DISD May Still Get to Raze Historic Church, But Not Before Turning Over Financial Records

Schutze is right -- they ought to trademark it, "The Oak Cliff Way." Now, it's more than likely the  Old Oak Cliff Conservation League won't stop the Dallas Independent School Board from razing the Oak Cliff Christian Church to make way for tennis courts or an athletic field or whatever it is the district has planned for the site. But, as OOCCL past president and current attorney John McCall said after today's court hearing, "We got what we came here for -- time. Actually, we got more than what we came here for -- records."

In the end, Judge Martin Hoffman, who ended up presiding over the OOCCL's request for a temporary restraining order, didn't rule on anything. Before the hearing even began, McCall and several attorneys (including two from the DISD) met to hash out an agreement that will keep the bulldozers parked till at least February 5. That's because moments before the scheduled 4 p.m. start time for the hearing, the Texas Historical Commission sent Michael Amonett, president of the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League, a letter that reads, in part:

"The Texas Historical Commission strongly supports the church's preservation and encourages the Dallas ISD to take steps to identify ways that the building could be put to productive use. Any project that has the potential to alter any of the historic characteristics of the building may be subject to review under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act if federal funds, permits, or licenses are required."
The attorneys met for a few minutes to discuss the letter and hash out an agreement. Which is: By no later than January 29, the district must turn over to McCall financial documents that the district says will prove the property and project are being paid for with 2008 bond money. McCall and Amonett -- not to mention preservationists -- want to make sure the district isn't using federal stimulus money to eradicate the structure, a no-no if it's deemed historic. One district attorney said bond money alone "is the source of this activity."

McCall will have several days to review the material. Then, at 10 a.m. February 5, the two parties will reconvene in Hoffman's courtroom for a temporary injunction hearing. But if DISD proves it's not using a cent of federal funds on the project, then Phillips/May, which has been hired to swing the wrecking ball, can begin demolition immediately.

After the hearing, Amonett asked Katherine Seale, Preservation Dallas executive director and a member of the Landmark Commission's Designation Committee, if the city could step in. Not likely, Seale said, because there's not enough time between now and February 5 to convene the committee and begin designation proceedings. To which architect Marcel Quimby said, "If it's all bond money, then that's that."

McCall says he's happy with what he got: financial records from the district. Because, far as he's concerned, he's not at all sure DISD can prove this project doesn't have any federal dollars attached: "I don't think they'll be that clear," he says when asked what he'll do if the docs prove it's all bond money.Letter From the Texas Historical Commission

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky