It’s often believed that Dallas is mostly flat, but if you travel west on Kiest Boulevard toward Mountain Creek Lake, the terrain changes and becomes a little greener, a little more picturesque. Locals refer to it as “Dallas Hill Country,” and tucked within it is a master planned community called Capella Park, home to about 250 or so households.
About 40 community members showed up Wednesday to urge the City Council to vote against Crow Holdings’ proposed 175-acre development at the south end of Capella Park that would put another warehouse complex near the neighborhood. There are already several warehouses along Mountain Creek Parkway. Colin Larsen, president of the Capella Park homeowners association, says the residents have fought five zoning cases since 2016. The development, he said, is “impulse zoning, instead of long-range planning.”
Residents have fought Crow Holding’s proposal every step of the way. Eventually, the developer reduced the size of the warehouse complex by half and left a cushion of green space between the southernmost end of Capella Park. It also included single-family and multi-family housing at the front of that 175-acre holding, and developers said they had a plan for mitigating the additional truck traffic, keeping it away from the neighborhood.
That plan was recommended for approval by city staff, but the City Plan Commission denied it, meaning Wednesday’s City Council meeting was Crow Holdings’ last chance to make its case, and it would need to convince a super majority of the council to do that. It did not. (When the plan commission denies a proposal, three-fourths of the Council must vote in favor instead of a simple majority.)
The residents who signed up to speak Wednesday mentioned many of the same things: the neighborhood already deals with nuisance from the 18-wheelers that drive to and from the existing warehouses nearby, including damage to some of the aesthetic elements of their community. They’re concerned about the additional pollution more trucks would bring, too.
“I was born in Dallas, I was raised in Dallas, went to high school in Dallas, and I bought a home in Dallas,” said Capella Park resident Shay Cathey. “I want to raise my three sons in Dallas, in our beautiful neighborhood. We’re not against development, we’re against warehouses. We are open to suggestions. We want neighbors—we just don’t want trucks in our neighborhood.”
And they didn’t feel they were being unreasonable to ask developers to build something a growing neighborhood (and the city) could use—more housing and perhaps some retail options.
Capella Park resident Cesar Reyna said that he and his neighbors recently sat down with the city’s planning and urban design staff to talk about the ForwardDallas land use plan, and what the community wanted in the future. “This isn’t it,” he said. “We need retail, we need restaurants, we need grocery stores.”
Larsen agreed, pointing out an earlier agenda item regarding a city-incentivized grocery store in an area along Simpson Stuart Road in southern Dallas, which has long been considered a food desert. “Earlier today, I heard the statement about traveling four, five, even seven miles to a grocery store? It stands for here as well,” he said.
Jackson Walker land use attorney Suzan Kedron, who represented the landowners, Merrifield Family Investments, and Crow Holdings, asked the council to delay the vote so that The Potter’s House Bishop T.D. Jakes and his team could be consulted and walked through the proposal. Jakes and the church, which is about three miles north of the proposed development, backed the Capella Park project at its onset.
“This property is 175 acres, and most of it is dedicated to residential or open spaces,” she told the council. “If industrial is not the right use, we want to know what is, and we are here prepared to work on it…Please don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.”
Councilwoman Paula Blackmon said that she felt the residents had been “very clear” about the fact that they didn’t want to live near more warehouses. “Is the community willing to sit down and have a discussion of what development looks like in your area and what it means to you, and is there a way we can engage the family and a potential developer in order to get the community to where you feel you’ve been heard, and this is the neighborhood you want to live in?” she asked Larsen.
“I can say absolutely, yes. Let’s plan together,” he responded. “That’s what we’re asking for. Let’s plan this out.” He added that the community had been sitting down with Jakes “for two years” planning single-family detached and single-family attached homes in an adjacent 85-acre property already, which means they are on board with middle-density options like quadplexes, duplexes, and townhomes.
“Are y’all committed to getting rid of these warehouses if there was a way to do that?” Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Omar Narvaez asked Kedron.
“If you could give me some time to confer with the family…I’m not going to stand before you and two weeks, two months and say I want the same plan approved,” Kedron said of the request for a delay. “That’s not what the delay is about. The delay isn’t about wasting anyone’s time. The delay is about whether we can find a way to salvage a residential plan at a minimum on the portion that we have, but I do have to confer with the family.”
Larsen told Narvaez that the community was not in favor of delaying the vote. He reiterated that the neighborhood association would be willing to talk with Merrifield Family Investments about what they would like to see, so long as the family wanted to take another look at developing the acreage.
“We would love to sit back down after this case is denied and revisit how we can work together and plan together on how to get retail and residential homes in this area,” he added. “But every time they come back to us with this plan, there are just a few less warehouses. We’re not looking for a delay just to see one or two fall out.”
Crow Holdings may not have gotten warehouses Wednesday, but if the collaboration between the Merrifield family and its neighbors in Capella Park comes to fruition, Dallas might just stand to gain a great deal of what it needs desperately: affordable housing in a variety of densities.