Years of Debate to Boost Dallas Trees and Parks Advances at City Hall

Developers say new fees will hike prices for home buyers

Years of debate on measures to boost Dallas trees and parks moved forward at City Hall Wednesday with City Council briefings on the progress.

Dallas Builders Association leader Phil Crone said home buyers will pay for the changes.

“The common thread of this is the fact that, it’s going to come out of the pocket of property owners and future property owners, homeowners, in the southern sector where the vast majority of the development has yet to come,” Crone said.

According to information from the City of Dallas on the proposed Park Land Dedication Ordinance, existing Southern Dallas neighbors are fairly well served with parks. It is North Dallas and parts of central Dallas where redevelopment is happening that have the greatest lack of parks.

On the edge of downtown, The Cedars neighborhood is seeing rapid re-development with apartments and townhomes but the area has no parks.

“It is an opportunity right now and we have to be creative right now, we have to have a bigger vision,” said park activist David Marquis. “Ask yourself what is the most valuable real estate in New York City? It's across from Central Park. Parks create tax base.”

The Park Dedication Ordinance would impose fees on developers who do not donate land for public parks. The proposed fee is $1,165 for a single family home, $457 for 1 bedroom units in a multi-family development and $500 per hotel or motel room.

Councilman Tennell Atkins said he is concerned that the extra fees will discourage developers from building lower cost affordable housing.

“You going to punish them,” Atkins said. “I can’t get them to afford to build it, because that’s an additional fee.”

Councilman Philip Kingston said affordable neighborhoods deserve to have parks, too. He pointed out that Plano has a park dedication ordinance and that city seems to attract development.

“We built out the city without thinking adequately about parks and there’s no reason we have to keep doing that because we did it in the past,” Kingston said.

North Dallas Councilman Lee Kleinman said land is more expensive in many of the areas where parks are most needed and the dedication fees may fall short.

“To me it doesn’t achieve the goals of acquiring, at least in North Dallas, of acquiring park land,” Kleinman said.

The Tree Preservation plan would adjust and toughen an ordinance first approved by the City of Dallas in 1994.

Arborist Steve Houser and former Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce President Bob Stimson have been negotiating the details for 13 years.

“It protects more trees. It protects bigger and better trees. It gives developers all sorts of incentive to build in a greener, more sustainable fashion,” Stimson said.

Houser said the changes would discourage severe damage to trees like a situation that occurred in a Northwest Dallas neighborhood last year. A property owner drastically trimmed 75 live oaks, supposedly to improve visibility at the location. Houser said at the time it was deadly damage to the trees, but the city rules left the issues unclear. New language is very clear.

“It will be less likely, particularly because of the significant amount of fees that you’re going to have to pay,” Houser said.

Most Dallas City Council Members were supportive of the changes at briefings Wednesday. Final votes are expected in June before a July Dallas City Council recess.

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