Dallas Plan Commission Vote on Elm Thicket Zoning Could Set Precedent

Dallas city staff recommended approval of downzoning that opponents will continue to fight

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After years of debate and delays, a Dallas Plan Commission voted Thursday to recommend the approval of future size restrictions for new homes in the Elm Thicket neighborhood.

Opponents said the restrictions for 1,700 properties would be the largest residential downzoning in Dallas history and could set a precedent as larger new homes replace smaller old ones in many parts of the city.

“If they’re successful here, what’s to stop them from going after other neighborhoods,” opponent Jennifer Brower said.

Supporters sought the 25-foot height restriction and limit on the lot space dwellings may use as a way to curb soaring property values that are pricing some existing residents out of their existing homes.

Lifelong Elm Thicket resident Jonathan Maples said it would be a good precedent.

“It will push the city to put something in place for middle and lower-income people,” Maples said. “This has all the makings of a good western movie. You've got the colonizers and you've got the natives.”

Elm Thicket, bounded by Mockingbird Lane, Lemmon Avenue, Lovers Lane and Inwood Road near Love Field used to be a mostly African American and Latino neighborhood.

“We're not trying to keep anybody out. We're just asking that if you come to the neighborhood that you abide by the parameters that are set forth,” zoning supporter Olga Smith said.

During the years the rezoning issue dragged on, the giant new homes the legacy residents wanted to keep smaller raced ahead of the small old ones in numbers.

“The train has left the station,” Brower said. “We are the majority and our voices have not been heard but we are overwhelmingly the majority and we are in opposition.”

The opponents argue that all property owners including the legacy residents would be hurt by the reduction in property values that size limits would cause.

“New home buyers, their desires have changed so the market has to at least be current with what the current building science is and what the modern home buyer wants,” opponent Doug Brower said.

Dallas city staff recommended Plan Commission approval of the rezoning, but the Dallas City Council will still get a final say at a future meeting.

Leaders on both sides Thursday said the fight is not over.

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