HPPC’s Rezoning Plans on Hold Until Sept. 14

Likely you’ve heard that neighbors in the vicinity of Highland Park Presbyterian Church are upset — an understatement, perhaps — about HPPC’s motion to rezone and build a surface parking lot. Yesterday evening, the plan finally went before University Park’s* planning and zoning commission, in a public hearing wherein supporters and opponents had 45 minutes, per group, to make their case (HPPC’s side took less time, though six members spoke on its behalf).

The outcome: Proposed bluprints are shelved at least until P and Z’s next meeting on Sept. 14, pending more research and consideration. In the meantime, said Bob West, Planning and Zoning Commission chair, he’d like to see the church crunch numbers for an underground parking garage — one of several options broached Tuesday night by those opposed to the surface lot.

The rendering above, from Lambert Garden Design, illustrates a wall that will screen the lot from view, designers say, and lend itself to a “park-like setting” in the neighborhood.

Want more details? We’ll have them in Friday’s issue of Park Cities People.

*For anyone jumping into this story midway through or living more than a stone’s throw from HPPC: The church is actually inside the City of University Park, confusing-name geography be darned.

30 thoughts on “HPPC’s Rezoning Plans on Hold Until Sept. 14

  • August 11, 2010 at 2:38 pm
    Permalink

    The church’s arguement hinged upon their “survival” being dependent upon the availability of more parking. That’s exactly the word they used…survival. Can their situation be that desperate? Are church attendees really that convenience driven? Is a 2 minute walk such a significant barrier to worship? Will people really drive off without attending if they have to walk a few blocks? If this is true, it is stunning. It also offers some insight into both the level of dedication of the congregation and the quality and appeal of the activities within the church. Hard to believe. PRL

    Reply
  • August 11, 2010 at 5:08 pm
    Permalink

    I don’t see what is different from HPPC request and the completed lots recently built at UPUMC and PCBC. UP tore down many houses, but I like the finished lot. It’s a great surface to be used. HPPC hosts more that just Sunday morinings – they have one of the largest scouting programs around plus rec sports leagues. I’d think the neighbors would like to get them off the streets and into parking spots.

    Reply
  • August 11, 2010 at 7:41 pm
    Permalink

    Here is one small thing out of many to consider…. the church houses two different weekday schools, one for young children and the other for children with special educational needs, and also houses a mothers co-op for 2-4 year olds. So there are hundreds of kids in the church during the week. How wonderful for mothers of young children to have a safe place to park – a place without traffic whizzing by on University and your child getting out of your grasp and running into the traffic. That is just one good safety reason for non-street parking. I could name many, many more. As Dallas gets bigger, University and McFarlin get busier and busier and off street parking becomes more of a safety issue, especially during the week. It is no longer 1960…. Also, the lot is not just for Sunday morning parking for a couple of hours. It would be used throughout the week when the church is used for funerals, Bible studies, community service, etc.

    Reply
  • August 11, 2010 at 11:07 pm
    Permalink

    I’m a mom with kids at HP Pres Day School and an HPPC member. Since when was the parking lot for parents with small kids? We need to park on the other side of the building, near the nursery and child care. Walking thru a parking lot and across a street is more dangerous, and it’s also farther away. We’ll keep parking by the fire station, so don’t build that lot for us!

    Reply
  • August 12, 2010 at 11:45 am
    Permalink

    @kim I spent years with a child at the Day School and many times have seen moms chasing after kids who were darting out into the traffic on University. I often see moms with children in Day School uniforms trying to find a space in the small lot on the west side of the church. So there are families who would use this lot daily if it were built.

    Reply
  • August 12, 2010 at 11:46 am
    Permalink

    What about when the high school built their parking garage? Were houses torn down. What about the new field house monstrosity. Were people name calling and spewing venom and anger then?

    Reply
  • August 12, 2010 at 12:15 pm
    Permalink

    The “park-like setting” in the rendering looks an awful lot like a mausoleum.

    Reply
  • August 12, 2010 at 12:31 pm
    Permalink

    Churchfriend: You think wrong. First of all, the parking lot will not eliminate street parking around the church; it will merely decrease its radius. Note that this same objective could be accomplished by valet parking, which the church has summarily rejected because it does not want to be perceived as “elitist.” We are more than happy to accommodate parallel parking in front of our houses. We are not happy to accommodate an unprecedented zoning change in the heart of a residential neighborhood. The difference between the proposed HPPC parking lot and the completed PCBC and UPUMC parking lots is that HPPC is the ONLY church in the park cities completely surrounded by single family housing. UPUMC is bordered by Hyer Elementary and Preston Road, while PCBC is bordered by Northwest Highway and faces two buildings that are at least twenty stories tall. Comparing these cases is completely and totally inaccurate. I am delighted that you are happy with the finished product on Colgate. Would you be happy living across from it 24/7 when you had bought your house knowing that the area it now covers was zoned for single family occupancy?

