North Lake squabble a developing trend
07:57 AM CST on Thursday, December 15, 2005
We don't see fights like this often.
In the midst of an ugly, months-long verbal slugfest over a proposed development, the city of Dallas and two of its suburban neighbors gave each other a big fat hug and offered surprisingly sweet words of encouragement.
They promised to try to settle their feud like ladies and gentlemen rather than acting like back-alley bullies or gangsters fighting over turf.
That was Tuesday.
But today, the parties will trot back to their corners – Dallas on one side, Coppell and Irving on the other – and resume slapping each other upside the head (with the utmost respect, of course).
As odd as that may seem, it really makes perfect sense when you understand what this scrape is all about – power and control.
Today, you see, is when a rather contentious 355-acre residential development near North Lake comes before the Dallas Plan Commission.
On paper, it looks like one heck of a project. The Billingsley Co. wants to build a grand mix of apartments, houses and shops in northwest Dallas. That's fine with the Dallas city staff. The bigger, the better, they say, because an expanded tax base will help pay for the basic services the city would have to provide.
But if you've been paying any attention, you know that neighboring Coppell and Irving are up in arms over the proposal, threatening to withhold their own basic services from the new development if the project isn't whittled down significantly.
Coppell has even launched condemnation proceedings to try to take some of the land away, saying it may need the property for new parks and schools.
Now, you might be asking yourself why the cities of Coppell and Irving and the Coppell Independent School District are sticking their noses into Dallas' business?
To that I offer four words: Get used to it.
These days, with it getting harder and harder to figure out where one city's sidewalks end and another's begin, local governments are paying close attention to how developments outside their city's limits might affect them.
That's precisely what this North Lake brouhaha is all about, said Coppell Mayor Doug Stover, whose 50-year-old city is landlocked.
"Our philosophy in Coppell is to think regionally and act locally," Mr. Stover said. And if Dallas thinks it can sign off on such a massive development without regard for its municipal neighbors, he said, "That won't work."
Forget for a moment whether Coppell, as Mr. Stover suggests, has a right to try to grab land from Dallas to build parks and schools. That's for the lawyers and courts to decide.
What's intriguing is that Coppell and Irving have managed to force Dallas and a major developer into lengthy negotiations about how to develop a tract of land in Dallas. They've been talking for nearly a year.
"I think we're going to see more and more of this as we get along" and the region keeps sprawling, said Mike Eastland, executive director of the North Central Texas Council of Governments.
"At some point, these are some things that the region is going to have to sit down and grapple with."
Mr. Eastland said he found it encouraging that officials from the three cities huddled Tuesday and agreed to continue talking.
Hmmm. He's probably right.
But basically both sides agreed to disagree. And they agreed that developer Lucy Billingsley, who expressed disappointment through a spokeswoman that her plans are still being stalled, should continue trying to see if she can appease the suburban concerns.
"It was quite a powwow," said Dallas Assistant City Manager Ryan Evans. However, he added, "They did not drop any legal action, and we have not [slowed down] progressing with our zoning."
So, at the end of the day, all of the sweet talk may not mean anything, although Mr. Stover and Mr. Evans said they were confident the issue could be resolved peacefully.
But today, Mr. Stover said, each side will return to its opposing corner before the Dallas Plan Commission. "We will go down there and stand in diplomatic opposition," he said.