Saturday, February 18, 2017
I realize this is a very long newsletter; however, the actions council took Tuesday, February 14, 2017 will affect your quality of life here in Addison for a very long time.
Please take time to read all of this information and give me your feedback.
Regular Council meeting; Tuesday February 14
Very late in the night during our first and only council meeting on the project, council voted 5-2 to approve a project that rezoned one of our few remaining greenfield commercial properties to residential to permit the construction of a 349-unit apartment complex covering 5 acres at 5015 Spectrum.
Council members Ivan Hughes, Paul Walden, Jim Duffy, Al Angell and Bruce Arfsten each voted for more apartments in Addison.
Council member Dale Wilcox and Mayor Todd Meier voted against the project.
This was, as you might imagine, a hotly contested issue and I encourage you to watch the video of our meeting to appreciate the intensity.
After the motion to approve the 349 unit apartment project was made and before the vote was taken, I made a motion that was seconded by council member Dale Wilcox to slow our process down and to do a Special Area Study that would include this site at 5015 Spectrum, as well as the sites that Addison owns on Spectrum.
A study would have given us time to analyze the best uses for all these properties and to understand in a very transparent fashion all of the unknowns of this site and the effects of environmental issues, market demand analysis, and the very significant impact of the new Cotton Belt commuter rail line that will just be a couple of hundred yards away from this site.
While such a study was being conducted, we would have had time to have public meetings to fully inform all our residents of the requested rezoning and apartment project.
Our Comprehensive Land Use Plan, which took two years to develop and was reviewed and approved by both our P&Z Commission and the council in 2013, should have provided wisdom and guidance. Page 78-80 of the Plan says,
“The City Council and staff recognize that Addison must constantly compete with surrounding cities for office employees because well-paid employees drive the Town’s other businesses such as retail and restaurants.
Addison’s office building land use is important and as much a part of the Town’s identity as its restaurants and landscaping.
The Town should protect its remaining available Tollway corridor tracts. High-density office buildings are very valuable to the Town because they bring high ad valorem values to the tax base and lots of employees, which drive the retail/ restaurant/hotel economy. The Tollway corridor is the only location in Addison that can attract high-density office buildings.
The Town needs to protect the four remaining sites on the Tollway corridor and resist pressure to let those valuable sites be re-zoned for non-commercial uses such as multi- family. There is always pressure on the Town to let developers build what they can finance and build at the moment but the Town has to think long-term and protect its most valuable land assets.”
Even with comparisons to our past inclusive and transparent processes of the recently completed Inwood Road Corridor Study and last year’s Special Area Study of the Sam’s site as examples, this council chose to rush to judgment and make, literally in the middle of the night, a decision that will affect our Addison quality of life for at least 30 years, and which removes a commercial site from our investment portfolio of income-producing properties forever.
This council was unwilling to take any pause to be sure we were not making a mistake. This council chose to disregard the very housing policy they approved just a few weeks ago that says:
“A proposal should offer a ‘best fit’ mix of uses and housing choices within the context of the surrounding Addison community. The Town may use a study area committee (with staff, elected, and appointed members such as area residents and business representatives) to evaluate a proposal’s fit in Addison.”
Only council member Dale Wilcox and I voted to be deliberate in our thinking and take time to consider all of the possibilities and to fully inform our community before we made such a major decision.
When you think about our role as council members and about major decisions, you may think that the biggest decision we make at any time is our $110 million dollar budget each Fall. However, that is a one year decision.
Think of it: we spend three months and a dozen meetings on this one-year budget, yet this council refused to even consider a second meeting on a 30-year-to-forever land use question that deviated from our Comprehensive Land Use Plan and our Housing Policy?
They ignored the lessons from our process on the Sam’s site and the campaign protests: “Slow down, do more study, study the economics of this, apartments are the most expensive land use, we have only known about this for one month” etc., etc.
We had 10 public input meetings on the Sam’s site, spread over 3 months and 5 different council meetings working on the best possible plan, and yet we came up short on meeting our community’s expectations of transparency and inclusiveness for this project?
The public’s message from all of those meetings on the Sam’s site and the recent emails and phone calls on this project was very clear: “No more apartments!!!!!”