    Think about it: Kim responded trenchantly, and I will simply reiterate. Everything to do with small children is located at the other end of the church. Parking on the west block would still involve crossing the parking lot itself and, more importantly, a newly congested Shannon lane, which would then be even more crowded and dangerous due to none other than the main parking lot entrance being located right where people would need to cross the street to enter Elliot Hall. Effectively, the net change regarding safety issues is a wash. With regard to extra-Sunday usage, I have never witnessed a regular weekday event require parking beyond a two block’s walk from the church. And no matter how many days per week the concrete happens to be used, it will still lower my property value and destroy houses. The emphasis that has been placed on the fact that the parking lot will actually be utilized is incredible; it is as if a developer were to defend the construction of an office building by assuring everyone that employees would in fact be working there Monday through Friday. Absurd. The planned development is an egregious, PERMANENT intrusion into a single family neighborhood regardless of how many days per week people might use it.

    Reply
  • August 12, 2010 at 1:51 pm
    Permalink

    The high school knocked down mostly dilapidated multifamily housing and yes there was some anger but those multifamily locations were also wedged in on two sides by the school and by commercial retail zoning on Preston, not a completely surrounded residential zone. I have no evidence and could be wrong but just from a logical perspective I would say that home values surrounding the school went up when they got rid of the junk and added to the school. As for the field house, that really isn’t even close to the same situation as the school owned the entire field property already and didn’t change the zoning or usage of the property.

    Reply
  • August 12, 2010 at 7:10 pm
    Permalink

    The street parking would be reduced dramatically. It’s unsafe to pass through that area during services. It has become a traffic hazard. The addition of a lot or garage would help alleviate the problem. The city will ultimately approve one or the other, like it or not.

    Reply
  • August 12, 2010 at 8:37 pm
    Permalink

    Think about it: None of our 4 public elementary schools have parking lots for parents to park in, and that’s a good thing. We parents understand that we might have to walk up to a block (during a heavily attended school event) but usually it’s a half a block or less, often with little kids in tow. It’s what we mothers do every time we take our kids out into the dangerous world and we are used to it. Don’t you think tearing down 4 blocks of homes in 4 beautiful neighborhoods near the schools to install giant parking lots would be absurd, selfish and detrimental to all of UP? My opinion as a mother of 2 is that parking lots are some of the most dangerous places for kids, what with how quiet engines have become, everyone backing up without looking, and talking and texting on cell phones. I’d rather have my 2 up on a sidewalk any day.

    And no, it isn’t 1960 anymore. In 1960 the leaders of HPPC still cared about their neighbors and their excellent relationships with them. This parking lot issue came up in the past and when the head pastor heard that the neighbors didn’t like it, he immediately shut it down. In 2009, 24 elders of HPPC, most of whom do not live here and do not pay UP taxes, decided that saving a minute or two in their walk to the church was more important than anything else. “Love thy neighbor” seems to have gone the way of typewriters and slide rulers. But I’m pretty sure it’s still written down in their Bibles–maybe they should get them out and check.

    Reply
  • August 12, 2010 at 9:03 pm
    Permalink

    Michlethwait* what does that mean….
    Any way not to split hairs but HPPC buts up to city parkland and the city offices/firestation catty corner. It’s not what I would call a quiet family street by any stretch. You bought on a busy street… in some cities, they say ” no view is ever guaranteed” meaning that progress and development may change your view or your street.
    I’d never presume anything buying the first block off preston next to churches and city offices. The church deserves at least the same consideration as it’s peer churches managed to get. Especially when they already own all the land.

    Reply
  • August 13, 2010 at 9:40 am
    Permalink

    Cynthia: An example of name calling would be the statement “He is a nincompoop.” An example of spewing venom would be a snake with a terrible case of gland incontinence. You owe it to your credibility to make the distinction between these particular actions and the rational, robust arguments put forth by people opposed to the parking lot.

    AD: It seems an excellent solution for you, then, would be to avoid “that area” the two hours per week that there are services if you truly consider it “unsafe.” I live right in the middle of “that area” and therefore tend to “pass through” it all the time, including Sunday mornings, and I am as safe and copacetic as can be.

    Churchfriend: Yes, I stand corrected. The church is not surrounded completely by single family housing; it is instead surrounded by single family housing and a lovely park. City Hall is a block away from any church building and two blocks away from the proposed parking lot site. I concede, then, the pro-parking lot arguments proffered so far on this page:

    1. “…There are families who would use this lot daily if it were built.”
    2. The church is bordered on one side by a park.

