DALLAS — Despite a flood of opposition letters in Dallas City Council inboxes and over a dozen opposition speeches by residents and the Oak Lawn Committee representative, the Lincoln Katy Trail project by council was approved on April 28. The only two council members who voted to oppose the project were councilmen Omar Narvaez and Adam Bazaldua.
Narvaez cited environmental reasons for why he wouldn’t support the project, saying losing nearly 100 trees “in one swoop” would be hard on the environment. He also said the affordable housing options “come up too short.”
“The affordable housing is only 8%, and the affordable housing was not at the 51% to 60%, or 61% to 80% of area median income (AMI), so there's no workforce housing in here. It's only 8% at the 81% to 90%,” Narvaez said. “Zoning issues, especially when they become this impactful to a neighborhood, are always difficult. Every single one of us has been through it and none of us enjoys it, but that's part of our job is trying to navigate and come up with the best decision possible.”
Bazaldua echoed Narvaez, and was less than impressed with the amount of affordable housing the developer, Lincoln Property Company, was offering.
“This is honestly, in my opinion, a lot of why we have a lot of work to do when it comes to affordable housing in our city. We can make policy, we can have policy on a piece of paper, and we can either adhere to it or not. If we choose not to and allow for the developers to dictate what affordable housing looks like in our city, then we will continue down the same path that we're in, and I don't think that that helps any of the working class income move into this neighborhood,” Bazaldua said. “I know that there's a lot of history in the case and I know that there's definitely in my inbox alone, a lot of opinions of both in favor and in opposition, so I can only imagine what my colleague Mr. [David] Blewett has experienced, with it being in his district. However, I don't believe that this goes along with what we have said our commitment to the affordable housing policy would be in holding the developers accountable to what our expectations are.”
District 14 Councilman David Blewett said Lincoln Property Co. has been a “longtime developer” in Dallas, with a “multi-decade track record of building high quality properties.” He said because LPC has funding in place, there’s no concern of them actually completing the project. Blewett also noted the currently property that was built in 1964, Turtle Creek Terrace Condominiums, is in need of maintenance, with current residents concerned about paying for the upkeep.
“A new developer with the resources and a plan to accomplish these fixes is necessary for the long-term vitality of the area,” Blewett said. "I appreciate the lengthy process that we've gone through to get this project to council in its current form and be beneficial to the community in the long term. The project is a good fit for the needs of the area. The benefits to aesthetics and area beautification, as well as increased pedestrian safety, present an important opportunity to improve one of Dallas' premier locations alongside the Katy Trail."
City Council District 14 candidate Paul Ridley sent a statement after the vote to approve the project came down, saying Blewett “ignored” the concerns of the community surrounding where the Lincoln Katy Trail project will be built.
"I voted against this project two years ago because it violates the Oak Lawn Plan — which has guided the development of Oak Lawn for 40 years — will remove 115 units of much-needed affordable housing from an increasingly expensive neighborhood and destroy a tree canopy of one hundred mature trees,” Ridley said. "The incumbent gave the developer everything they asked for, not even attempting to obtain any concessions that would make the project more compatible with the neighborhood. With approval of this one zoning case, Oak Lawn will now likely be threatened by a succession of such projects asking for high-density zoning, potentially changing forever the character and quality of life in Oak Lawn.”
Vine Condominiums HOA President Tony Page said the next step will likely be to consider litigation.