Proposed Dallas Zoning Rules Worry Neighbors

City leaders want to encourage walkable neighborhoods.

The Dallas City Council is considering big zoning changes to encourage walkable neighborhoods.

City leaders say they want more areas such as West Village and Mockingbird Station, with wide sidewalks, more open space and bigger buildings that handle more people.

But the current zoning codes favor sprawling land uses with big parking lots.

"We wanted to reverse that," Dallas Planning Director Theresa O'Donnell said. "We wanted to write a code that addressed streetscape and urban form and pedestrian amenities."

The new "form-based" zoning would encourage dense urban development that brings more people into the central city near transit stations and along the Trinity River.

But dozens of residents told the City Council they fear the new rules would not provide enough protection for existing single-family neighborhoods that would be adjacent to the new developments.

"Do we have an abrupt change of use right next to each other, or do we have a slight buffer so it will not have a negative impact?" said former City Councilman Larry Duncan. "Do we have intrusive height looking down next door, or do we preserve the height slope?"

Councilman Ron Natinsky, who led a group of city officials, developers and homeowner groups in crafting the proposal, said too much regulation will keep developers from using it.

Height, proximity and size details should be left to the discretion of city council members in individual zoning cases instead of being dictated in the zoning law, he said.

Another group of developers and homeowner groups drafted a compromise that calls for keeping some of the older zoning rules on height and proximity to existing homes in the new plan.

All sides said they want to see a growing transit network attract more developments such as Mockingbird Sttion.

"It gives it a different feel to it, but really brings it into being a world-class city," Mayor Tom Leppert said.

Leppert urged the two sides to work out their differences before the final vote, which is scheduled for next Wednesday.

Here's a link to the briefing material from Wednesday's City Council meeting:

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