Deadlock derails D-1; vote moves to Council

For months, City staff and a majority of the Commission wanted to delay consideration of the D-1

On Jan. 21, the City Plan Commission finally acted on the long-awaited East Dallas Dry Overlay (“D-1”) proposal, which would govern liquor establishments in the neighborhoods through zoning.

For months, City staff and a majority of the Commission wanted to delay consideration of the D-1, pending Texas Supreme Court litigation on the South Dallas D-1.

But residents of the northern portion of Oak Cliff, which also is seeking a D-1 for their area, decided to go forward, apparently sensing they had enough votes to pass the proposal.

So City staff placed both the Oak Cliff and the East Dallas D-1 proposals on the agenda.

The Oak Cliff D-1 was considered first, and it passed by a strong majority. Supporters of the East Dallas D-1 hoped the same coalition would hold for them.

But when the East Dallas D-1 was considered, some Commissioners expressed concern about what appeared to them to be a patchwork of areas covered by the district – appearing similar to “spot zoning”. But there was a logical explanation: The staff’s map excluded residentially zoned areas, because liquor-related uses already aren’t permitted there.

In an effort to expand the D-1 and pick up some votes at the same time, the Commissioner from Council District 14 moved to hold the proposal, allowing the staff to legally notice the expanded area and give the neighborhoods more time to get a large crowd at City Hall.

This motion failed on a 7-7 tie vote.

Next, District 2’s Commissioner moved to adopt the Plan Commission Task Force’s recommendations instead of the proposed D-1. You may recall that these staff proposals, which focused on better enforcement rather than implementing the dry overlay, were earlier rejected by the Council and sent back to the Commission.

This motion, made by North Oak Cliff’s representative to adopt the original staff-recommended D-1, also failed on a 7-7 tie.

At this point, having exhausted its options, the Commission returned to the remaining agenda. Procedurally, the staff’s original recommendation will go before Council with a Plan Commission recommendation of denial because of the tie vote.

However, neighborhood supporters of the D-1 were generally pleased to move the issue from the less-supportive Plan Commission and on to the Council, where passage is considered somewhat more likely.

Supporters will be organizing a strong push for Council approval. For more information, contact Tom Moore of the Old East Dallas Coalition, Keith Jackson of Munger Place, or Helen Swint at the Historic Preservation League.

PARKING PROBLEMS: The Zoning Ordinance Advisory Committee met Jan. 7 and adopted a staff-proposed amendment to the ordinance regarding parking on unapproved surfaces, which we normally see in the form of people parking cars on their front yards.

The proposed ordinance would expand responsibility for this violation of City code not only to the owner of the vehicle itself, but also to the owner of the property on which the vehicle is parked.

The change will provide code inspectors with additional responsible parties,which should help enforce the code. The amendment could be particularly effective when the problem occurs at apartment complexes or other multifamily housing, as well as at rental houses. Swift approval by the Plan Commission and Council is expected.

GASTON AVENUE PD: The City Plan Commission recently heard a request to amend Planned Development District No. 362, more familiarly known as the Gaston Avenue PD, between Fitzhugh and Carroll, for two “community services uses”.

The amendment was proposed by Robert Pitre, who as reported last month wants to open the Pitre Vision Home for Boys in the 1000 block of Grigsby Avenue.

The home would be a residential facility for a maximum of 12 boys between the ages of 11 and 15, referred from the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services and the Texas Youth Commission. Some might also come from foster care or be referred from DISD.

In addition, the day of the hearing, the Commission learned that another facility – this one for the care of “drug babies” (children born with the mother’s addiction or with problems from the mother’s substance abuse during pregnancy) – also wanted to locate in the PD.

The second proposed facility expects to provide care for up to 12 children, which also would have required amending the PD.

Under state and federal law, Pitre can operate his youth home by right, without changing existing zoning, with up to five boys residing at the facility. Similarly, because “drug babies” are considered to be handicapped, the proposed facility for them could house up to six children by right.

However, City staff recommended no change to the PD regulations, particularly since the PD was only recently established (in January 1992) and represents the best chance to stabilize the neighborhood and encourage renovation.

After much discussion, the Plan Commission seemed inclined to side with staff and neighborhood sentiment and decline to change the PD regulations. However, the sincerity and commitment of the proposed service providers also made a favorable impression, and the Commission finally decided to delay action for approximately four weeks to enable further discussions with surrounding neighborhood groups.

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