Conservation Nazis wasting their time in Northwest Dallas.
The thing about Northwest Dallas that I
love most is the variety of people and the comfortable neighborhoods West of Midway. There aren't any little quaint cottages left over from the 1920's or
1930's to preserve or conserve. There wasn't anything up here until the
mid-1950's. Much of our good stuff is north of Walnut Hill and didn't get
developed until the mid-1960's. Although ranch style is pretty much the
common denominator, you would be hard pressed to find any neighborhoods where
there was a "typical" house.
My neighborhood is not the most modest in Northwest Dallas, but it certainly is
not upscale. It's comfortable, affordable and very livable. Most houses are one-story, but there are some two-stories. From block to
block, houses vary in size and style - but all have brick veneer. East of us, there are completely different types of houses. Many
are small frame houses on small lots. North of us, the houses
are more expensive and bigger on larger lots. That's where
some new homes are being built. Not quite the McMansions we see East of
us on Walnut Hill, but elegant two-story, stone-facade mini-McMansions that
worry a few people in Northwest Dallas.
Anytime someone wants to build on the land they bought and
build a new home ( they aint going to build an old home now, are
they??) it is a monetary improvement for the whole area.
Admittedly, the new look can
ruin the ambiance of the older homes but that's
like saying," Don't allow new families in
with small children as they will turn a nice quite
neighborhood into a loud(er)
True as that is, it's
The idea should always be to
make the area more economically enhanced.
If it goes the other way,
you then invite Sec 8 BS.
Below are some e-mail exchanges going around to give you a feel for the conflict
brewing between those who want to stop improvement in our area, and those who
believe in property rights:
Everyone should be aware of Mike McCue's efforts to form a
conservation district in the area. Mikes a really nice guy, but
personally I'm against his efforts. When there was a push to form a
home owners association two years ago emotions ran quite high. This
conservation push far exceeds what was discussed then. It boils down
to personal tastes dictating what you and your neighbors can and
cannot do with your own personal property. This is really serious!
Our neighborhood is hot for builders. I don't want the area to look
like tasteless Plano construction, but in the end a conservation
district will make selling your home more difficult, and you'll
wonder why the guy a few blocks over got $20K more than what you're
asking. There's one constant...change.
Suggested restrictions from the last meeting were, but not limited
to: No more two story homes, new construction to be limited to
brick, Composite or composite looking roof only, no carports, no
alley entrance, single hung front doors only, color restrictions, no
large tree removal, foot print of new home construction not to
exceed 25% of the lot, no attached garages can be made into living
quarters. These were suggestions by those attending the meeting.
McCue here from the Neighbors of Midway Hollow group.
I wanted to clarify a few misconceptions about the conservation
district that the neighborhood is trying to get approved.
The conservation district ('CD') process is a very democratic one.
ALL neighbors will have a say in what new
standards we want for new construction and renovations. When we
get the feasibility study completed by the city,
the city will mail postcards inviting every household in the
proposed CD to attend a series of meetings run by members
of the Department of Development Services. Neighbors will decide
what new standards they want and then
ALL neighbors will get to vote via private ballot to determine if a
majority of the neighborhood approves.
As far as restricting property rights, Dallas already has a Code
Compliance department that ensures our neighbors
mow their grass, paint their homes, limit outside storage and keep
litter and debris from collecting. Zoning is in place
to protect our homes. Many residents of Midway Hollow, as well as
16 other neighborhoods in Dallas that have CDs,
believe that the current zoning is not protective enough of the
property rights of the existing homeowners.
This is not just a money issue, this is about neighbors and the
quality of life of the people that call Midway Hollow home.
I urge you all to learn about the CD process and attend our next
meeting this Thursday, 7/26. See attached newsletter.
The neighborhood isn't trying to get a CD approved. It's a
small group headed by you that is trying to convince the
neighborhood a CD is necessary to preserve the 'quality of life'.
I just happen to think you're wrong. That's what the democratic
process it all about...
I agree with Gary's opposition to conservation districts.
