Some of them deal specifically with Chernock's suggestions about technicalities in the law that might be used to take away the property's longstanding status as a multifamily property. Steve Long, the Board of Adjustment Administrator, writes to Donnie Moore, chief city planner for the board: "Christian Chernock is very much interested in how the City has determined that then NC use has been discontinued for 6 months"—a reference to an obscure technical provision having to do with water bills that could be used to shut Terry down.

To be fair to Chernock, his involvement in the matter took place before it became an official Board of Adjustment case. When it did become a case, it went to a panel of the board that is not the panel on which he serves. But all of his approaches were through the staff that reports to him in his official capacity as a city commissioner.

I spoke to another investor in the area, Mark Smith, who also had wanted to buy the same property Terry bought. He said he was disappointed not to get it but gives Terry credit for being quick.

The Board of Adjustment voted three-to-one that Josh and Jenn Terry were right and the city staff was wrong. But it takes four votes to overturn the staff. So the Terrys lost.
The Board of Adjustment voted three-to-one that Josh and Jenn Terry were right and the city staff was wrong. But it takes four votes to overturn the staff. So the Terrys lost.

Smith told me how Chernock's role looks to him, as somebody in the same business: "It reeks of sour grapes to me," he said. "I think he is leveraging his status with the city board he is on, for one, and for two, I think there's a lot of sour grapes, because he didn't get the building."

I also spoke to another longtime experienced investor in the area whom I respect, who would speak to me only on condition of anonymity because he has business at City Hall. He told me Josh Terry made his own bed by failing to play by the political rules of North Oak Cliff, in particular by failing to defer to Chernock.

Mark Smith, like the Terrys, is a relative newcomer to the area. He says that kind of talk sounds like a bad line from a Mafia movie.

"You need to kiss the ring of somebody?" Smith asked. "Are you saying there is a godfather in this area, and you have to have his blessing to go do a property if it's one that's in the godfather's line of doing business? Give me a friggin' break!"

Yes.

There are godfathers. I'm not saying Christian Chernock is one of them. That would make him a good deal more important than he is. But there is a web of insider dealing that works its way down from city council members through their appointees to the street, and City Hall is totally beholden to that machinery.

I always laugh when people here say they don't want Chicago-style ward-heeling politics in Dallas, like we don't already have it. The difference is that in other cities it's a little bit out in the open where a newcomer could at least figure it out before losing his right arm.

You better kiss the ring. And make sure it's the right ring. Otherwise, you could wind up being taken down, down, down the stone staircase into the...OH NO! NOT THE ...

BOOOOARD OF ADJUSTMENT!!!!

Yeah, Josh and Jenn Terry went before the Board of Adjustment. I attended. Even I got scared, and I've been down there a billion times before.

The Board of Adjustment has multiple panels of appointed citizen board members who sit separately to consider cases. This case did not go to the same panel Chernock sits on. But all of the same city staff were there—Long, Moore, the lot.

Terry made his case brilliantly, I thought. Four members all sat there nodding yes to everything he said.

Then they voted. Three of the four members present voted in favor of overturning the staff and allowing Terry to finish his property and rent it out, one against. Josh and Jenn Terry were beaming. I was beaming, and I don't beam.

Then the board explained to them. (Imagine a scary Boris Karloff voice now.) Ah, yes, my pretties. You see. It takes four votes to win. So you lose.

They lost! They can't finish the property! Three members agreed they were right. Only one disagreed. But it takes four votes to overturn the city staff.

But you know what could happen now? Some real clever guy over there in North Oak Cliff who's been watching all of this closely could offer the Terrys 50 grand to take this little messy-mess off their hands.

See how I think. That's what happens, my little ones, when you put your head in the...OH NO! NOT THE...BOARD OF ADJUSTMENT!!!

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