This past week, the Mayor has been meeting with councilmembers to discuss an alternative proposal for next week’s briefing on the neighborhood stabilization overlay. I met with the Mayor and other councilmembers yesterday and today, and want to give an update on where we are on this issue.
If you’re familiar with the overlay, jump past the history lesson and read “Council Briefing on September 7.”
HISTORY OF THE OVERLAYFor those unfamiliar with the overlay, it is intended to provide neighborhoods with a zoning tool to stem the tide of teardowns and incompatible new construction. Many residents are frustrated with the McMansionization of their neighborhoods and want to do something about it. They want to be able to address issues like height, setback, and garage placement, but not get into architectural design or details.
Right now, the only real tool neighborhoods have are conservation districts. Although conservation districts can take care of McMansionization, they are really intended to provide regulations not just for height and setback, but for architecture and design. Using CDs to address massing and scale is overkill.
More importantly, the line to become a conservation district is a long one. Half a dozen neighborhoods are in line right now, and the City can only handle two neighborhoods a year. (The planning department holds many meetings in a neighborhood to discuss proposed zoning changes, and these meetings take several months.) I started the conservation district in the M Streets, and am very familiar with the process.
In September 2004, the Single-Family Standards Taskforce was formed to look at single-family housing in Dallas. The Taskforce was made up of residents, home builders, realtors, architects, and other professionals.
Near the same time, in November 2004, the city held a townhall meeting to listen to residents’ concerns about teardowns as part of ongoing comprehensive plan discussions. The meeting did not go well. The City did not really address the teardown issue as much as talk about the development needs of the particular area near the meeting site.
The City tried to fix its mistake by holding more productive meetings in January and April. During this time, City staff, along with the comprehensive land-use plan consultants, researched the teardown issue and how best to address it in Dallas. The Single-Family Standards Taskforce was provided updates and given feedback on the teardown issue by staff.
Single-Family Standards Taskforce RecommendationAfter reviewing the city staff’s presentations, the SFST proposed the following:
>Stories >Garage access, location and connection >Paving surface in front and corner side yards >Front and side yard setbacks
>Height >Stories >Garage access, location and connection >Paving surface in front and corner side yards >Front and side yard setbacks
SFST’s proposal then went to the City’s Zoning Ordinance Advisory Committee (ZOAC), which reviews potential amendments to the City’s Development Code and forwards recommendations to the Plan Commission.
ZOAC and CPC RecommendationsTo the frustration of many residents, ZOAC held the overlay proposal for months. ZOAC made some changes to SFST’s proposal, and then that proposal went to the Plan Commission. The Plan Commission amended ZOAC’s proposal. I’m not going to go into detail about ZOAC’s and CPC’s proposals because it’s easier to look at a side-by-side comparison.
COUNCIL BRIEFING ON SEPTEMBER 7Now the ball is in City Council’s court. On Wednesday, the Council will be briefed on the foregoing. A single representative from the proponents and opponents will each speak and answer questions. Public input will not be taken at the briefing (there will be opportunities when the Council holds a public hearing).
The alternative proposal being floated next Wednesday will look like this:
It’s unclear when the Council will vote on the overlay issue. It may be late September or early October before we vote on this.
I’ve got grave concerns about this alternative proposal, not the least of which is that if we’re trying to make a “conservation district lite” process to make it easier for neighborhoods to protect themselves from incompatible development, why are we instead making the process much more difficult?
District 14 residents, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this.
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