There was a time when it took almost 75% of area homeowners
supporting a CD before it would get past P&Z and the council. Now, a
handful of "connected" homeowners can inflict their will on the rest
of the neighborhood.
Greenway Park is a very affluent neighborhood. A few homeowners who
were close to former Councilwoman Veletta Lill wanted a conservation
district. Only 51% of the homeowners supported that CD, but they
were able to force their will on the other half.
A CD should be about preserving distinctive architecture, like the M
Street cottages. Houses in Northwest Dallas are nice, but I've not
seen any historically or architecturally significant. Trying to use
a CD to keep out expensive infill single-family homes is
I will fight hard to keep our
neighborhoods single-family -- to prevent any rezoning to allow for
multi-family. Still, it is wrong to
tell someone what kind of single-family home they can build on THEIR
property. So long as a single-family home is built inside front,
side and back yard setbacks, it should not matter what kind of
single-family home they want to build. Several
houses in my neighborhood are 2-story, but most are 1-story.
There is a wide variety of sizes.
The neighborhood north of us has a
similar mix of 2-story to 1-story homes. Now,
they also have some new 2-story homes with beautiful stone facades.
They look different from ranch style
houses, but they are gorgeous. Styles
change, and people want different looks than what was built 50 years
ago. My house is 50 years old, and I
love it, but I would not build a new house
like it. I certainly would not
insist another property owner replace
their house with a replica of my house or their current house.
Rather than fear investment in our neighborhoods, we should be
grateful our neighborhoods are not declining, that younger people
want to build THEIR DREAM HOME near us. It's
their property. It's their dream home.
Conservation Districts always wind up being controlled by a handful
of little dictators.
Quality of life cannot be controlled by limiting what kind of house
someone builds on a property in your neighborhood. It may keep your
property values down in a vain attempt to keep your taxes down.
If that's your goal, you will
wind up with a deteriorating neighborhood and you will still have
higher property taxes.
So far, we don't have any vacant lots in Bradford Estates.
Many houses are for
sale due to subprime financing to people who should have
never qualified to buy those houses. Our
homes would sell faster without some of our current owners who are
backwards in their mortgages. They
can't afford their mortgage and can't take care of their home or
yards. Their only hope to come out
whole would be for someone to buy their house and land for a
rebuild. Their houses are 50+ years
old and have not been maintained. I
would be thrilled if a developer came in and bought them out of
their problem and built a new two-story house on the lot.
This is all much ado about nothing. Many in-fill McMansions are not
selling right now with the glut of available houses on the market.
If they aren't selling, developers are going to scale back on new
construction for several years.
If Mike's group is typical of most neighborhoods, the majority of
the other property owners are not involved and unaware of what is
about to happen to them. Part of that is their own fault for being
so apathetic, but they should not have their property rights limited
because a few have the misconception they can keep their property
taxes lower if they control what someone else can be build in their
We are one house away from the new development where the stone
fa?de houses are located. Eventually they will open our dead end
and put 5 houses in a cul-de-sac. While we have enjoyed having the
field next to us for 39 years, we welcome the new development. We
would rather have that than decay. We will argue with the appraisal
district and show them pictures of the new and our older homes, if
they get too crazy with their assessments. If we have to eventually
give up our home because of age or illness, the increased property
value will bring needed funds when we have to sell our home.
Barbara and I live West of
Midway Hollow, in two very different neighborhoods. Hers is due North of
us across Walnut Hill. The homes nearest Webb Chapel are large and
beautiful. The homes nearer Brockbank are smaller and more modest.
There is distinct difference in the income level.
What we all have had in common in the area between Midway and Brockbank
(East/West) and Northwest Highway and Royal Lane (North/South) is
coordination between our various crime watch groups and our
opposition to sexually oriented businesses in and around our area. We have
a great e-mail network to share reports of criminal activity or trends, so we
know what's going on. Like most community organizations, interest and
participation ebbs and flows. Almost always, a handful of people do all
the work. Another truism is that the larger the organization, the more
work is required, but the volunteerism does not go up proportionately.
That's why a handful of people can have an inordinate amount of power and
influence with elected officials.
