Put down your Angry Birds Seasons, it's time for the City Plan Commission public hearing! Today the big item on the agenda is the rezoning of Lower Greenville into a Planned Development District that would require businesses to obtain specific use permits if they want to remain open past midnight. This is all in an effort to de-crapify the neighborhood of smutty bars, rowdy clientele and other forms of general assbaggery that make the place inhospitable to, say, folks that don't fancy a chance at getting shot. Of course, council proposers Pauline Medrano and Angela Hunt put it a little differently, but you get the gist. (Those of you playing along at home will remember that this is pretty much exactly what happened with Deep Ellum years ago, with the two nightlife neighborhoods swapped roles.)
The CPC kicked off the meeting a few minutes after 1:30 p.m. with slew of items that invited neither discussion nor much questioning from the members. It's exceedingly hard to hear in here today -- sounds like the microphones are turned way down or off, so I'll try my best to keep my ears on high alert. Or just come down front and correct me -- I'm in the third row, dressed pretty much like Stevie Nicks.
All right. Let's do this.
The first item to invite any kind of debate concerned a Parks and Recreation Department application to expand development at the corner of Hillcrest Road and Churchill way, including recreation center. A smartly dressed neighbor named Eric Gachman spoke against the expansion, complaining that it would increase noise and traffic in the area.
A couple of suits spoke in favor, saying essentially, yeah, that's not going to be a problem, before CPC member Sally Wolfish asked a pertinent question in light of this year's budget cuts, wondering "why we're expanding rec centers when there's a real issue on whether or not we can continue to operate what we have?" Nobody seemed to have an answer at the moment.
The CPC moved on to the consent agenda, approving items concerning retirement housing at Bank Street and Gurley Avenue in Jubilee Park, a Faith Family Academy charter school near R.L. Thornton south of West Kiest Boulevard, and a mixed use development at Malcom X Boulevard at Dawson Street. There were speakers in opposition of all three, so consent was revoked and ears opened.
First up, was a white-haired Jubilee Park resident named John Wolf who's confused about the rezoning there. He said he represented a group of residents who met and that "the sense of the meeting was that everybody thought the retirement village was a good idea, there's a concern about traffic in the area." He asked for "more transparency" and "concern for how it impacts the neighborhood and the traffic," feeling as if the residents were not consulted about the changes. His concerns were echoed by another resident who says they "have no idea what that means," referring to the rezoning plan, and complaining about existing traffic already being bad on Bank Street. "There are no signs out there," she said, asking again for "more transparency" in the plans.
Then it was Michael Coker's, the representative for the Jubilee Park Community Center Corporation, turn to speak up against his opponents and clarify. All parking will be on the site of the new retirement village, he says, and it's really just combining some individual lots into one tract of land. "I agree the streets are narrow there," he says, but the additional 24 units "will not create very much traffic at all."
CPC member Ann Bagley wondered where the signs advising of zoning changes were, exactly? "We had postings on both the Bank and the Gurley sides," said Coker. But John Wolf shook his head at this. She then asked about community meetings with residents, to which Coker says "we would never even have submitted the application for this year had we not had the support of Jubilee." More head shaking from the opposition.
Where will the residents come from for this new retirement community, asked CPC member Liz Wally, to which Coker said: mainly from the community, but there are 24 units, and we'd like them all to be full.
More concerns about transparency from the CPC came from Myrtyl Lavallaisaa, who wanted to question the Jubilee Park residents about just where these signs and public meetings were. They tell her: we don't know. We never saw them. There was a meeting last Tuesday, but it wasn't sufficient.
Wolf piped in with, "There's a lot of suspicion in the neighborhood as well as with the business owners as to what the real plan is" for the area. He said residents were concerned that this whole ordeal was "a guise for a land-grab" and that "it looks like Jubilee Park is destined to become Uptown."
Vice Chair Michael Davis is not impressed by this lack of notification of rezoning, questioning the business owner who spoke up: "You haven't seen anything in the last month?" in the way of rezoning notices. Nope, says the business owner. Nada.
Liz Wally is kind of not buying it: "are you connected at all in the community?" because Wally's been to some meetings at a church there. Another resident supports the business owner: "I have not heard of any meetings." Wally says she's just trying to clear up confusion, figuring who's been talking to who in the neighborhood and at what meetings.
Davis believes we should trust the residents who say they didn't receive notices and take them at their word. Join me in the comments to find out kind of what really happened, maybe, sort of.
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