Delayed arrival times for emergency vehicles. Pedestrian deaths caused by speeding drivers. Strangers parking in limited spaces, forcing residents to search elsewhere.
These are just a few of the issues neighbors living in Soho Square, off Borger Street south of Singleton Boulevard, told the City of Dallas Plan Commission would only worsen if the Megatel Trinity Meadows, LLC zoning application was approved.
Megatel had proposed expanding Planned Development District 944 to build roughly 400 townhomes and two apartment complexes, in addition to the 116 already built and to-be constructed single-family homes in Soho Square.
During the June 18 meeting, plan commissioners denied Megatel’s application after hearing from 14 West Dallas neighbors and community representatives. No one spoke in favor of the proposal, except for Santos Martinez, the zoning consultant hired by Megatel.
Martinez told commissioners that more than 30 gatherings had been held with neighbors to discuss the zoning application. Those who spoke during the meeting, however, argued that their concerns have not been properly addressed.
One after another, speakers asked the commissioners not to approve the rezoning, sharing their experiences of feeling ignored, overlooked or excluded from development plans, especially in regard to their concerns about density, a deficiency of green space and guest parking.
“What I have been hearing is that they don’t feel that there’s a community partnership, that their voices are not heard in speaking and in bringing up what they need and what they want,” says Norma Nelson, president and CEO of West Dallas-focused nonprofit Readers 2 Leaders, who has worked in West Dallas since 2004.
Their complaints highlight an important distinction: West Dallas residents are willing to embrace changes in their neighborhood, but they want to be actively involved in the process.
“The city must see us as valuable members of the community with genuine concerns for our everyday life in West Dallas,” neighbor Debbie Solis told commissioners.
Among the speakers’ most cited concerns was gentrification. Neighbors feared that Megatel’s proposed development would raise property values in the area, ignoring longtime West Dallas residents and making their housing unaffordable.
The single-family homes being constructed in Megatel’s Soho Square, which is being advertised as “a unique, one of a kind project in the heart of the Trinity Groves,” are three-story, roughly 2,000-square-foot homes starting at $429,000 — well above the average home price in West Dallas. Homeownership in the private-shared community includes access to its “resort-style” pool, game room, bowling alley and fitness center, and “select units offer rooftop views of Downtown Dallas.”
Residents of Soho Square complained that the proposed zoning change could result in an influx in public traffic through their private-shared Soho community, which would make them feel unsafe.
Nelson added that one-third of West Dallas residents do not have vehicles and walk, adding another factor to consider with increased traffic along Singleton and surrounding streets.
In addition, some Soho Square residents mentioned that they are financially responsible for the upkeep of the streets, so more cars driving through the community from Megatel’s proposed adjacent project would be impractical. Though their residences include two-car garages, homes are built right next to each other, almost as close as townhomes, and the community’s singular entrance also is its exit.
Solis told the story of attending one of Megatel’s community meetings, struggling to navigate the narrow streets, and realizing when she left that her parked car had been hit.
Martinez says Megatel was open to adding a gate to prevent non-residents from entering the community, as residents requested.
After all opponents had shared their comments, Deborah Carpenter, the city plan commissioner for District 6, which encompasses West Dallas, moved to deny the application without prejudice. Carpenter said she didn’t see how to bridge the gap between what the developer wanted and what the neighbors requested.
“There have been endless meetings, and I no longer have any hope that this application is going to come to anything resembling approval,” Carpenter says.
None of the commissioners raised any objections to Carpenter’s decision. They voted unanimously to deny Megatel’s plans.