Those who insisted we “listen to the people” ignored the people on this matter.
This council chose to disregard the very housing policy they voted to affirm just a few weeks ago that says:
“Section 1. Addison Housing Policy. When new housing is proposed in Addison, the Addison City Council encourages it to be developed according to the following principle: Where feasible and appropriate, new housing should increase the proportion of fee simple ownership in Addison’s housing mix. Apartment-only rezoning is unlikely to be approved, as currently the ratio of rental to ownership properties is higher than desired.”
There is no dispute; this project does not have any owner-occupied, fee-simple housing and is simply an apartment-only rezoning. It also will have a portion of extended-stay, short term units, while we already have 7 Extended Stay “hotels”, some of which are seriously underperforming.
Why bother to have a housing policy if the council simply chooses to disregard it?
On what may be the most important and major council decision of 2017, council members Ivan Hughes, Bruce Arfsten, Jim Duffy, Paul Walden and Al Angell voted against a pause to study all of our options to make sure we listen to our community and focus on doing the right thing for our Addison in the long term. Only council member Dale Wilcox and Mayor Todd Meier voted for that opportunity.
The representative from AMLI acknowledged having private meetings with council members Paul Walden, Al Angell and P&Z Commissioner Stacey Griggs.
But the council had just this one public meeting for the presentation from staff and the applicant, input from the community and discussion and collaboration. For an item of this significance, that simply is not enough time to do our job correctly, nor does it do anything to build trust with our community.
From those council members that were in such a rush to judgment, I never heard any compelling reason to disregard the input from our community and to be in such a hurry.
Maybe you will when you watch the video.
Other council actions included a commitment to listen to our community on the need and strong desire to find a place for the playground that is being removed from the Oncor easement near Dome Dr.
After an extensive public hearing that included feedback from some of our youngest neighbors, the council encouraged the staff to explore options for finding a replacement park.
This was the first item on our agenda and seemed to me to be a preview of collaboration and listening to our community.
While certainly it would be hard to find anyone opposed to a playground for our Addison kids, my early optimism evaporated when we began what turned out to be the relatively brief and contentious process of deciding whether or not Addison needed 349 more apartments as described above.
Earlier in the evening the council worked in Executive session interviewing applicants for our Associate Judge position and reviewed the guidelines from the Open Meetings Act.
The council authorized the City Manager and mayor to travel to Austin Wednesday morning to represent Addison along with our lawyers in the very contentious matter with Farmers Branch and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) on complaints generated from work performed in 2010 at Vitruvian Park. More on the results of that hearing later in this newsletter.
The council approved a rezoning of property at 14345 Dallas Parkway to permit an amendment to the recently passed ordinance and approve a height variation that will permit the construction of a 3-story building instead of the required 5 stories.
The rezoning request of the owners of the property at 4021 Belt Line was tabled to give the owners more time to deal with some of the concerns expressed by council about potential uses of the site if the probation against medical and dental is removed from the ordinance. Seemed like a good idea to take our item on this, certainly no rush.
The council approved a new process to improve our collections for our Municipal court system where we have over $700,000 in outstanding warrants dating back to 2009.
While refusing earlier in the evening to pause for more time to study the AMLI project for 349 more apartments, the council was willing to postpone discussion of library cards until a later date.
We adjourned very late … just past 1:00 am.
Council member activities
All council members were present for the council meeting on Tuesday, February 14.
On a very rainy early Tuesday morning we helped host the monthly Metroplex Mayors Association meeting at our Marriott Quorum.
In spite of the challenging driving conditions we had an excellent turnout of mayors and city managers from all over the Metroplex to hear former Ambassador of Fun for Southwest Airlines, Tony Brigmon, chat with us about “Energizing People and Culture with the positive power of fun.”
He had se hadHHome very good suggestions that I believe we can bring to our Addison culture which, as you may recall, lists “Fun” as one of our important council values.
The DART representative let us know that the Addison Express buses that leave our transit center on the way downtown will have a distinctive wrap, making them easier to identify.
