The dispute has all the trappings of a classic confrontation between a neighborhood and developers.
The neighborhood wants to protect its integrity – what its leaders call its quality of life. The developer’s plans, while entirely within the letter of the zoning law, aren’t as entirely within its spirit.
In fact, we would probably be getting ready to man the barricades with our fellow neighborhood residents in a show of solidarity – except that the neighborhood is in Far North Dallas, and the heinous developers aren’t trying to do anything more than build a movie theater.
This, needless to say, is not the sort of zoning problem that those of us in East Dallas deal with on what seems to be a daily basis. We follow zoning the way other people follow the Cowboys. Just as an example, one neighborhood sort was aghast when I told her I wasn’t on the City’s zoning changes mailing list.
Here, we use zoning laws to close crack houses and sleazy liquor stores, not to stop chains such as Cinemark from turning an empty strip shopping center into an 18-screen movie theater.
One of the great ironies of this story is that the strip center is zoned to allow three 10-story-or-more office buildings. How much worse could the theater be?
This makes it difficult, at first glance, to feel too sorry for the people who live around the site at Inwood Road and the North Dallas Tollway. After all, if Cinemark wanted to turn the old Sears store on Ross Avenue into a theater complex, the neighbors probably wouldn’t object. In fact, they’d help Cinemark sell the popcorn.
But there is more to this story than making jokes about the sort of people who live in North Dallas (no matter how much fun that is). What this story really shows is how much things have changed in Dallas. Although the dispute may seem trivial to those of us who hear gunshots late at night, it’s far from trivial in its consequences.
What Cinemark has inadvertently done is force the people in the Inwood-Tollway neighborhood to act to protect their neighborhood – the same thing we do in East Dallas with every breath. Could it be that we actually have interests in common?
This is a revolutionary concept. The people who live around the abandoned Kmart, where Cinemark wants to build the Tinseltown 18 complex, moved to that part of town for many reasons.
But one of the most important was that they didn’t want to have anything in common with us, didn’t want to face the problems we face. That area has traditionally been so quiet and residential that it’s almost suburban.
But that didn’t do them any good, did it? One day, they woke up and found out that running away didn’t help.
Nothing reveals this more than the politicians who have taken the neighborhood’s side in the dispute: the well-known neighborhood activists Steve Bartlett and Donna Blumer.
Mayor Bartlett, who lives in the Tinseltown 18 neighborhood, has said he is opposed to the development. Talk about a 180-degree turn – this is the same man who once proposed building a state prison in South Dallas, and had to back down in the face of, shall we say, vocal neighborhood opposition.
Blumer, who represents that area on the City Council, is well-known to East Dallas residents as the person who tried to take away our long-awaited branch library at Skillman and Fisher.
Her stance on the theater complex is the equivalent of two 180-degree turns – and as welcome as it is surprising.
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