The Next Round of the Cityplace Sam's Club Fight Starts Today

Categories: Development

SamsCityplaceTrammellCrow.jpg
Trammell Crow
We are going to use this image for every single story we write about this damn thing.

Just about two weeks ago, all seemed lost for a group of residents who were upset about a Trammell Crow development plan that included building of a Sam's Club near Haskell Avenue and U.S. 75. Zoning for the development had already been approved, so the City Plan Commission's July 10 signing off on the project was a mere formality.

Before that vote could take place though, the East Village Association, a group representing the residents, sued the city of Dallas and Trammell Crow. The association tried, and failed, to stop the commission from voting, but it succeeded July 11 in obtaining a temporary restraining order against the city's issuing building permits for the development.

That's where the case has sat for two weeks, waiting for today's temporary injunction hearing. Should the injunction be approved, no permits will be issued for the duration of the trial to determine the validity of the zoning; should it fail, building could begin before the trial's conclusion.

The East Village Association's challenge to the zoning contends that they were baited and switched by Trammell Crow. They were promised an east side of U.S. 75 similar to the West Village only to find out they could actually expect a 130,000-square-foot discount big box store.

Building the Sam's Club required a change in zoning for its proposed site. Changes in zoning in Dallas require notification of residents who live with 200 feet of the proposed changes. The notices sent to East Village Association members withing that radius, the residents say, failed to inform them of the possibility of the Sam's. Neither did the meeting Trammell Crow held with residents to discuss the development, the residents say, so they had no idea they needed to dispute the zoning.

The trial, which could take as long as a year to be resolved unless it's given an accelerated calender, will determine if the notice provided to the members of the East Village Association properly apprised them of what was going on.

Trammell Crow says the notice was good enough. They weren't trying to hide anything, but even if the notices were a little opaque, those notices were the city's responsibility, not the corporation's.

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19 comments
mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

We are going to use this image for every single story we write about this damn thing.

classic! it's a wonderful rendering, it even shows undulating sidewalks! every community wants those.

I'm not optimistic the neighborhood will be successful, and I say that with remorse as it seems very clear their complaint, that Trammell Crow Company was (ahem) not completely honest and clear about their intentions, is factual. But the cow has left the barn, the Council granted the request for zoning, and (it seems) was done according to the process as specified in City Code.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

Well there's a bright side to the Crow Plan.

I notice from their rendering above Crow also plans to move the Gulf of Mexico up to around I-30 and bring Central back to grade level then lighten the traffic by half.

Unfortunately, I've seen this plan before.  

In the first Superman, Lex Luther played by Gene Hackman bought up all the real estate in the Arizona and Nevada deserts then intended to slide California into the Pacific (subground nuke detonations), thus creating a new coastline where his real estate was.

Superman had to kick his ass for that.

And Superman needs to kick staff's ass for this one.

And the sad fact is, it will probably take Superman to take out Dallas's version of Lex Luther and his henchmen.

Mary Suhm could be Ms Tessmacher.

becoolerifyoudid
becoolerifyoudid

@mavdog  You might be correct, who knows how the plea to the jurisdiction will go.  Chance the whole case gets tossed with that. 


Anyway you look at it though, there needs to be a more specific process in the City Code. A PDD is an easy end around the usual zoning constraints.  So if I see PDD on a notice (or Trammel Crow ), that is enough for me to have notice of a wide range of possible changes.  But I doubt that most people would pick up on that, as evidenced by this case. 


Here there were many changes to the zoning including the big box, but also excluding tattoo shops.  A notice won't cover every detail, just enough to let people know they should study the case.  I don't think there is a city ordinance that requires specific notice for big boxes, the city has provided such notice in the past and it is a good idea, but I don't think it is a requirement on the books.  That needs to change.


When I saw the notice in the petition I noted that the fourth paragraph said something to the effect that the CPC could grant a zoning change other than the one requested.  This fact could go either direction here (provide an out for the City or be so vague as to invalidate the entire notice), but that type of ambiguity should not be allowed in a notice.


I think TC gamed the system and the City was used as the cat's paw.  There needs to be a much more specific notice process to prevent this from happening again (although part of me still wonders how TC showing up after TimberCreek didn't sound every alarm).