On Tuesday afternoon I joined Director of Economic Development Orlando Campos and Manager of Economic Development Drew Dietrich for a visit with the top executives of FIS in their beautiful space at 16633 Dallas Parkway, where they have the entire 5th floor and a large portion of the 4th floor.
Vice President and Controller Kevin B. Wall, Senior Vice President and General Manager Matthew Bowen, and Manager Facilities and Administrative Services Bobbie Blakeley were effusive in their praise of Addison and all of the superior services we provide.
Their company has grown and evolved through various mergers and acquisitions and even Addison locations, with the move to the Hanover building in 2012 from their previous Addison location in the Colonnade.
FIS is a New York Stock Exchange publicly traded company that is an international provider of financial services technology and outsourcing services.
Currently headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida, the Addison office is their regional presence and important in generation of their $9.4 billion in revenue for 2016.
Next time you are on the tollway coming from the north and headed south you will see their initials on the Hanover Building as FIS and you will know that stands for Fidelity National Information Services.
Matthew, Kevin and Bobbie made it very clear to us that they love Addison and shared with us that so many of their coworkers feel the same way that, when their need for growth and more space came a few years back, Addison was their only real option!
Our new Police Department patrol vehicles are beginning to “hit the streets” and they look great!
Police Chief Paul Spencer brought this brand new Ford Explorer to Town Hall to show it off and let us admire the new schematics designed by our very own officers.
At the crack of dawn Wednesday morning City Manager Wes Pierson and I took the early bird Southwest Airlines flight to Austin in time to meet with our lawyers and review materials before a hearing at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality concerning work that was performed at Vitruvian Park back in 2010.
The hearing was for consideration of an agreed order assessing administrative penalties against and requiring certain actions of Addison for water rights violations.
After our attorney’s brief presentation encouraging the Commission to follow the staff’s recommendations, the attorneys for Farmers Branch and several of their Farmers Branch residents spoke against the staff’s recommended resolution of the case.
After all of the presentations the Commission chose to remand the case to the staff to take a new look at all of the facts and come back with a fine and penalty much more in keeping with the seriousness of the offenses. Not a good outcome for Addison.
Wes Pierson and I returned to Addison by midafternoon and immediately notified our council and scheduled an update from our lawyers for 2/28.
For the last several years we have been “encouraging” in a very friendly yet persistent way our Dallas neighbors to work on making the intersection of the Tollway service roads and Belt Line road over the tollway more traffic friendly.
As you may recall, several months ago I reported that they finally developed plans and a time line for that work. I am happy to report that our friends at the City of Dallas and in Council member Lee Kleinman’s office let us know that the contractor for TXDoT has started on the project currently locating underground utilities in preparation for traffic control construction to be completed by this summer.
Our Third Thursday of the month “After Hours with the Mayor” event at Lion and Crown in Addison Circle on Thursday evening at 6:00 pm drew quite a crowd.
Mayoral candidate Blake Clemens, and council candidates Dale Wilcox, John Price and Sheila Barkofske joined neighbors from all over Addison to discuss a variety of topics.
After I provided a quick update on our new Police patrol vehicles and the recent visit to Austin related to the TCEQ matter related above, the conversation quickly turned to the recent approval of 349 apartments by council members Ivan Hughes, Paul Walden, Jim Duffy, Al Angell and Bruce Arfsten.
While much of the conversation centered on the lack of need for more apartments, it seemed to me the greatest disappointment was in the council process that lacked any transparency and the hurried result.
As we moved past 7:00 pm with the conversation, we agreed that Addison is a great place to live and that it is up to each one of us to do our part to keep it that way by staying informed and involved.
Monday, February 20, 2017, Special Council Work Session to tour several of our Addison hotels to gain more understanding and background for a discussion on Land Use policies, Code Enforcement, Hotel Tax Collections, residence in hotels, and other related topics.
The tour will leave the Addison Conference Centre at 3:30 pm and is open to the public. If you would like to join us contact City Secretary Laura Bell at Town Hall. After the tour, the council will return to the Conference Centre for discussion. We hope to conclude by 7:00 pm.
Looks like after a sunny day today we may have some rain in the forecast; at least it is not the freezing kind. This has been the mildest winter I can remember … enjoy!
See you soon,