The edition of Park Cities People that’s hitting your lawn this afternoon includes our Voter’s Guide. We posed three questions to each of the 13 people running for the University Park City Council and the Highland Park Town Council. We asked the candidates to limit their answers to 150 words per question. But UP candidate Steve Metzger had so much to say that we couldn’t print his answers in their entirety. Luckily, there seems to be plenty of space available on the Internet.
Election Day is Saturday, and you can peruse this week’s Voter’s Guide before hitting the polls.
1. What would you ultimately like to see on the southwest corner of Daniel and Hillcrest avenues?
At present, this matter starts over again from square one with the following parties in interest with respect to the tract (which does not include the last two multifamily buildings at the corner of Haynie and Dickens):
• the developer
• the residents on Haynie and Dickens
• the owners of property in Snider Plaza
• the merchants in Snider Plaza
• Southern Methodist University
• the city of University Park
Obviously, the developer will get the first say on what it wants, expects, or desires; however, the developer does not have the final say. I personally would give the greatest deference to what happens on that property to the residents who must look at it each day and the property owners in Snider Plaza (separating out Snider Plaza parking as a different issue).
Rather than starting with specific limits, I would be most interested in viewing a proposed site plan, some rendition of the architectural design of any proposed structures, and a plan for dealing with traffic flow and parking on the site, both surface parking and any underground parking. Whatever is to occur with the site, I personally will be most concerned with any adverse impact on the current traffic and parking situation in the area and on the aesthetic quality of any structures that are placed on the property, including landscaping. I have no idea what the developer intends to present in the future, if anything.
If I had the choice, I would like to see the east side of the tract fronting on Hillcrest consist of a structure no more than four stories high with retail on the first level and either office or residential on the upper floors (similar to the West Village concept) buffered in what is currently the parking lot with a garden-home development or zero-lot-line homes no more than 35 feet in height with required parking on the site, either underground or on the interior surface. As an alternative to the garden-homes concept, either a condominium development or multifamily housing not exceeding 35 feet in height would be acceptable.
Implicit in any concept on the site is a resolution to vehicular parking on the site and no adverse effect upon the traffic patterns in the area.
2. How can the vitality and growth of SMU be balanced with the residential atmosphere of nearby neighborhoods?
My wife and I own and reside at the southeast comer of Daniel and Dublin, immediately east of Burleson Park. We built our home at that location 25 years ago and intend to continue to reside at that location. We enjoy the current proximity of the SMU campus to our location and have always recognized that one of the few opportunities for expansion of the SMU campus is to the east. In the past several years, SMU has acquired all but a few of the residential lots in the area bounded on the north by University Boulevard, on the east by Dublin Street, on the south by SMU Boulevard, and on the west by Airline Extension; I understand that of 48 lots, SMU currently owns at least 40. SMU leases the homes it owns in the area to families, most of whom may have some relationship to SMU but some who do not.
SMU, like every major university, attempted to expand its campus property over the last 20 years with its own view toward the future and in accordance with its master plan which has some flexibility. Most of my neighbors east of the campus acquired their residences knowing of the presence of SMU, at least with the suspicion that the SMU campus likely would expand to the east at some point in the future. The presence of SMU continues to provide interesting challenges for the neighborhood primarily with respect to parking, traffic patterns, and a fear of limiting market value of homes in the area.
SMU has the availability of credit or funds to purchase such property as it wishes, but a number of years ago SMU entered into an agreement with the neighborhood that resulted in a wall between Dyer and Fondren Streets providing a screening device to the neighborhood from two fraternity houses and rerouting traffic in a certain manner; that agreement and understanding also included an agreement by SMU not to acquire property east of Dublin Street (other than the lot necessary to reroute traffic and other than the lots fronting on the northern side of what is now SMU Boulevard) for a period of time that, as I recall, is at least 2015. To the extent SMU ultimately acquires or seeks to acquire additional residential property, the city of University Park could decline to rezone that property from its residential status and decline to allow its removal from the tax rolls. Obviously, the city of University Park cannot bar SMU from acquiring property or any resident from potentially selling that property to SMU or anyone else.
The neighborhood, as a whole, may also continue to engage in conversations and requests with SMU on other areas of mutual interest, including parking by students and professors off campus. I have had conversations with Dr. R. Gerald Turner on this issue, as well as construction personnel working on buildings and other matters on the campus parking within the neighborhood. It will take a coordinated effort between the neighborhood and representatives of SMU to move the parking by students and professors back to the campus. SMU should have adequate parking on the campus at present for its students and employees who should be required to park on campus in the designated spots. For example, students at the law school are given a parking permit with the payment of tuition designating an area for parking their vehicles, which largely is the parking garage at the northeast comer of Daniel and Hillcrest. In my opinion, that concept should extend to every student and employee of SMU to be required to park on SMU campus.
While my conversations with representatives of SMU concerning parking and traffic in the neighborhood have only been as a neighbor in the past, if elected to the City Council, I will attempt to push for representation of residents in the neighborhood adjacent to the campus to serve on existing committees or newly created committees to continue discussions with representatives of SMU seeking long-term resolutions of the issues that face SMU and the community together.
3. Should stores in University Park be allowed to sell alcohol? Why or why not?
I believe that those establishments located in University Park qualified to obtain beer and wine permits should be able to do so and to dispense (or sell) alcohol in compliance with state law as a “wet” community (as opposed to a “dry district”). I am in favor of allowing those businesses located in University Park to compete with businesses located in the city of Dallas. I see no reason that a resident of University Park should be required to consider his or her own selection of a restaurant, grocery store, or package liquor store outside the city of University Park.
A group that calls itself “Progress Dallas,” which apparently includes major grocery chains and restaurants, is circulating petitions to have the issue placed on the November ballots in an attempt to eliminate the patchwork of wet/dry areas in the Dallas metropolitan area. As I understand it, this initiative is in two phases, the first of which would be to seek to permit the sale of beer and wine strictly for off-premise consumption at retail establishments throughout the area. The second initiative seeks to permit the sale of beer, wine, and mixed beverages at all restaurants in the area without requiring customers in dry areas to go through the unicard system.
There are arguments on both sides of the question, but a number of areas in metropolitan Dallas have been “wet” for some time without serious incident. The primary benefit to the city of University Park would be keeping some revenue within the city. University Park has sufficient other ordinances and availability to ensure that parking lots and grocery stores, restaurants, and other likely establishments that would sell alcohol would be kept clear of trash or vagrants, which is the usual argument against the sale of alcohol. I personally would hope that the initiative appears on the November ballot to let the citizens of University Park determine their individual desire on this issue.