It has been brought to the attention of neighborhood residents that a business named “Christy’s Toy Box” is preparing to open on Lower Greenville near McCommas.

Interested neighbors have inquired about the nature of the business, but it’s been difficult to find out much information.

However, neighbors have seen a sign posted on the door that prohibits entry by minors. The question has been raised with City staff about whether a business purportedly operating under the retail zoning on the site can restrict access, which is a way of attacking the larger issue of what kind of business will be at the location.

At press time, building permits had been secured for renovation of the retail space, but no Certificate of Occupancy had yet been issued. Further developments are expected and will be reported in this column.

HABITAT UPDATE: Habitat for Humanity’s Dallas Chapter won approval from the City Plan Commission and the City Council to construct single family houses in the neighborhood near the Cityplace Tower and a nearby development, roughly in the area around Peak Street and Roseland Avenue.

The Bryan Area Special Purpose District, which encompasses the blocks in which Habitat is working, was amended to permit single family dwellings in certain parts of its sub-areas.

Also, a number of neighborhood house lots were replatted by the Plan Commission to accommodate Habitat’s project. Because of its track record nationally and locally, the cooperation of City officials and staff was assured.

Also, in answer to an earlier concern about the East Garrett Park experience, City staff says that each new house will be sited on a lot that meets the minimum lot size in compliance with the applicable zoning. Habitat’s area activities will be a major contribution to the positive redevelopment taking place in the area.

TREE ORDINANCE UPDATE: The Zoning Ordinance Advisory Committee, a Plan Commission subcommittee of Plan Commissioners and interested citizens, voted 10 to 2 last month in favor of a proposed tree preservation ordinance.

The subcommittee worked all spring and summer on the project. The proposed ordinance is viewed as too strict by many in the business community, while some in the environmental community say it is too weak.

The ordinance includes compromises between environmental, neighborhood and business groups while taking a strong position on preserving trees and offering incentives for the planting of new trees.

But, the ordinance faces a difficult road. While the votes may be available on the Plan Commission to pass it with minor tinkering, word has it the ordinance in its present form faces stiff opposition to the City Council.

As the ordinance reaches the Plan Commission and Council, watch for a fierce debate, with intense lobbying on both sides.

ZONING CONTROVERSY: You may have heard talk lately about zoning controversy in the Junius Heights neighborhood in East Dallas. This difficult situation has received a great deal of media attention.

The non-conforming building owned by Councilman Craig McDaniel at 723 Glendale, which first raised the alarm about the non-conforming zoning in the neighborhood, was terminated by the Board of Adjustment Nov. 9.

However, at a meeting prior to this decision, the neighborhood voted 109 to 76 pursue a zoning change to correct a substantial number of non-conforming properties in the neighborhood.

By the time this column appears, the issue will have gone, yet again, to the City Plan Commission for authorization of a public hearing at the neighborhood’s request, probably to take place sometime in January.

SWISS ZONING CHANGE: At its Nov. 18 meeting, the City Plan Commission was scheduled to consider a zoning change application for two multi-family buildings located at 4417 and 4425 Swiss Avenue at the corner of Carroll Avenue.

The applicant and property owner, Braden Power, is asking for MF-1 (A) multi-family zoning on the two sites, which are now zoned R-7.5 (A) for single family houses. He is asking for the change to make the multi-family properties conforming.

The two structures have a total of 22 units and were built in 1925, along with the rest of the area.

Power has been negotiating with representatives of affected neighborhoods and has agreed to voluntary deed restrictions, which will limit the number of units on the properties to the existing 22 units.

If the deed restrictions are “public”, that is, offered to and entered into with the City of Dallas, the City ensures compliance. If the deed restrictions are “private”, then they are more in the nature of a “contract” with the neighborhood and would have to be enforced by private action of affected citizens.

Most neighborhoods prefer public deed restrictions, but the City is sometimes limited as to what it can accept into public deed restrictions.

For example, the City is reluctant to accept architectural controls in public deed restrictions.

At press time, negotiations were continuing, with the prospect of agreement appearing likely. Power also plans to pursue historic designation of the properties.

PARKING UPDATE: The City Council recently reversed the City Plan Commission and denied parking lot zoning on a single family lot located at 5113 Willis, east of Henderson Avenue.

The Plan Commission granted parking lot zoning to the applicant, despite opposition, on the theory that the lot would help alleviate parking problems in the North Henderson commercial and retail area.

The neighborhoods, however, viewed this as an intrusion of commercial zoning into a single family area, which was explicitly discouraged in the North Henderson Land Use Study covering the area.

Councilman Craig McDaniel, the area’s representative on the City Council, supported the neighborhood and led the movement to deny the application. Most of the other Council members followed his lead.

The neighborhood was not convinced that the area’s parking problem warranted additional lots. Even if parking was a problem, providing more lots so that more cars could fill up the available parking places was not the best long-term solution. The City Council apparently agreed.

Similarly, the issue of parking has long been controversial in neighborhoods along Lower Greenville, between Ross and Mockingbird.

A coalition of five Lower Greenville area neighborhood groups has petitioned McDaniel for a number of actions to alleviate the area’s continuing parking problems.

Proposed solutions include a moratorium on the paving-over of head-in parking on Lower Greenville and North Henderson, a ban on the granting of off street parking “special exceptions” on Lower Greenville, and a moratorium on bar and restaurant expansion and/or conversion on North Henderson.

The neighborhood wants these actions to remain in effect while a task force of neighborhood residential and business representatives study the overall situation and make recommendations.

Participation would also be sought from City staff and from the City Plan Commissioners representing the area. The last parking study on Lower Greenville Avenue was completed in 1986 and identified a parking deficit of 1,530 spaces.

In recent years, the City has allowed area bars and restaurants to pave over portions of the head-in parking along Greenville in order to have larger sidewalk areas, which enables them to put tables and chairs on the sidewalk for outdoor seating.

It is a little-known fact that outdoor restaurant seating has no parking requirements whatsoever. In other words, you can put tables and chairs in front of the restaurant on the sidewalk, seat dozens of people outside in Dallas’ sunny southern climate, and never have to provide a place for those people to park.

This situation lowers the number of parking spaces available, while adding to the parking problems in the area. Similar problems are beginning to surface in the North Henderson area with its recent redevelopment.