Early voters who went to the Mountain Creek Parkway Library in Dallas last Saturday morning were greeted by some of their fellow residents handing out petitions protesting high-density development around their neighborhood.

Planned Development 521, an area of Dallas adjacent to Mountain Creek Lake Park in southwest Dallas, is in the process of being rezoned to allow more high-density development, such as apartment buildings and convenience stores. But some residents are saying such development is too close to home.

Homeowner Kim Perez says she objects to apartment buildings and other businesses being put anywhere within 100 to 150 feet of their backyards. “It’s just not acceptable.”

“We don’t want up to 18-story buildings within our neck of the woods,” local resident Andrea Mendoza agreed. “We surround ourselves with nature, trees … that’s why we chose this place to live.”

The residents also allege the process for rezoning the area has been less than transparent or inclusive.

Once the members of the rezoning steering committee were chosen, residents were essentially told the committee would handle the issue, resident Laura Gomez complained. Perez also felt people in her neighborhood weren’t being included in the process.

And that’s not all. “Some of the [members] on the steering committee representing the community are working for the developer of the land,” Mendoza said. “That’s not ok.”

Dallas City Council Member Casey Thomas disagrees with the allegation that the process hasn’t been transparent or inclusive, informing Texas Scorecard that for the past six months it has been the opposite.

“It’s been a fair process,” Thomas said. “A lot of people were not engaged, but it was communicated through social media, through emails … there were meetings that were held to discuss the process.”

Nathan Warren, senior planner for the City of Dallas, agreed with Thomas. “I think up there the entire process has been transparent. The steering committee is made up of both folks who own property in the subject area and [the] area nearby.”

“All the meetings were public and open to anyone,” Warren added.

Thomas said it is normal for those connected with developers to be represented on the steering committee, as they are owners of the property to be developed. He said residents only began raising objections when the proposal went to the city’s planning and zoning committee. “Once the notices were sent out, some people became aware of it and had issues with it.”

Thomas said he welcomed protesters making their views known. “I’m glad they’re expressing their concerns, and once the planning and zoning commission makes their recommendation at the council level—once we see what makes it out of planning and zoning—then I’ll be ready to make my recommendations to the council,” he said.

As of April 30, the petition protesting the rezoning plan has gained over 400 signatures, and these protesting residents remain undeterred in their opposition to high-density development disturbing their neighborhood.

“[If I had known they were going to start building warehouses on the north side of Mountain Creek Parkway] I probably wouldn’t have moved here,” Gomez said.

The next meeting of the City of Dallas Planning Commission will be May 2, with a briefing at 10:30 a.m. in room 5ES in City Hall, and there will be a public hearing at 1:30 p.m.

Robert Montoya

Born in Houston, Robert Montoya is an investigative reporter for Texas Scorecard. He believes transparency is the obligation of government.