Thursday, September 9, 2010

Row Over Brick Row - Round 2

Recently, I blogged about the request by the developers of Brick Row to make some changes in the planned mix of apartments and condos in this mixed-use, transit-oriented development under construction near the Spring Valley DART light rail station. I said that although I didn't have strong feeling on the issue, I was inclined to support the change in plans. I even wondered (partly tongue-in-cheek) whether I was turning libertarian, in that I couldn't convince myself that the rest of Richardson should be telling a landowner how many apartments and how many condos he should be building on his own land.

My blog post elicited a long and thoughtful email from a reader. After the jump, with her permission, the view from a neighbor in Highland Terrace.

Mr. Steger,

For some reason when you post about HTNA, a neighbor feels compelled to tell me , and I in turn feel compelled to reply to your statements.

You ask why a neighborhood should even have a say as to what developers do in the city. I will tell you why our neighborhood feels we have a say. In 2000 the city hired a consulting firm to study developemnt at Spring Valley and Greenville. City department asked members of our neighborhood to join focus groups about this development. Since they said the development would be across the street from our neighborhood and affect us all, many of us attended the three sessions. We were delighted not only about the development, but also the chance to give our input. The consulting group gave density as 800 units, based on the acreage and amenities.

When the time came for serious negotiations with the developer, the association board members were asked to meet with the developers, city heads, and some council members.

One of the problems was the zoning along Greenville. Several old homes lined that street. We in the neighborhood loved those homes. We were proud of them and considered them landmarks. Many years ago, the initial members of the board were promised that the zoning would never be changed from single family. Although the city said they would keep their promise, they asked that we agree to townhomes in that area. We replied that we would be behind the zoning change, if they would keep the density at the recommended number that the consulting firm gave. With Mr. Townsends', and Mr. Sweedens' promise to do so, we felt the vote would be to keep the density lower than the 1000 -1200 wanted by the developer. Sweeden and Townsend reneged on their promise and that set the stage for our opposition to the density.

The former chief of police, Zacharius, stated around that time, that complexes over 800 had more crime.

We were promised an upscale, high end development with apartments leasing from $1100 a month, and townhomes from the high $200's to $369,000. I am not sure if they told us a condo price, but did say they would be high end.

The leasing agent told me the one bedrooms start at $700, and there are specials and incentives to lower the price even more. Another board member was told by a leasing agent they would be $745 with a 12 month lease. Mr. Chris Ray, an agent for the developer said the apartments were around $900, and was chagrinned to see what we had in writing. This fudging on the numbers did not seem to bother the commissioners, with the exception of Mr. Hammond and Mr. Henderson.

One of the developers told me Tuesday night, that they will have the space to build an additional 95 apartments on the land the commission gave them for apartments. From that I believe that they will be one bedroom units. From what I heard Mr. Ray say, the total of one bedrooms will be from 70%-80%.

Our concern is not only the traffic these added apartments will bring, but the crime. One of our board members has already been told by the police to never go to the Dart station after dark, and another has been accosted twice, the second resulting in a call to the police. We also don't want the problems that the people behind the west Spring Valley apartments say they have.

We love our neighborhood , as I am sure all residents in the city love their neighborhoods, and we have already seen an increase in crime from actions taken by this city.

And on another note, I was told by a townhome owner at that development, that Weekly Homes has a "take away" clause, which means they can walk away from the development at any time. The owners of the townhomes are concerned that he will do just that, and then the developers will come back and ask for more apartments. I feel very sorry for those homeowners who bought after being told condos would be built behind them. As I have been told, only four townhomes are occupied with 3 more sold.

The reason we feel we have a say, is that we were asked to have a say.

Shelley McCall

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