“We’re not the easiest neighborhood to deal with,” says Vail Fassett, one of Little Forest Hills Neighborhood Association‘s co-presidents. “We’re kind of like a beehive — you stir it up and people come out.”

The neighborhood’s funky and feisty character, and its concern about the big picture of development  along the Garland Road corridor, is the reason Fassett and other neighbors have been “cautiously optimistic but vigilant” about the prospect of a new barbecue restaurant, Oasis Smokehouse, opening at the corner of Garland Road and Lakeland across from the Dallas Arboretum. The owners expected to open the restaurant in late winter or early spring, and even offered to host a soft opening for nearby residents in late February.

It’s almost April, however, and construction appears far from complete. The vigilant neighbors have notified city staff and Councilman Mark Clayton of construction and permitting missteps along the way, which likely caused some delays. And now, another big hurdle lies ahead because the owners have been trying to construct the restaurant, which is replacing two businesses (a woodyard and an automotive shop), on five or six different lots.

The property originally was platted as several 50- to 60-foot-wide commercial lots, says Santos Martinez of Masterplan Consulting, whom the owners have hired to guide them through the re-platting process. That’s problematic for Oasis because, for example, “you can’t just put a smoker on a lot by itself; it has to be tied to the restaurant,” Martinez explains. The separate lots also were impacting the restaurant design and where parking, bocce ball courts, outdoor seating and such would be located. Consolidating the lots into one will allow the owners to fulfill their vision of an indoor-outdoor Texas-style barbecue restaurant, and it won’t change any requirements about parking, buffers and screening that are in place to protect neighbors, Martinez says.

“Trying to get that vision to work on five, six different lots just proved too challenging,” he says.

Fassett says the owners attended a recent Little Forest Hills meeting to lay out their vision, and though  it “started out tense — we had some rules because we wanted everybody to behave,” the owners “were pleasant and took their time answering the questions … People did voice their concerns and they were definitely heard.”

Because Oasis’ property backs up to several residential homes on Angora, neighbors’ main concerns are that the restaurant’s patrons, noise and smoke odor will spill over onto Little Forest Hills’ streets, Fassett says. The owners alleviated those concerns, she says, by assuring neighbors that they will partner with the Dallas Arboretum to use its garage for spillover parking during peak hours; that Oasis won’t be a concert venue but simply host occasional, low-key acoustic performances; and that they will build a sound wall and face speakers toward Garland Road.

The owners also won over neighbors by bringing them menu items to sample.

“Personally, I’m a vegetarian,” Fassett says, explaining why she can’t vouch for the smoked meats, “but I was impressed with their banana pudding and their coleslaw.”

The neighbors are in touch with the owners about rescheduling the soft opening, she says, but as of now, the construction timeline is in limbo. Councilman Clayton says that despite Oasis getting off on the wrong foot with the city, “I’m optimistic that we’re going to get to a good place that will be really good for the area.”

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