There are many new McMansions on Walnut Hill. Some are enormous, and
you have to wonder why anyone needs a house that big. Who cares?
It's their property. It's their money. Some of the new houses really
are just large two-stories with wonderful stone facade and heavy wood trim.
They look very Southwestern, very Texan, and I would love to have one.
They also don't seem to be selling because most of them have realtor signs in
the front and do not look occupied.
... whenever I use the term McMansion, folks call and write to complain.
Builders who construct these houses think it's a negative spin on their product. They are just meeting market demand, they point out.
And the people who buy these houses don't like to have them referred to that way.
Indeed, if I had laid out piles of cash for a vast house, I wouldn't want it likened to an oversize hamburger.
All that said, you're likely to be hearing more about McMansions in the months ahead.
That's because too many vacant ones are starting to pile up on the market.
At midyear, there were close to 300 vacant speculative homes in close-in Dallas neighborhoods. Another 589 or so were under construction, according to analysts at Residential Strategies Inc.
The number of vacant McMansions on the market has almost doubled in the last 12 months.
In some neighborhoods the surplus of these houses is even larger. In the area just east of North Central Expressway, for instance, there's almost a year's supply of vacant finished houses on the market.
Builders are still starting more. But they may be starting to get the message about rising inventories.
... But don't expect the construction to stop. If homebuilders have invested in a lot, they are likely to go ahead and start a house.
Regardless of whether one more
"McMansion" is built anywhere in Dallas, there is absolutely no reason to impose
a Conservation District on Midway Hollow or any other neighborhood in Northwest
Dallas. They will have the same problem that all homeowner and crime watch
groups experience. It will be eventually controlled by a handful of people
who will make decisions that may or may not be good for the property values of
all homeowners. If you are lucky, that handful of people will be
altruistic and fair and honorable and always do the right thing. That will
be the exception to the rule. More likely, you will have a bunch of little
control freaks who will insulate themselves with rules that will eliminate any
new blood or new ideas.
If a Conservation District guaranteed your neighbor would have to keep weeds
pulled in his front yard or maintain his fence, it might be worthwhile to use
that tool to "preserve" a neighborhood of houses with no architectural or
historical significance. Problem is, the control freaks will turn a blind
eye to their own or their friends' failings, but have radar focus on any problem
with a house or property owned by someone outside their circle.
As I said in my response to the Midway Hollow e-mail dispute, styles change.
What people want from their home changes. Open, large rooms for
entertaining and family living are popular now. Most houses in Midway
Hollow have small bedrooms and little living rooms compared to what is being
built today. Try buying new furniture to fit those little rooms.
Only way is to overstuff your room or hit estate/garage sales and antique
As one Midway
Hollow homeowner says, "most of the houses in our neighborhood are rat traps that need to
be replaced." I won't go so far to say "most", but I agree
many of them fit that description. A few houses in my neighborhood are in
bad shape and hurt the appearance of the block where they are located.
It sill comes down to -- there's nothing to conserve. Limiting houses to
one-story is like closing the barn door after the horses have run off.
Many houses had a second story added years ago -- because that's WHAT THE OWNER
WANTED to do with his property. A house on Webb Chapel has
been added on to several times just since I bought my home in 2001. It has
gone from a little bungalow to a poor man's McMansion. It's much nicer
than it was originally and signals to the community that the owner believes in
Northwest Dallas and intends to continue to live here.
We have building codes. If someone is violating a building code, there is
a very easy way to stop the construction. Call the City's Building Inspection
people. If someone is adding onto their home with a second story, they
must have a city issued building permit, or you can stop that construction, as
well. But, why would you? Why would anyone care if someone wants to
improve a home in your neighborhood? With the exception of Barbara's
neighborhood where there was a section of vacant land, most Northwest Dallas
neighborhoods are built out. So far, no one is bulldozing homes in Midway
Hollow or any other of our neighborhoods West of Midway to build McMansions.
If you like your house the way it is, enjoy it. Please don't be so
arrogant or selfish as to tell someone else what kind of single-family home they
can enjoy on their own property.