WHITE ROCK RESIDENT SAYS NO TO A HIGH-RISE

Memory-having FrontBurnervians will undoubtedly remember the chatter about a possible high-rise condo situation going on around White Rock Lake. I’m guessing the chatter will continue at City Hall tomorrow, because an interested resident cc’ed the following letter to me, a handful of other media types, and everybody on the City Council. If you are similarly interested, have a read.

June 19, 2006

Bob Weiss
Dallas City Plan Commission
1500 Marilla St. 5BN
Dallas, TX 75201

Dear Mr. Weiss,

I am very concerned about the proposed high-rise project at White Rock Lake. I live in the area
(Little Forest Hills), but even if I didn’t, I would be gravely concerned about this project.

Born in Dallas, I’ve lived here most of my life. However, I lived “on the road” for four years traveling throughout North America. Seeing over 90 cities in Canada and the United States, I don’t recall anything similar to what we have with White Rock Lake and the Dallas Arboretum. Other than Fair Park, there are no things I love more about Dallas. Walking around the lake and forgetting I’m in the city is one of my greatest pleasures. Then seeing, off in the distance, downtown (where skyscrapers belong) I’m reminded I am still in the city. No tall building (of any architectural style) fits into the aesthetic of the neighborhoods or the natural environments of White Rock Lake and the Arboretum.

Many people I know (visitors and residents) have said Dallas all looks alike — that it has no personality. (Once they’ve figured out J.R.’s Dallas was just a TV show and bears no resemblance.) Then, they see where I live and White Rock Lake and think it’s the coolest! People who live in other areas of Dallas are pleasantly surprised when they “discover” the White Rock area.

Can’t we keep it the same and not ruin it with a high-rise and more high-rises that are already waiting in the wings? We’ll never be Turtle Creek like Bulldog Cunningham loves to tout. Turtle Creek is fabulous, but there can and should be only one Turtle Creek. Uptown has carved a niche for itself, and that is great, but we don’t need another uptown at the expense of something that’s already wonderful. Recently, I learned north Dallas folks think the Lakewood and White Rock areas are “granola.” While I find it funny, it’s also exciting, because Dallas is emerging with areas that each have a distinct flavor that appeals to different citizens. Personality!

Let’s face it, this project isn’t about what’s good for Dallas, its citizens, or the White Rock neighborhoods. If it were, everyone would be clamoring for the high-rise to be built in his neighborhood! It’s about a few people/companies making money off a unique view by using and damaging our public parks and neighborhoods for their personal gain.

Anything over the height and density of the current zoning will be offensive. It doesn’t suit the area even if the lake and Arboretum were not adjacent! Mayor Pro Tem (at the time) Mary Poss in conjunction with the Department of Planning and Development, appointed a 17-member steering committee to study existing conditions and make recommendations for improvements and development along Garland Road, including the area near the lake. The Garland Road Land Use and Urban Design Study, adopted by the Dallas City Council (including Gary Griffith) concluded, “the area has an excellent base to build on its existing zoning and land use.” The recommendation was: “No changes in zoning within the study area.”

A 195-foot building is huge. The Statue of Liberty is only 151 feet from the tip of her toes to the top of her torch. A 195-foot structure will cast an afternoon shadow nearly all the way to Casa Linda Shopping Center!

The developer asking for a variance for the building to cover 80% of the land is completely asinine. (Have you visited the proposed location to see how small the site and the road in front of it are?)

He also wants the required amount of parking lowered by 20%. What?! By not providing enough parking they will send workers, visitors and residents to park on already crowded streets and into White Rock Lake Park. Any given Saturday morning you can barely get up or down Emerald Isle as it is. This area is already highly congested, and the Arboretum is about to have a parking crisis, as their off-site parking deal has fallen through. Where will all these cars go?

Not only do I not want to look at a tall building or live through the hell that will be the construction process, I am concerned about the dangerous precedent it will set for more high-rises to follow.

Once that building goes through, the lake will be forever changed, and ruined — there goes the neighborhood. I make a decent living, and I’m having a hard time paying my property taxes. I think this building will raise my property values/taxes (while lowering property values of those in the direct shadow of the tower). My neighborhood is already being devoured by developers — it will turn into a feeding frenzy. Very sad, since there isn’t another neighborhood like it in Dallas. Our conservation campaign slogan “Keep Little Forest Hills Funky” rings true — it is funky… in a good way.

In 2000, it was voted “Best Neighborhood” by the Dallas Observer readers. Here’s what the Observer said about it,

“A secret, a jewel, a hidden paradise: Around Lakeland and Ferguson Road in East Dallas, downhill from the grand manses of Forest Hills, Little Forest Hills is a quirky, delightful architectural mélange that looks as if it were spun of Berkeley, Seaside, Charlevoix, and an all-cousin East Texas trailer park. Built long ago as summer cottages for city dwellers, the idiosyncratic little hand-built houses were all throwaways 15 years ago. Now hip people are coming in and giving many of them a very cool flair to be found nowhere else in the city. Two shady creeks and even a little-known summer camp hidden in the bottom of a hollow make this a refuge where you can forget you even know about the rest of the city.”

Other concerns of mine are traffic and infrastructure and their costs. A project of this size will increase traffic congestion and likely result in:
– construction, paid for by taxpayers, to update infrastructure for roads, water, sewer, and power.
– additional traffic light on Garland Road (it’s already a traffic nightmare).
– additional “cut through” traffic in neighborhoods (this is already bad enough).
– inhibited access to/from SE section of White Rock Lake and Winfrey Point –Emerald Isle is the ONLY EXIT from this section of the lake and from Winfrey Point!
– blockage of lanes on Garland Road and Emerald Isle, and parking (of construction vehicles, workers, etc.) on White Rock Lake Park property during construction

Please do not let the White Rock area be ruined on your “watch.” After the Forward Dallas debacle of asking for citizens input and then blatantly ignoring it — well, let’s just say that most people I’ve come in contact with are fed up, and if our voices continue to be ignored we’ll be looking for a changing of the guard at election time. Aren’t you glad you’re appointed?! Ha ha. Thanks for reading.

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