Elm Thicket Zoning Debate Could Set Precedent

Longtime residents seek limits on large new homes

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A zoning debate in a neighborhood near Dallas Love Field where big new homes tower over little old ones could set precedent for other parts of the city.

The plan includes height limits for new construction, which some long-time residents support but opponents say could reduce future property value for those families.

Dallas Plan Commissioners Tuesday took a bus tour of the Elm Thicket Northpark neighborhood which is bounded by Lemmon Avenue, Lovers Lane, Inwood Road and Mockingbird Lane.

Bessie Davis lives in a small single-story home that is now surrounded by giant new ones. A 5-unit, 3-story townhome building is on one side of her home and a large two-story home on the other.

“It cut off the view, all the way to Lover’s Lane. And I could see all the way down. And you can see they’re tall, you can’t see over them,” she said.

Elm Thicket Northpark Association leader Jonathan Maples was smoking brisket Thursday for the big Juneteenth celebration in the neighborhood Saturday.

His was traditionally an African American neighborhood that is changing fast from a place of smaller affordable homes to the much larger new ones that also boost surrounding tax values for existing residents.

“We want to have a say, a simple say in what this neighborhood looks like. We were told to live here, so don't come and say, 'Well we want it now so you guys go find someplace else to live,'” Maples said.

Maples supports the zoning case that could limit the height of new construction to 25 feet.

Opponents of the restriction that could affect more than 1,700 Elm Thicket properties say it would be the largest down zoning in Dallas history. 

The opponents argue that approving it in Elm Park could open the door to similar limits elsewhere in Dallas that limit what people can build on their property.

“The property values will go down if these zoning changes are passed and that will be a reduction in what our legacy neighbors could sell their homes for,” said opponent Jennifer Brown.

The opponents say a 25-foot limit would effectively forbid the kind of two-story homes that today’s buyers prefer.

“Shrink it down a little bit but let's not make it so you can't even build a 2-story home that an average home buyer would want to buy,” opponent Doug Brown said.

Jennifer Brown said over 600 people have joined the opposition group.

Maples said his side is also large but the case has dragged on for 5 years.

“They're the majority because this process has taken so long,” he said.

During that time, more large dwellings have been built like those that tower over Bessie Davis’ home.

“And I’m not selling,” she said. “I like this place. My husband bought it. It was a location that we liked.”

The Dallas Plan Commission is set to decide the case in July but the Dallas City Council will have the final say in the future.

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