holmantx  Yes, but within that body of law is quite a bit about arbitrary and capricious changes.  Which is difficult to prove I know, but it seems the objection is as P1Gunter points out below, it's not the "use" it is the "user" which would provide evidence


TC might not have an interest in suing the City, but I bet much of the city's politicians are still interested in receiving campaign $'s from TC and the Dallas Real Estate Council which TC is a member of. I would be surprised if TC wasn't connected with Dallas Citizens Council too, but I don't know. 

James_the_P3
James_the_P3

@becoolerifyoudid @James_the_P3 @holmantx There is a large body of law about zoning vis-a-vis the Takings Clause.  Let it suffice to say that rezoning wouldn't be a taking under either the federal or state constitution.


And anyway, as a major developer in this city, TC has no interest in suing the City over one development (which, by the way, it would still be able to develop and probably make more money on over the long term).  It needs to maintain a good relationship with the City and its staff, and calling staff into depositions doesn't really do that.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@becoolerifyoudid @James_the_P3 @holmantx 

TCC would need to prove the rezoning  either reduced the value of the property or damaged them in some fashion.

If the process begun by Abtahi allows for a development but with a restriction on any individual user's size (done frequently these days, aka "Big Box Ordinance") it is not easy to prove there was a resultant reduction in value of the property or there were real damages to owners.

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