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Rawlings Declares "Let The Dirt Fly" as City Council Approves Sylvan Thirty Zoning

Brent Jackson, at left, and Monte Anderson
Brent Jackson, at left, and Monte Anderson

Just after that totally delightful discussion on the voting habits of trees, after which the city council OK'd a new Walmart, there came another momentous development matter: the West Dallas mixed-use project known as Sylvan Thirty, the one we've been writing about since, I dunno, forever-ish. The city council voted unanimously to approve the new development, but not before some impassioned speeches and what looked a lot like a moment of profound existential despair from Belmont Hotel owner and developer Monte Anderson .

Anderson, as we've noted previously, has emerged as a staunch opponent of Sylvan Thirty's proposed rezoning and told the council today that he's been called a lot of names lately: "Zealot, selfish, greedy, idealistic, uneducated, untrained, incompetent and much worse." He talked at length about the developments he's helped to oversee in the city -- the restoration of the Texas Theater and Belmont and Smoke among them -- and the "countless hours" he's spent working on Fort Worth Avenue. He said that he even represented Brent Jackson, Sylvan Thirty's developer, in acquiring the land Sylvan Thirty will sit on. In return, Anderson said, Jackson has "completely ignored" the Special Purpose District 714 rules that are supposed to govern development in that part of town.

Mayor Mike Rawlings asked at that point if Anderson could "focus on the project."

"Please sir, let me finish my talk," Anderson replied, adding that it was "unfair" that he didn't have enough more than three minutes before the council. "I'm a major stakeholder who invested $20 million across the street," he told Rawlings. "This is wrong. I have a right to speak about this."

Ultimately, Anderson said, the project represented an unacceptable departure from the PD that was adopted by the city. "Why do we keep going away from these plans?" he said plaintively, pausing several times to collect himself. "What's the point? Why do we go through this process? What's the point?"

David Lyles, president of the Fort Worth Avenue Development Group, also spoke in opposition to the project. He asked the council to "help us enforce quality development standards," adding, "Cast your vote wisely."

But the plan had plenty of supporters too, chief among them David Marquis, who's been consulting for Sylvan Thirty. He said the project is LEED certified, has wide community support and will bring "$47 million worth of economic development in West Dallas."

"The good people of West Dallas have been neglected," he told the council, to loud applause from the audience. He asked everyone in support of the project to stand; there were easily 50 people there in favor of it, including a representative from the North Texas Food Bank, an urban planner who was also a founding member of the Fort Worth Avenue Development Group, a rep from the La Bajada Homeowner's Association and Geraldine McDaniels, an elderly woman lady in a rainbow sweater who said she's been living in the area since World War II.

"We need this in this neighborhood," she said. "Be so kind as to let us have something in the southern area."

Jackson himself stood up to say a few words, chief among them "Thank you," "God bless America," and "Yes, sir," when Rawlings asked him if the "equity is all lined up" for the project.

"We've had positive conversations with the city of Dallas," Jackson responded.

"I know," Rawlings said. "I mean private equity."

"Yes, sir," Jackson said, without elaborating.

Council members Monica Alonzo, Delia Jasso and Scott Griggs also spoke up in favor of the process, although Griggs added there's "still a lot of work to do."

"Too often, the zoning process is more like wrestling," he said. He thanked Fort Worth Avenue Development Group, the City Design Studio and Monte Anderson for sitting down with Jackson. "This application is so far from where it began," he said.

With that, persuaded by neighbors, developers and elderly ladies in excellent sweaters, the council voted swiftly to approve the project.

"Today is the first step of creating our economic driving force," Rawlings said. With Sylvan Thirty and the new Walmart, he added, "our city will have directly invested over $70 million. That's $327 million in economic impact over 10 years."

"This is huge for the city," the mayor concluded. "Let's let the dirt fly. Let's go."


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