Major Dallas Rezoning Being Undertaken with Unusual Transparency

Dallas_downtown_skyline_seen_from_Lake_Cliff.jpg
Drumguy8800
Downtown Dallas as seen from Lake Cliff Park
If there's one thing Unfair Park has taken away from the high-stakes civic lesson that's been the Cityplace Sam's Club case thus far, it's this: The notices sent to homeowners telling them about proposed zoning changes in their neighborhoods are terrible.

The notices are meant to let people who own property within 200 feet of a site up for rezoning know about the change, in case the neighbors object to, say, a big honking warehouse store in their 'hood. In practice, the city's complexly layered levels of special zoning make the notices opaque and essentially meaningless. Mixed-use zoning, for example, sounds like just the thing many people say they want: dense, walkable outcroppings of businesses and homes that reflect their neighborhoods. Sometimes that is what it means, but thanks to Byzantine mechanisms like planned development districts and specific use permit waivers it can also mean a 130,000-square-foot discount Sam's Club.

That's what happened to residents in East Village, who yesterday lost in their fight to win a temporary injunction that would have temporarily blocked work on a Sam's Club at U.S. 75 and Haskell Avenue. Even the judge who ruled against them chided the city for its lack of transparency, despite Assistant City Attorney Christopher Caso's repeated assertion that notices sent to neighbors were "perfect."

See also: Temporary Injunction Denied in Cityplace Sam's Club Case

Councilmember Scott Griggs agrees there's a problem.

"It's disheartening. Our notice needs to be better," he says, "I don't think the notice was adequate."

Griggs' District 1 is facing a major rezoning of its own with the Oak Cliff Gateway, a 890-acre area that includes Lake Cliff Park in far North Oak Cliff. Residents of the area have been given as much access as possible, including copies of the zoning ordinance for the area and consistent updates from Griggs about the City Plan Commission's activities. Tonight, the first of at least two town hall meetings about the gateway will take place in Methodist Central Hospital's Hitt Auditorium.

"We put out all the details for everyone to read 60 days before the first CPC briefing," Griggs says. "That's to give the public time to review and to give comment. That's the best way to create trust with that type of transparency. Tonight we're going to have a meeting to say, 'These are the issues that we know about, these are the issues that we're going to work through, and is there anything that we're missing.'"

Plans for the area include exactly what many East Village residents thought they were getting instead of a Sam's, multipurpose, walkable development serviced by public transit.

Griggs hopes that similar transparency will become the norm citywide.

"The city notice procedure does need to change," he says. "Citizens need to get ordinances sooner so they have look at them and to give feedback."


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11 comments
CarlSmith
CarlSmith

Good for CM Griggs. All CM's should take as much interest in their constituents concerns and keep them informed, especially in such important projects. He will have to stay on top of this so his constituents don't end up getting screwed like the residents next to the East Village development. It's pretty easy for any CM to find out who the neighborhood leaders are. Just ask around. I've received calls in the past from people who have moved into our neighborhood saying they were told I was one of the neighborhood leaders. All they did was ask around. Any CM should be able to do the same. No excuses for any CM to say they did not know who to contact in the neighborhood. CM Pauline Medrano failed her constituents on the East Village development. I'm sure CM Adam Medrano won't let that happen on his watch.

Anon.
Anon.

I assume Dallas council members get the agendas of the Planning and Zoning Commission. If they don't then they should insist upon receiving those agendas at the same time as the commission. Council members should read those agendas and take special note of all cases in or near their districts. After proper review council members should take the time to share relevant findings with their constituents. Those elected folks know what proposals will piss off their residents. They know they should make a special effort to inform neighborhood leaders when these issues come up. All the reasons not to be as transparent as possible basically boil down to money. It is a common story that sometimes winds up with one or more people becoming guests of the Feds. Unwilling guests.

So, council members, keep your peeps up to date about what's going on. Not doing your jobs right makes us all think you are on the take. Props to Scott for taking the job seriously.

BettyC1
BettyC1

The notice is the same in all zoning cases. 

MaxNoDifference
MaxNoDifference

In the left of the picture, is that the new Young Minors of Central America (YMCA) hostel?

WylieH
WylieH

@BettyC1 Not true at all.  In the case of the Sam's Club CityPlace, the City failed to make any mention in the notice of the 100,000+ sf retail simultaneous SUP waiver / approval contained in the ordinance.  In another recent case, they placed that information in the notice.

Tipster1908
Tipster1908

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul I'm not sure why you say that. Griggs typically wants his constituents informed because he himself is sick of getting lied to. For the Jefferson Ave rezoning, he was under the impression that the recommendations for the rezoning were coming from a mostly non-interested party who simply researched the area to figure out what uses were appropriate. Little did he know, the plan was funded by the adjacent commercial property owners, who clearly had an eye on maximizing their property value. It injected a heightened sense of skepticism into him (and his BS meter is already fairly well developed). And he made it clear to neighbors that if we had objections to the proposals, he'd hear us out (in person). Our particular concerns in that case were addressed, so I can't speak to how it would have gone down if we had hoped for changes that Griggs didn't agree with.


Now, this is not to say that staff won't try to deceive our own council members, or that the rest of council will be on board with Griggs. But I've got to say that I'm significantly more hopeful for an outcome in this case given its district and councilperson. 

Sharon_Moreanus
Sharon_Moreanus topcommenter

It's Lake Cliff Tower.

Unless the"YMCA" is paying $395k for 1450sqft 2bd.

pinckneybledsoe
pinckneybledsoe

Another example of why Betty has no business being on the CPC. She has no idea what she is talking about. She's lost, as usual.

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