Eleven years ago, the City Council set aside an enormous, 3,700-acre tract of land surrounding Fair Park and put in place detailed zoning restrictions stipulating what types of homes and businesses could go where. It was an attempt to promote positive development and fight the economic decay that has taken root there.
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In the intervening years it became clear, to council member Carolyn Davis at least, that the ordinance left out several things. It wasn't hard enough, for example, on car washes, massage parlors and smoke shops. And it was too hard on community gardens, which were not provided for in the original measure.
Davis is now pushing for changes recommended by constituents at a pair of public meetings. The updated language would ban massage parlors, piercing studios and, in places at least, car washes. It would also require specific use permits (and City Council approval) for check cashing facilities, public and private schools and tobacco shops. Community gardens would be OK.
"I like wholesome business," Davis told the Morning News. That means banning businesses that are detrimental to surrounding neighborhoods, but also promoting mixed-use development. She has her eye on land at Grand Avenue and Lamar Street and at Hatcher Street and S.M. Wright Freeway as spots ripe for development.
The key, of course, is to find a developer who agrees. The neighborhood isn't what it is because of lax zoning but because of generations' worth of disinvestment and economic neglect. Tweaking zoning rules isn't going to reverse that. Then again, fewer payday lenders and more community gardens certainly can't hurt. The City Plan Commission will vote on the proposed changes on Thursday.