    I do not concede, however, the argument that the parking lot would drastically alleviate safety problems. The church’s own presentation claimed that there were six hundred cars that needed parking on an average Sunday morning. The net space gain due to the parking lot will be a grand total of one hundred thirty. That represents a twenty-one percent reduction in street parking. Perhaps we wish to reevaluate the statement made above that “street parking would be reduced dramatically.” Add the congestion problems caused by a newly expanded Shannon lane housing the main parking lot entrance at the same spot people would have to cross the street to access Elliot Hall, and you have a lot of explaining to do in order to make any argument for a safety improvement. It is frankly sad that your idea of “progress and development” is tearing down homes in the middle of University Park and paving the space they occupied with concrete. Perhaps that would change if said “progress and development” happened to be a commercial development across the street from YOUR house?

    Reply
  • August 13, 2010 at 9:53 am
    Permalink

    Here we go again…
    1. Jesus would walk…or ride a camel. Maybe camels are the answer.
    2. Google Earth Scates’ old parish in Baltimore and his parking “plaza” there. Eyesore. Blight.
    3. Make the existing spaces elder/handicap/child/pregnant friendly.
    4. The fabric of a neighborhood changing for a cement slab is certifiably insane.
    5. When I’ve had to walk 2 blocks w/ my children to their school during a crazy event week, I’ve never thought; Darn these houses, let’s build a parking lot so I don’t have to walk. I have to park on a residential street sometimes when I eat in Preston Center. I sure do wish the houses weren’t there. I could get there 1 minute earlier.
    6. This comes down to 1 thing: Church Envy.

    Reply
  • August 13, 2010 at 4:16 pm
    Permalink

    Hey – you know, I like you Micklethewait… You present sound, reasonable, well educated , funny posts. My favorite thing about UP is the beautiful homes and leafy trees. The 1 or 2 block walks are really nice, and a blast to the 50’s. We forget how lucky we all are to live here.
    I hope this works out for all – for the best. Maybe they should rent out the HS garage on sundays, and run a shuttle service sort of like HPUMC does with Smu Moody Garage. Let’s get creative here!

    Reply
  • August 13, 2010 at 4:59 pm
    Permalink

    @Avid Reader and Micklethwait, OK, Uncle. I hope you get your way. I always thought a growing church was a good thing.

    Reply
  • August 13, 2010 at 5:32 pm
    Permalink

    @Micklethewait does present very good arguments. The Mayor or City Council could solve this problem very quickly.
    Mayor: “Hey, Pastor Scates, now I know a few of y’all really want this parking lot thing, but I’ve gotta tell ya. It’s really not going to happen. Those neighbors don’t want it and we just can’t see ever re-zoning SF1 for a parking lot. Those houses are going to stay SF1 as long as I’m here”.

    And end of subject. Done deal. Case closed. Roll credits. C’mon Mayor, it’s a 30-second call. Yes, you can.

    Sadly, it won’t play out like this. We’ve seen the same movie way too many times. City employees are spending lots of time (=money) on planning and negotiating and alternatives. I’d love to hear how much city money is being spent analyzing and researching alternatives.

    Micklethewait and others: Good luck to you. You are the ones with the dog in this hunt. I hope you are successful.

    Reply
  • August 13, 2010 at 7:01 pm
    Permalink

    churchfriend: Your suggestion is a very good one. And it probably took you 15 seconds or less to think of it. The steering committee for the neighbors against the parking lot presented your idea and many others to HPPC over a year ago. Free valet parking for seniors, volunteer groups made up of the healthy and young parking one block away, re-scheduling one of the 3 services that all start at 11 am, and shuttle service from SMU and the high school parking lots were among them. The church refused to even consider these ideas and aggressively pursued the parking lot instead.

    Your favorite things about UP are ours, too. But not enough people realize that the land in this neighborhood, and on University Boulevard–the one and only boulevard in the city, is a finite thing. Once a block of homes is rezoned for a parking lot and unlimited future use, it will never go back. Our fight has always been about preservation of our neighborhood, and we need people like to you consider our points and not take the rare beauty and blessings of this neighborhood for granted. Thank you for your good wishes!

    Reply
  • August 14, 2010 at 3:24 am
    Permalink

    @Cynthia No one has said they don’t want the church to grow. Being a member of HPPC, I would love for us to grow! but can’t stand what we’re doing to our neighbors using growth as an excuse. I’ve been going to the church since before the split, and always loved walking through the neigborhood before going in. In fact, sometimes my husband and I even park over by Gore to enjoy a nice stroll by the gazebo first. Until we get to 8000 again, i just don’t understand the need. If we all managed to park in the 80’s, why is it that all of the sudden people start saying that we can’t grow until we get a parking lot?

