When landlords can't even lock out bad tenants (Lost Society was allowed to reopen due to a Judge's ruling), you have a problem.
It may make some people upset, but I protested the waiving of fees for businesses in this zoning proposal. We are currently in a recession and our City Planning and Development staff has experienced several rounds of layoffs. The resources are not available for such a waiver. If a bar or restaurant closes down before the process even gets voted on by City Council (and then you have eight months to get the SUP), that's unfortunate and makes me wonder if there are other factors involved and if you are using the zoning process as a scapegoat to get out of your lease. Let's do the math:
The application fee is about $1,200. Does putting together $1,200 in eight months ($1,200/8 = $150) make you close down a good business? You aren't required to get a lawyer to fill out the application. Most of the successful business owners in Deep Ellum represented themselves during that area's rezoning process, and they were under the age of 30. And going forward, $1,200/24 months (the duration of most SUPs) = $50/month.While I am Vice Chair of the City Plan Commission, I represent a district that is far less affluent than the area surrounding Lowest Greenville. Do we waive their fees as well? It's a slippery slope, in my opinion, and I sincerely hope that no fee waivers are added back in when this zoning proposal reaches City Council.
Much credit must be given to my fellow Plan Commissioner, Dr. Bill Peterson. In his desire to see a unanimous vote in support of the rezoning, he amended his motion to not include the fee waiver. That is something that would most likely not have occurred when I first joined the Commission a few years back.
I find it disappointing that some of the zoning proposal's biggest opponents couldn't muster the energy to make it to the podium during the actual hearing, despite sitting through the whole meeting. In fact, the opposition had about ten minutes of unused time during the public comment section.
There has also been some complaining that most of the permits, if granted, will be for a time frame of two years of less. In most cases, that is correct. As a practice, it is very rare that a Specific Use Permit for a club or bar will be granted for more than two years. A short permit is incentive to continue to operate a responsible business instead of getting lax because you know you have a five-year permit and nobody will remember what happened 2/3/4 years ago when you apply for a renewal.
It has been said that our vote will cause Lowest Greenville to become the "Deep Ellum of the 21st Century." You should hope for such an outcome. Deep Ellum has its mainstay businesses that never closed, experienced re-launches of great spots such as Trees and Green Room, and witnessed the opening of new businesses like LaGrange and Lemongrass. The claims that it will also hurt new businesses that want to come into the area have already been refuted. People said the same about Deep Ellum. On. Next.
I also want to give a shout to Greenville area residents and neighborhood leaders Gay Hopkins and Patricia Carr. Both approached me during the Lowest Greenville meeting at Vickery Towers over the summer and communicated their concerns about the area. I thank them for listening to my documented concerns about the zoning proposal as well.
As I've said in previous posts, I think we as an appointed body do a pretty good job of keeping suspect clubs on a short leash, and rewarding good operators for a job well done and a club well-run.
Everyone on the Plan Commission wants a safe, thoughtfully planned city that has cool places to hang out. I feel privileged to serve with a great group of commissioners that realize the value of working together for a vibrant Dallas.
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