City Hall

Even Land John Wiley Price Sold is Controversial, at Least for Neighbors and City Council

Remember a few weeks ago when the FBI said that John Wiley Price had sold the vacant land 7001 Grady Niblo Road as part of a massive money laundering scheme? The property was at the center of another, less sensational but probably related debate over at City Hall this afternoon.

Councilman Scott Griggs gives an easy-to-understand breakdown of the plans on his website, but the basics are this: Years ago, the property, which is in a part of southwest Dallas that is still remarkably rural, was for some reason switched from single-family to multi-family zoning. It didn't really matter because no one wanted to build anything there until recently, when W.O. "Bill" Henry purchased the land and began moving forward on Patriot Ridge, a 192-unit apartment complex designed for veterans. Which caused Griggs and four other of his colleagues to ask why the hell the area was zoned for an apartment complex in the first place and, hey, maybe that should be changed.

So the item was put onto today's City Council agenda for a public hearing to decide whether to schedule a public hearing, which is exactly as ridiculously bureaucratic as it sounds. I arrived late to the council video feed, just in time to hear the developer (or his representative) warn the council not to touch his multi-family zoning. Or else.

As far as I can tell, he was the only person who spoke in favor of keeping things the same. The rest of the speakers, maybe 10 of them, were neighbors who wanted to return the area to single-family zoning.

Many of the concerns were practical. Grady Niblo Road is a two-lane blacktop that has a 90-degree turn known, ominously, as Dead Man's Curve. Increasing traffic on the street would be dangerous.

Mostly, though, neighbors just didn't want apartments.

"Veterans can live anywhere they want to," said Chris Lomax. "They don't need him to build them an apartment complex. I think (Henry)'s doing it for profit."

Matt Murrah, a Dallas Baptist University vice president and Mountain Creek resident, said neither Price, Henry, nor anyone else affiliated with the project had ever reached out to the community.

"It is just not a good fit," he said.

Others, like Bob Langford, said the whole deal, and Price's involvement in it, didn't pass the smell test.

"There's a lot of hanky-panky going on here."

It's too late to stop Patriot Ridge, but Griggs said he hopes the public hearing will encourage the developer to work with the community.

"I've extended my hand in friendship to the developer," Griggs said. "Let's talk about what's appropriate for this area in terms of zoning, in terms of traffic."

So far, though, Griggs said Henry hasn't returned his phone calls.