Monday, December 12, 2011

For Once, Let's Not Fill 'er Up

If I've heard it once, I've heard it a thousand times. What Richardson needs is more places to store your boats and campers while you're out shopping and dining. And more gas stations next to our DART stops.

I've been a champion of development at US75/PGBT, at Galatyn, at Eastside, at Brick Row, and eventually I hope, at old downtown Main Street and along West Spring Valley Rd. But that doesn't mean I'm all in favor of every cockamamie idea for new development anywhere in Richardson. Really, I do draw the line somewhere.

After the jump, examples of misguided development in Richardson.



Perhaps you've noticed the new QuikStop QuikTrip gas station under construction at the corner of Belt Line Rd. and Inge Dr. in Richardson. Look around. There's a shopping center across Belt Line, a shopping center across Inge. There's a Chinese restaurant, an Italian restaurant, a Japanese restaurant, an Indian grocer, even a couple of hamburger restaurants. It's an ideal neighborhood to nurture development into a real downtown, especially if you can somehow bust through Central Expressway and redevelop Main Street east of Central, too.

The new gas station in the middle of it all is like a wrench in the works. Granted, the abandoned gas station it replaced was no asset either, but at least you could walk through the abandoned gas station without competing with cars. Any new gas station is designed to cater to cars, not shoppers. Gas stations make shopping districts hostile to, well, shoppers. That new gas station is going to be a barrier to integrating retail in that area for another generation.

But so be it. It's there. It's too late to do anything about it. It may not be too late for other plans for ill-advised development elsewhere in Richardson.

One request is for rezoning with special use permit for a gas station at the corner of Spring Valley and Centennial. That's right across the street from the new Brick Row development. Brick Row already has plenty of apartments. What it needs is retail, something to boost that whole neighborhood around the DART station. There'll be thousands of pedestrians getting on and off those trains every day. Why do we need a gas station there to greet them? It's 20th century thinking in a 21st century neighborhood.

The other request is for rezoning for a self-service warehouse with outside vehicle storage (boats, motor homes, etc.) on Arapaho Rd west of Custer Rd. That's right in a shopping center, across the street from a shopping center, just down the street from the Civic Center. A few years ago, the city thought parked boats and motor homes were such an eyesore that the city council passed an ordinance restricting home owners from parking their recreational vehicles at their houses. The city also spent years buying up aging homes across Arapaho Rd from the Civic Center and tearing them down. Why in the world would the city now agree to zoning that would allow a self-service warehouse, with boats and motor homes parked outdoors, to be built in a shopping center, near a residential neighborhood, and just down the street from the Civic Center? Here's another use destined to destroy any hope that this aging retail neighborhood can be revived.

Come on, Richardson. We can do better. Neighborhood revitalization requires smart redevelopment that caters more to people than cars.

7 comments:

Nathan Morgan said...

Mark, I guess you were not paying attention when these decisions were made in Council. Didn't you recognize the nuanced description of this topic on the Agenda? Did you miss the open meeting deliberations? Imagine that.

Andrew said...

Actually it is Quik Trip.

A few things need to be said. While the Quik Trip is not the grandest thing, it is a good thing. It was supported by both surrounding neighborhoods. Why? It removes the blight that was there. Further, it puts pressure on similar sub standard businesses in the area and that includes the overpriced and out of date chevron on the corner. If QuikTrip can pressure other businesses in key locations out of business through open competition then we have a chance for property consolidation and good redevelopment.

The 7-11 gas station at Brick Row was rejected by the Plan Commission by a vote of 6-1. Even the alternate member present (who doesn't get to vote but may participate in deliberations) said he would have voted against. I attended the meeting and I spoke against it. Of course I knew about it because I found the meeting documents online just like any citizens so there was no "nuanced agenda." There was a site plan and other documents available that described the complete content of the plan.

It is interesting you said, "It's 20th century thinking in a 21st century neighborhood." I have used almost those exact words on many occasions including this one in personal conversations. It expresses one of our impediments in Richardson. We do still have folks who think in a 20th century mode and some of those folks are in places of community responsibility.

Lastly, and as you may know, the mini-warehouse failed by a vote of 4-3. (i.e. a motion to deny the case passed 4-3). Mayor Townsend, Mayor Pro Tem Maczka, Amir Omar, and Steve Mitchell voted it down. Scott Dunn, Kendall Hartley, and Mark Solomon voted for it.

Now it is good that it failed. The idea of allowing an industrial use and then extending that use to outside vehicle storage in a re-enhancement zone and next to struggling neighborhood was bad enough. But mini-warehouses are for all practical purposes permanent as development comes. The use would very likely outlive me or you.