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@holmantx

The plan commission hears the zoning change request and votes yea or nay, then it goes to Council for final approval. The Council is the vote that matters and establishes the ordinance that grants use/development rights and limitations.

primi_timpano
primi_timpano topcommenter

Please explain the "plea to the jurisdiction" issue.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@mavdog

That's why I asked.  Has the Council voted yet?

becoolerifyoudid
becoolerifyoudid

@primi_timpano  Go to Dallas County Case Look Up, type in the case DC-14-07239, you can see the arguments each side presents.  They actually pack a few arguments into the plea: whether the East Village Association has standing (are they the right party to bring the suit), whether the Court can tell a legislative body how to legislate, and whether there is sovereign immunity. 

You will also see that this suit has got to be getting very expensive. 

MM99
MM99

@holmantx @mavdog The people on the CPC are appointed by the city council members they represent, the CPC votes how the council member tells them to vote.  Generally if it passes the CPC it is only a matter of time until the city council votes for approval as well. Medrano knew the deal the entire time, now she's on her out and doesn't have to deal with the repercussions.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@MM99 @holmantx @mavdog

That's the same rationale the CPC used when they decried their hands were tied by staff.  That, they had no choice, since staff recommended the change (conditional - only if Crow complies with the ForwardDallas! form-based zoning).

So, if I read between the lines correctly, the Council has not yet approved the change so a permit cannot be issued, as of this date.

Is this correct?

A-nony-mouse
A-nony-mouse

@holmantx No, that is not correct. Development plans do not go before City Council. Once they are approved at CPC, permits can be issued.

becoolerifyoudid
becoolerifyoudid

@holmantx  The Council approved the zoning ordinance change a year ago. 


Since the use complies with the current zoning, issuing a permit is a minstrel duty.  Thus, there are (currently) no grounds for denying the permit.   That is one of the issues driving the plea to the jurisdiction and why the residents need a temporary injunction preventing the chief of inspections from issuing a permit. 

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@A-nony-mouse @holmantx

That's not what I asked.  And what you state is not correct.  The larger City Council must first approve in session the requested zoning change approved by the CPC and Staff.

And clearly, "staff made the request conditional - the ultimate plan must conform to the "ForwardDallas!" overlay.  The final plan does not conform.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@becoolerifyoudid @holmantx "Minstrel duty."  Heh, while that is probably an extraordinarily accurate depiction of Dallas City Councilmembers, I think you meant ministerial duty?

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@becoolerifyoudid @holmantx


Too bad.  Game over.

I thought the City Council could hold that the Staff recommendation was conditional, in that their approval recommendation was subject to the ultimate plan Crow finally submitted would have to conform to the "ForwardDallas!" overlay.  Here is "staff's" recommendation right off the change request: "cpc_agenda_050213.pdf":

"STAFF RECOMMENDATION: Approval; subject to a conceptual plan and conditions (p 6-1). The applicant’s request is consistent with the forwardDallas! Vision and further complies with the following goals and policies of the Comprehensive Plan. (p 6-3)"

snip!

I suspect "staff" put this in to give them (and the larger council) an out should this thing go NOVA, which it has.  Had Council not yet approved the change, the citizen could beat them over the head with the notion that, no matter the linguistic jujitzu, a single-use 130,000 big box cannot, by definition fit the Form-Based Zoning adopted in 2009, also known locally as ForwardDallas!" 

A-nony-mouse
A-nony-mouse

@holmantx Sorry, I thought you were only asking about the development plan. So to be more complete:


The Zoning change was passed last year, after going through both CPC and Council. The wording of part of the zoning ordinance says that the PD must conform to a development plan. If Crow had their current development plan ready last year when the ordinance passed, permits could have been issued immediatly.


However, the development plan in the zoning ordinance was just a placeholder, which Crow had always intended to update at a later time. Because of the way PD's work, you can go in and change your development plan at any time and only have to take it to the City Plan Commission. The city council does not review development plans.


Once the new development plan was passed by CPC, Crow could have asked for permits to be issued had the judge not issued the injunction.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@A-nony-mouse @holmantx

Cool; sounds like you read the request.  Looked at the Development Plan.  So here's the million dollar question: does the Development Plan comport with, fall within or otherwise pass muster with the Form-Based Zoning adopted by the City?

For that was the conditional requirement when "Staff" recommended approval.  That the "Plan" conform to the "Forward Dallas!" overlay which is in fact, an enforceable regulatory requirement under code.  It not just a bunch of words Staff gets to mime then permit a 130,000 SF single-tenant discount warehouse with really nice fenestration (Ha!).  

Of course, you are anonymous and any answer is only your opinion and cannot be held against you.

unless the Dallas Morning News tracks you down and outs you on the front page in the name of . . . whatever.

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