Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Mayor Maczka Shows Leadership on Palisades

The Richardson City Council, led by Mayor Laura Maczka, approved by a vote of 5-2 the rezoning request for the proposed pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use Palisades Village development. I applaud the vote. I support the development. This is what I said after the request was approved by the City Plan Commission and was sent to the city council for their approval:
Mayor Laura Maczka has made known her enthusiasm for this Palisades development. Getting it passed over the vocal opposition of some Canyon Creek homeowners is a test of her leadership. In the end, expect it to pass.
Source: The Wheel.
Even though I predicted council approval, I can't say I'm not a little surprised. Objections to building apartments next to the Canyon Creek neighborhood were loud and clear. Maczka not only went against the wishes of the opposition, she was in the lead of a solid majority of the council in approving the request. Her leadership style, however you want to characterize it, was strong enough to carry the day on this politically risky project.

After the jump, another tack I could have taken in reporting this.

How about this headline: "Mayor Maczka Flipflops on Apartments."

Why do I say I was still a bit surprised that Mayor Maczka herself supported this Palisades Village development, even though it will contain as many as 600 apartments? Because of a campaign mailer Maczka sent out during her somewhat bitter election campaign against Amir Omar. In the mailer, she stated: "When it comes to apartments, you know that Laura has always said we do not need more apartments near our neighborhoods. Period." No ifs or buts in that mailer. No nuance. No context. No escape clause for her later to say that, for example, Palisades is a transit-oriented development and that overrides its proximity to existing neighborhoods.

Maczka flipflopped. I don't know how else to say it. That statement in the mailer is as close to a "read my lips" statement as most elections get. But the only thing worse than a flipflop in this case, in my opinion, would have been making an unwise decision now just to remain consistent with an earlier unwise election promise. This may cost her votes in the next election (I personally doubt it puts her re-election in jeopardy, unlike former Mayor Martha Ritter's experience in 1987 in somewhat similar circumstances), but it validates my difficult decision to support her in that mayoral election. I'm not sure the opponent she defeated, Amir Omar, would have been on the right side of this decision, or that he could have carried a majority of the council with him.

P.S. Paul Voelker spoke the hard truth to those who wanted to cut down on the density: "Maybe the density is not quite enough. Density drives success in projects like this."

P.P.S. Scott Dunn's statement in support of the proposal was his most persuasive and effective of his two terms on council (overlooking his comment on Spring Valley apartments: "Those apartments are not that terribly bad down there. I drive by there pretty much on a regular basis.")

P.P.P.S. About that pedestrian bridge that inspired my original headline ("Punching Through Central at Palisades"), Mayor Maczka laughingly called it a "bridge to nowhere." I didn't laugh at home. Which is the "nowhere" end of that -- Palisades Village or Galatyn Park? Now that the developer is off the hook to finance and build this, it's up to the city to champion this with the state. I have no confidence the city will give it the emphasis it will need.

1 comment:

mccalpin said...

In Laura's defense, please allow me to point out that the existing zoning allowed for 121 single family homes and 300 condominiums. While the single family homes were not a problem, the condominiums were, because you know that they all too often just turn into rental units. Worse, they would be rental units owned by 300 different owners, not one complex owned by a single company that the City can encourage to behave (or, with luck, be a responsible citizen like Lincoln Properties).

One of the complaints was that the children living in the new 600 apartments would swamp the local school (in RISD or PISD, depending on your location). But since the property lies in both school districts, a compromise was reached that split the residential units into the two school districts. In theory, this means that it's possible that the local RISD elementary school might end up with fewer children than the existing zoning would have called for, if the developers under the existing zoning had put all the residential units in RISD.

But it is good to remember that making zoning changes is not something done in a vacuum...that is, if a developer doesn't want to do something, you can't force him to do it. Thus, negotiations are always part of the program. Yes, the City wanted the big development...but the developer wanted something for it, and his price was converting condos to apartments and then increasing the number some.

Was it worth it? Time will tell...but to simply state that Ms. Maczka "flipflopped" on the apartment issue is an oversimplification of a more complex issue...