Size Limits for Elm Thicket/Northpark Homes?

Commission favors shorter homes, slightly less lot coverage

Dallas City Plan Commissioners have sided with longtime Elm Thicket/Northpark residents seeking to preserve the history and character of the neighborhood.

The commission recently voted unanimously to support a slight decrease in the lot coverage allowed for new homes there.

The proposals would limit maximum lot coverage to 35% for multi-story homes and 40% for single-story homes instead of the 45% allowed in most of Dallas. Many of the original homes in the area are at most 30%. 

The proposals would also drop the maximum height of homes by about 5 feet and largely do away with flat roofs used in some new two-story homes.

The neighborhood, bordered by Inwood, Lovers, Bluffview, Lemmon, and Mockingbird, is about 521 acres of primarily single-family homes with some duplexes on the edges.

“It is historically a Black/African American neighborhood,” explained Andrea Gilles, assistant director of planning and urban design. “There are many sources that cite that this is also a freedman town area within the city.”

Gilles said that the area, which was redlined in the 1930s through the 1960s, has seen changes in the last couple of decades. 

 “There’s been a sharp decline in the Black and African American population in this area, and a really significant increase in the Hispanic, Latino, and Latinx populations, and the white populations,” she said.

Gilles added that the area is seeing significant property value increases and higher housing costs with more new constructions and teardowns.

Those changes prompted a zoning process “looking at how you incorporate moderate changes to the zoning that soften the different development styles,” she said.

The Dallas City Council, likely later this year, will have the final say on the contentious zoning case, which has been in the works since 2016.

“The proposed zoning does not correct the sins of the past, nor does it begin to make up for the sins of the past,” said Mark Rieves, a former plan commissioner and member of the Elm Thicket/Northpark steering committee.

But it does provide, Rieves said, “a nod of respect to the existing legacy residents who have called Elm Thicket home for half a century. Their new neighbor next door will loom over them with less disrespect and hostility.”

Zac Thompson committed to maintaining the West University Boulevard home where his late mother lived all her life. “We have a chance to maintain a history that is unique. This is one of the last communities in Dallas that is historically Black.”

However, some stakeholders are unhappy, seeing the proposed changes as infringing on their property rights. 

“There’s no way the group that wants these changes could have gotten more than 50% of property owners to agree to all of this,” Allison Silveira said. “It is a fact that housing is one of the primary ways for wealth accumulation in this country. Are you really going to inhibit and deny that to neighbors in this area?”

Rachel Snyder

Rachel Snyder, deputy editor at People Newspapers, joined the staff in 2019, returning to her native Dallas-Fort Worth after starting her career at community newspapers in Oklahoma. One of her stories won first place in its category in the Oklahoma Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest in 2018. She’s a fan of puns and community journalism, not necessarily in that order. You can reach her at [email protected]

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