Monday, November 2, 2009

Politics of Complaint: Development Moratorium

Richardson commercial property

The work session of the Richardson City Council spent two hours Monday night listening to the presidents of three homeowners' associations in southwest Richardson present what they call the "Heights 2009 Plan for Excellence." It was a good presentation, if by excellence you mean repaved streets, alleys, and sidewalks, more parks, fewer apartments, better maintained commercial properties, and a redevelopment moratorium while we wait for a developer to come in and build urban villages with lakes along Spring Valley, 75, and Belt Line. Or, if not urban villages, then some other "big idea" of redevelopment that no one seemed to be able to specify.

The HOA presidents were earnest but lacking in a vision for what they really wanted. One said, "Yes we want redevelopment and we don't want to do anything to slow that down." He said this while showing a Powerpoint slide with a bullet that called for a "Development Moratorium" underlined and spelled with a capital M. Then the second HOA president said maybe a moratorium with a small "m" is acceptable, just "whatever it takes to stop this half-hearted development." The third HOA president admitted that "developers ask what do we want and we never know." She says she wants to "contain the blight."

What is "half-hearted" development? That was kind of fuzzy, too. Converting abandoned gas stations into doctors' offices is half-hearted redevelopment of blighted retail and that is clearly *not* wanted. Some might consider repaving sidewalks and alleys to be half-hearted redevelopment of blighted single family neighborhoods, but that *is* wanted. The inconsistency in these positions was not recognized nor reconciled.

Council member John Murphy responded to the HOA presidents' call for more aggressive code enforcement of commercial properties by saying, "I'm surprised we haven't thought of doing a commercial integrity program." Other council members chimed in with their support for such an effort. Besides being surprised myself at John Murphy's own surprise, I also can't understand how the council could initiate such a program after hearing what the HOAs just proposed. How do they expect commercial property owners to address, say, blighted shopping centers if the city imposes a moratorium on "half-hearted" redevelopment?

The HOAs and the city council have a lot more thinking to do on this subject. That didn't stop Mayor Gary Slagel from closing the work session by saying, "Everyone has their marching orders and we know where we're headed." I'm glad he thinks he knows because I couldn't figure it out from what I saw and heard.

The HOA presidents might not know exactly what they want or how to get it, but I give them credit for trying. After all, I'm sitting in my pajamas in my basement blogging about it. And they are absolutely working on the right problem. Finally, they are polite. The title to this series, "Politics of Complaint," definitely doesn't apply to tonight's open mike night at city hall. More like this, please.

1 comment:

Mark Steger said...

For another take on the cries in Richardson to 'clean up Spring Valley,' you've got to read this.