The extended saga of “dry overlay” districts continues this month, with East Dallas’ proposal proceeding on its own track. As previously reported, the use of a dry overlay district, simply stated, would apply a zoning district requiring a Specific Use Permit for all alcohol-related businesses.

The concept was first proposed and applied in the South Dallas and Fair Park area. Then-Councilman Diane Ragsdale and her constituents supported the proposal as a way to control what they saw as a large concentration of “bad neighbor” liquor-related businesses in their neighborhoods.

The proposal wound up in court and is now on appeal to the Texas Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the East Dallas dry overlay is being reviewed by a City Plan Commission task force. The committee has been focusing on operational, licensing and enforcement issues, which many in the community believe are inadequate tools to address their concerns. These people believe neighborhoods should instead have direct input into the siting of such businesses separate from operations and enforcement.

Muddying the waters is another City Council group, which is meeting to discuss modifying the South Dallas “D-1” district to better accommodate “good neighbor” businesses. The Council directed this group to focus only on South Dallas, but any criteria established by this group may affect other portions of the City.

Meanwhile, the East Dallas community continues to lobby for land-use controls, hoping that public hearings can influence the process. It probably will be several months before a final proposal takes shape. Give me a call at 520-2040 with your comments.

UPDATES: Following up on items from previous columns, the City’s proposed tree preservation ordinance was again discussed by the Zoning Ordinance Advisory Committee last month. Discussion focused on whether the ordinance should apply to existing residential uses; whether trees should be protected by species, size or both; methods of measurement; and a number of technical issues.

The committee voted to ask City staff to clarify these and other issues before bringing the ordinance back to the committee. No timetable was established for this work.

It seems likely the proposal, in some form, eventually will be approved, but there is likely to be plenty of debate prior to adoption.

Last month, this column reported that a Specific Use Permit for a child-care facility was requested at 817 Martinique, south of Lindsley. Earlier this month, the Plan Commission denied the application, based primarily on staff and Commission recommendations that the site was inappropriate for a use that would generate too much vehicular traffic. At press time, it was not known whether the applicant would appeal to the Council.

MULTIFAMILY REQUEST: Last month, the Plan Commission heard a request for a zoning change from R-7.5 (A) (single-family on a three-quarter-acre lot) to MF-1 (A) (low-density apartments) for the east corner of Worth and Alcalde streets. The site is a non-conforming vacant apartment complex.

The staff recommended that the case be taken under advisement pending discussions with the City Housing Department.

The applicant has requested rehabilitation funding from the City. As often happens in older, inner-city neighborhoods, the competing interests here appear to be those of good planning for the adjacent single-family neighborhoods (as advocated by the neighborhood and Planning Department) versus the City’s need for more low- and moderate-income multifamily housing, as its May 11 meeting to study the matter more thoroughly.

One issue that may become controversial is whether the proposed ordinance should apply to residential property as well as commercial property. As the ordinance is drafted, only commercial properties are affected.

The Advisory Committee meeting is open to the public and is scheduled at 1:30 p.m. May 11 in Room 6E S of Dallas City Hall, 1500 Marilla. Contact City planner Ray Couch (670-4133) for information.

NON-CONFORMING DELAYS: Last month, I reported that City staff was proposing changes to the procedure for terminating non-conforming uses at the Board of Adjustment. Prior to the Zoning Advisory Committee’s consideration, City staff concluded additional study time was necessary.

Some neighborhood activists already had contacted staff members to express their concerns regarding any procedures that might reduce the power of adjoining property owners to take action to terminate non-conforming uses.

Although this issue may sound relatively obscure, it is important in allowing neighborhoods to close obnoxious and intrusive land uses, such as lead smelters and crime- and violence-infested bars and motels.

As developments occur, we’ll let you know.

WHITHER DART AND EAST DALLAS: The latest allegations and controversy surrounding DART bear close attention, because they may impact land use, growth and development in East Dallas.

After years of struggling, East Dallas neighborhoods fronting North Central Expressway believed they had won an important victory – not only with the current Texas Highway Department design for Central, but especially with the DART subway tunnel from Mockingbird to Downtown.

Many inner city activists believe it is time for DART to begin its rail-line construction. To the extent the latest controversies delay construction, related planning issues for East Dallas will be impacted.

While DART has had its share of problems and missteps, many in local government have never accepted the legitimacy of the regional transit authority and its plans, and these same people may have other agendas behind the surface of the newspaper stories.

This issue will have a big impact on East Dallas’ future.

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