Minutes after the Dallas Independent School District adjourned the town hall meeting over at O.M. Roberts, I headed the two miles north to my neck of the woods for a meeting of the Lower Greenville Neighborhood Association at the recently opened Watel's World Piece Café. According to the May/June newsletter that landed on porches in LGNA's territory a few weeks back, last night's meeting of the LGNA was to include the election of seven posts to the board, as well as offer attendees the chance to hear a presentation on Angela Hunt and Pauline Medrano's proposal for a Lowest Greenville planned development district that would apply to a less-than-mile-long stretch of Greenville Avenue between Bryan Street and Belmont Avenue.
With only 10 minutes until the meeting's scheduled 7 p.m. start time, and after unsuccessfully circling the block to find a nearby parking spot, I decided it'd be easier to just drive the four blocks home, ditch my car, grab my bike and pedal over to Watel's. Thankfully, I did just that, because while cruising west on Oram Street just around the corner from Watel's, I coasted by Avi Adelman. We figured Adelman would be at the meeting, because, well, he's kinda involved in the Lower Greenville neighborhood.
Now, it should be noted, that until yesterday I'd yet to meet the Barking Dog. But I'd seen the videos and read his Web site long enough to recognize the DailyCrimeReport-mobile when I pedaled past it, so I waved down Adelman and introduced myself.
"On your way to the meeting?" I asked. Adelman's response was that he'd already been to Watel's but was now headed home.
"They kicked us out before the meeting even started," he said.
Adelman mentioned something about being told it was a "private party," and that since he wasn't a member of LGNA he was told to vamoose. So with minutes to spare until 7, Adelman gave me his card and told me to call him after the meeting.
Patricia Carr, LGNA president, called the meeting to order, while Rene Peeters and his World Piece crew started passing out tray after tray of delicious samples from the café's menu.
The first half of the meeting was devoted to the board elections, which went smoothly and included lots awkward slow claps as folks' positions on the board were approved.
Next up it was time for LGNA's crime watch coordinator Darren Dattalo's presentation about the planned development district.
"I won't go into the gory details," he said. "But between 1:30 and 2:20 [a.m.] it's not a safe place."
Dattalo said that the PD seeks to make the area a "safer" place by, in a nutshell, making it a pain in the ass for "bad apple" bars to keep their doors open late. Or, maybe, not at all.
He said the city has already tried "all sorts" of code enforcement and zoning methods to crack down on these "bars operating as restaurants," but that nothing has been successful. Dattalo said that if the proposed PD is adopted by the city council the way that Hunt and Medrano are proposing, any business open past, say, midnight, would have to obtain a specific use permit from the city, which, he explained, will run the businesses about $1,500 to $3,000 in legal prep work, attorney fees, etc. And, of course, the city can just refuse the SUP to businesses that regularly attract problems. (It should be noted that the exact time that these businesses could be forced to close still seems up for debate, because a little later Dattalo said, "It could be 11:30, 11, or 1.")
The existing businesses, he said, will have to "prove that they are a good neighbor." That shouldn't be too hard, he assured the audience, because "the truth is there are only three or four businesses that are causing all the problems."
When it came time for the question-and-answer session following Dattalo's presentation, most of the questions seemed to be from folks wanting to stay "in the loop" on the proposal, and many asked when they could go to the council to speak out about the troublemaking businesses. Most folks just nodded in agreement, sipped on wine and munched on the samples.
The only real, well, controversial moment came when some folks wanted Dattalo to name names on these "bad bars." He opted not to: "We already have someone in the neighborhood naming names, and we wouldn't want to get into that."
After the Q&A session and meeting were adjourned, I wandered over to Dattalo's table. I asked him what the LGNA's vision for the Lower Greenville area was if these SUPs successfully pushed all the trouble spots out and left even more for-lease signs in the neighborhood. His answer was that the "future is hard to determine."
"A clear vision for the future is probably something that needs to be discussed," he said, then added that "until the crime problem is solved" and the "numbers are lower" it'll be hard to have a solid vision for the future.
About that time Carr approached the table where Dattalo and I sat chatting. I asked Carr about the Avi situation that transpired before I arrived, but she declined to comment. I knew Adelman would comment, so I rode my bike on over to his house for a late-night chat.
Though we'd rather not get into a he-said-she-said back-and-forth, Adelman said he was told to leave because he wasn't a member, and Adelman said that Carr told him the meeting was for voting members. Adelman said he sent in his dues to the LGNA by certified mail, but the check has yet to be cashed, and Carr told him that his membership was "under advisement."
At some point, voices were raised, and there may have been some mention of calling the police. Which is when I spotted Adelman on his way home.
This afternoon I placed a call to Carr. I told her that I'd heard Adelman's side and I wanted to see if she'd comment to shed a little more light on the LGNA's reasons for, well, whatever went on just before the meeting got underway.
Here's what I got: "I will say this. They were already there when I arrived, and I said they were certainly welcome to stay and observe, but I told them that we were having a vote and that they were not members so they couldn't vote. I invited them to stay as residents of the area, and that was not acceptable to Avi and Diana."
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I asked Carr about Adelman's claim that he'd tried to pay his dues twice.
Carr's response: "They did mail in checks, but the board decided to take the matter under advisement. We decided we would wait until the next meeting of the board."
Carr said she "hates" that this kind of thing happened, because it's these sorts of "little squabbles" that gives the area a bad reputation.
"We certainly would have wanted to hear input and insight from those who live in Lower Greenville," Carr said. "We definitely would have welcomed their participation in that discussion."