What is probably the biggest rezoning case since the failed Caruth Homeplace application went before the City Plan Commission Aug. 27, when the Cityplace development site at North Central Expressway and Haskell/Lemmon came up for proposed modifications.

At press time, it appeared the application would receive unanimous Plan Commission approval.

Technically three separate applications, the rezoning involves placing the east (existing) tower site in one planned development district (“PD”), the west (vacant) tower site in another, and the surrounding 160-acre tract in a third PD.

The proposal calls for the existing tower site, owned by Southland Corp., to have its maximum allowable floor area reduced by more than 10 percent. The proposal also calls for a reduction in the maximum allowable stories, with certain required, developer-funded traffic improvements eliminated as unenforceable.

The west tower site, along with the larger tract, is now owned by the Cityplace Company, a separate entity from Southland. The west tower site will not change radically from its current zoning, although it will be placed in a separate PD.

However, traffic improvements will be required as certain levels of development are reached. The property owner also is working on a “TIF”, or tax increment financing district, to fund the required infrastructure improvements to the hoped-for increase in property-tax revenues from the site, a vehicle successfully used in the State-Thomas area.

The third, and by far largest tract, referred to as PD 305, will be amended to reduce maximum floor area by 30 percent, amend the parking requirements and the site’s Traffic Management Plan.

Also, the Oak Lawn landscaping and parking requirements will be adopted for the site. Building heights will be reduced in the interior, “mixed-use” areas, and slightly increased (in line with updated Development Code standards) in the exterior residential zones.

The purpose of these changes is to provide greater flexibility for the area’s eventual development. The vastly overbuilt Dallas office market rendered the current plan obsolete. The changes also will respond to the comparatively greater market demand for residential and retail development.

In fact, some big-name retailers are considering occupying a projected “power center” at the southeast end of the site. The success of the State-Thomas area’s Meridian apartment project, as well as other inner-city multifamily projects, also has inspired greater confidence in that market.

Of course, market conditions also will dictate a gradual approach to property development, with not much dirt flying right away, except probably in the retail area. A large portion of the land may even be “warehoused” as a driving range until commercial construction becomes feasible.

SWISS ZONING APPROVAL EXPECTED: The apartment building renovation at Swiss and Moreland was scheduled to be heard by the City Council Aug. 26. This previously reported zoning case involved a neighborhood and a developer encouraged to work together toward a compromise for all concerned on the property’s renovation.

As a result, the developer and the neighbors were able to achieve a plan taking a vacant, boarded up former drug house and turning it into an asset to the community.

At press time, Council approval was expected.

TREE ORDINANCE III: The much-debated proposal for a tree preservation ordinance has been referred to a task force to be comprised of Zoning Ordinance Advisory Committee members, builders and property owners, and representatives of neighborhood and environmental groups.

Extensive public input so far has failed to bring about consensus, even on whether there should be such an ordinance, much less what provisions it should contain.

Supporters and opponents have accused each other of not seeing the forest (either environmental protection or economic feasibility, depending on your point of view), for the trees.

While referring a difficult issue to a “task force”, where it could languish for months, is a classic bureaucratic response to a controversy, community and ZOAC support seems to exist for some form of tree ordinance.

DRY OVERLAY VOTE: The East Dallas dry overlay proposal finally appears to be approaching a vote. The proposed overlay district, which would require businesses selling alcohol within a limited portion of Old East Dallas to obtain a Specific Use Permit, is scheduled for consideration by the Plan Commission Sept. 24 and City Council Oct. 21.

The plan faces an uphill battle at the Commission, where a vocal faction is openly hostile to City use of land-use regulation to control the negative impacts of alcohol-related businesses.

Opposition appears to stem from philosophical, as well as economic and business grounds, and has so far given short shrift to neighborhood pleas for assistance.

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