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Good News Dallas
by Scott Bennett    Thu, Oct 27, 2005, 03:05 PM

Dixie Beasley is a neighbor I haven't met; she lives one street over.  But I received a flyer today expressing concern about a zoning issue.  It seems one of Dallas's private schools, the da Vinci School has purchased the land from an existing private school a the end of her street across Midway.  That makes it a block and a half from me.  Dixie (if I may call her that) is concerned about the usual concern:  traffic.  She also notes that di Vinici will tear down the existing building and "put up a two-story building that will take three times the students currently enrolled there."

She notes that in spite of the fact 72% of the 62 notices sent by the Planning and Zoning Commission to adjacent property owners came back "opposed."  Yet, the P&Z unanimously passed the zoning and it is now headed to the City Council.  Dixie adds that "These poor people will have the school looking straight into their backyards.  How would you like that to happen to you? "  She also expresses the fear that in the future the several churches near our homes might sell to apartment developers if this zoning goes through.

Now let me come clean:  I have been a developer in a past lifetime and have a natural skepticism about homeowner fears.  All too often I found those fears grounded in little more than a sense that any change carried risk and any risk was too much.  I also often found that many neighbors really didn't oppose a project but simply caved to peer pressure and went along.

This however is in my back yard. so I checked this one out.  I looked at the building to be replaced.  It isn't exactly and eye sore but it is hard to believe a new 2-story building would have anything less than a favorable impact.  The da Vinci School has 90 student and maybe 15 teachers and administrators.  That means we are talking a total of 105 cars; this isn't exactly a new Wal-Mart.  The neighborhood is surrounded by schools like ESD, Hockaday, Good Shepard, and other much larger schools.  Indeed, a major reason home prices have continued to soar in our neighborhood in proximity to these schools so it might be that any impact on home values might be positive.  And I find it hard to believe this is opening the flood gates for turning churches into apartments. 

Still, my guess is that if you polled our neighborhood I would be in the distinct minority.  Clearly, those closest to the school are opposed.  The question is how much power should a neighborhood have to decide its own fate?  How much should the Planning and Zoning Commission consider the needs of the whole city versus the desires of a neighborhood?  Clearly the impact, positive or negative, of this project reaches far beyond 62 homes.  How far should the P&Z folks go in seeking comment?  I am one block away; they didn't ask me.

I don't share her fears but I do commend Dixie for stepping up and speaking out. This is the stuff of which cities are made and they can only be better when people step up and speak out.  If Dixie sees this I hope she presents her side on DallasBlog.

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