What is disturbing is that it almost passed. What does it say about our prospects for serious redevelopment if such an awful redevelopment blocking proposal that is permanent in nature can get so close?

Nathan Morgan said...

Richardson should be grateful that any retail is willing to make a go if it within the city limits. A Stop-n-Rob located a block away from the highway provides at least some delay in the escape route.

I would be surprised to learn that the Council gave away any financial incentive and pre-spent any future revenues for sacrificing the neighborhood by approving another convenience store on Main Street. Conversely, this move will apply more adverse impact on the eastside of town as consumers by-pass the dilapidated and crumbling eastside down town Richardson to get to the new gas station on the west side of the highway.

A 7-11 gas station at Brick Row would have been a black eye on transit oriented development and attracted even more criminal activity, given beer and wine sales, to the close proximity of the Spring Valley DART rail station and hundreds of transient-oriented apartment dwellers. Now that Richard Barge and his political campaign contributions are out of the picture, Council members have yet another opportunity to think through economic development decisions without the allure of campaign cash to cloud their vision.

I still hold that public notices disbursed and buried in the web site, and a the standard operating procedure 72-hour pre-meeting posting is the minimum City Hall could possibly, and does routinely, do to notify the public of the escapades.

Real servants would publish a single calendar of planned meetings weeks or months before the actual date so as to alert citizens to the intended posting of the actual meeting notice and agenda during the legal obligatory time frame. As for changes, it is a common, simple and understandable thing to reschedule a calendar entry in the event of a change.

In fact, posting of anticipated agenda items and accumulating material information on the agenda topics could also be declared and made easily accessible via the Internet well in advance of when it actually makes the agenda. It would be ridiculous if our competent and capable staff did not prepare more than 72 hours in advance for the complex issues scheduled weeks and months before the actual meeting.

There is also the brilliancy of actually televising and video recording these, and the other Board and Commission public meetings. Heck, let's do committee meetings like the Charter intended too. If managed efficiently, there would be no reason for citizens to be left in the dark wondering how the public business is conducted.

Andrew observation is wise, noting that 21st century advanced education of our public servants is desperately needed in order for Richardson to break free from its time capsule approach to servicing common municipal needs. Unfortunately, Richardson voters have been trained like ignorant ghetto dwellers to vote for the same entitlement crew that will eventually bankrupt this town. Their folly is to worship those Romanesque leaders while persecuting Polycarp for refusing to do so.

Mark Steger said...

There is a public hearing scheduled for tonight, December 19, concerning a request for a special permit to build a gas station at the corner of Renner Rd and North Star, in Richardson's panhandle. I didn't include this case in the original blog post because I consider this intersection a lost cause already. It was designed for cars, it's suitable only for cars, might as well build a gas station on the corner. Go for it.

mccalpin said...

Just to clarify, the subject of the public hearing was not for a "gas station", but for a special use permit for a 7-11 to install gas pumps out front. Note that the current zoning already allows the building of a 7-11 by right - the only reason for the public hearing was to allow the gas pumps.

Note that the site plan was crafted in order to present the minimum offense to neighbors - there are berms and green screens facing the two streets, the lighting is a special kind of LED lighting that faces down and not out, and 39% of the site is expected to be landscaped - the usual requirement amounts to 5% or 7% or something like that.

The Council approved it 7-0.

Bill

Mark Steger said...

Bill, thanks for the clarification. We're into semantics now, but in my opinion, it's the installation of gas pumps that turns this convenience store into a gas station. Also, it's telling that the berms and green screens are considered to be features. I consider them an admission that what is proposed for that corner is so undesirable that it has to be hidden from the public. But I would have voted to approve it, too. That intersection was given over to cars long ago.

mccalpin said...

heh heh, Mark, well, I wanted to make sure that people reading this didn't think that it was going to be a Quick-Trip or Race-Trac or whatever the mega gas stations are, and that it wasn't going to be a full-service station with car repair bays and parked cars all over the place.

I will grant you that the difference between a Valero (originally a gas station - Diamond Shamrock?) with a market is not a lot different from a 7-11 with gas pumps out front...but both of those are not the same as the two examples I gave above.

Hmmmn, does that make a Tom Thumb with gas pumps out front a gas station, too?

It's true that people wanted a full-service grocery store here on this intersection, but Richardson was too late to the beer and wine sales game, and all the major chains located in the nearby cities that allowed it. Because the Panhandle is so long and narrow, there's no place to put a major grocery store that isn't too close to other existing stores. And the guys helping the property owner with this property have tried for smaller stores like Aldi but got turned down flat (this was revealed at the Monday night public hearing). As you say, at some point, you have to declare victory and go home...

Do you want the 7-11 to pull the berms and vegetation out? After all, it wasn't required...

Bill