A Plan Hatched by a Developer and a Politician to Grow Southern Dallas Raises Eyebrows at City Hall

A prominent developer and a state senator have carved out a section of southern Dallas they hope to see controlled by a hand-selected board with significant governmental and financial power over about 300 acres. The deal struck between developer Mehrdad Moayedi and state Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, has raised concern at Dallas City Hall, where some officials feel that the City Council was frozen out of its traditional oversight role. The council does have some say in the matter, though West has insisted the deal ought to be approved and has said he “will not be a happy camper if they can’t work this thing out.”A vote is scheduled Wednesday to decide whether the first step of the plan and its complex funding formula can move forward.West said he supports the deal because he believes creation of the so-called University Hills Municipal Management District will help bring growth to southern Dallas — a long-standing goal of city leaders.But the nature of the deal, and the way it was legislated, caught city officials off guard. Council member Mark Clayton went so far as to say it “comes across a bit shady.”"It may be the greatest thing ever, but I don't feel like it's been presented to us in the most transparent way possible," Clayton said.City officials were under the mistaken impression that a municipal management district needed the city’s backing before legislative approval. A presentation to a council committee also pointedly noted that the MMD was created “without any input or prior consent of the Dallas City Council.”West said he was certain city officials knew something and approved of the deal. Ross Martin, an attorney for Moayedi's development company, Centurion American, said they had “worked closely with” previous leaders in the city’s Office of Economic Development.But a shake-up by new City Manager T.C. Broadnax saw the senior economic development staff change earlier this year. And at the time West moved forward the legislation, he had at least one letter of support from a city official, council member Erik Wilson, who represented the area encompassing the MMD before he lost his re-election bid in June.Wilson said those critical of the process are “nitpicking” a quality development."I just find it difficult to say there was more information to be given," Wilson said. "To me, that's kind of revisionist history.”The council still has power to approve or dissolve the district. Wilson’s successor, Tennell Atkins, wants to sort through the issues and get moving.“It’s a game-changer for southern Dallas,” he said.  Continue reading...

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