    Reply
  • August 14, 2010 at 8:02 am
    Permalink

    i have a one word solution for this problem:
    monorail.
    it works at disney world. it can work in our
    fantasy land too.

    Reply
  • August 15, 2010 at 4:50 pm
    Permalink

    @anon- wouldn’t it be great if it DID play out that way for the neighbors? That our City Council and other city leaders would heed the opposition of the neighbors/community (i.e. UP Taxpayers) and actually deny this request for unwanted and unneeded commercial development in our City? OK, I admit- I’m a sucker for a happy ending, where the good guys or underdogs win. But that is what this case sounds like.

    On one side you have The Big Church, with all its staff members and other paid consultants, coming back to the City for its 3rd request to expand its footprint(first was in 1969 when they asked to tear down homes and move Shannon Lane, then in 1980’s when decided to build the Hunt Building. Now they want to jump over a public city street (Shannon Ln, which they already caused to be moved once) to rezone a block of single family house for a parking lot and who knows what else.

    On the other side, you have The Neighbors, a growing, roiling mob that is not just mad, they are WAY mad! A determined bunch, if there ever was one. I watched the video of the P&Z hearing held earlier this week, and it seems to me that David kicked Goliath in the shins and landed a few good punches. All the reasons The Church gave for wanting (read: not ‘needing’) a parking lot made them look– dare I say it?– self-centered and shallow, with comments about a ‘post-modern church’ and a ‘tendency for consumerism’.

    I’m gonna stick around and hope for a happy ending for the neighbors. If this one does go their way it will send a message that our city leaders are willing to stand firm when it comes to preserving homes, trees, neighborhoods – all things that we as homeowners value about living in UP.

    Reply
  • August 16, 2010 at 9:13 am
    Permalink

    In the 80s I think parking was available on both sides of McFarlin and University. Didn’t the city take away 1/2 of that? And I also believe they are currently using a shuttle system. And seriously, who wants to valet park? Ever? Like I said, I don’t have a horse in this race but I kind of feel sorry for the church. If they say they want a parking lot then they’re selfish, bad neighbors. If they say the need the lot then they’re overly dramatic with no programs to draw people who have to walk more than 10 steps. THis church has done good things for this community and city but they can’t win for losing. People like to compare current leadership to those of the 60s or 80s. Well they saw the need back then and it still exists today. It’s not as if they are asking for a parking garage like the high school or PCBC. People and churches have been arguing for centuries. I don’t see that changing. AFter all, we’re all human and churches are run by humans too.

    Reply
  • August 16, 2010 at 10:20 am
    Permalink

    I too am a member of HPPC (since the ’70s) and I wholeheartedly agree with Nancy. We do not need a parking lot – period. I am rooting for the neighbors!

    Reply
  • August 16, 2010 at 11:42 am
    Permalink

    @Cynthia, The decision to make the north side of McFarlin ‘No Parking’ was made by the city several years ago when McFarlin was used as a detour during the construction on University near City Hall. It has just remained in place for whatever reason. The McFarlin homeowners have spoken to City staff and they are willing to consider at least a ‘Sunday only parking’ exemption for the north side of McFarlin. If HPPC will work with the neighbors in approaching the City, I think we can all come up with a way to free up spaces on University and McFarlin, at least for Sunday church parking. This is just one of many options and alternatives the neighbors have already offered HPPC, with no response. As @Nancy points out above, there just isn’t a need for a parking lot when people can park a block or at most, two blocks away, just as they have for over 82 years.

    Reply
  • August 16, 2010 at 11:51 am
    Permalink

    Seems like the perfect time for an ecumenical solution…simply WWJP? Where would Jesus park?

    Reply
  • August 16, 2010 at 1:33 pm
    Permalink

    @tm – if they can get back the parking spaces they used to have (for 82 years or up until several years ago), both sides of McFarlin and University, I agree.
    For fire and safety purposes I don’t see it happening.

    Reply
  • August 16, 2010 at 1:52 pm
    Permalink

    Thanks to all the HPPC members and others above who have voiced their support for preserving neighborhoods and homes and opposing HPPC’s proposed planned development “island” in the middle of single family housing.

    Our petition is at 500+ names and growing (including many who are HPPC members). The opinion of UP homeowners and taxpayers is very important to our elected officials so let your voice be heard! This is a zoning case that the citizens of UP CAN win! To sign our petition, please email us at
    [email protected] and we will arrange to get your signature.

    Reply
  • August 16, 2010 at 4:02 pm
    Permalink

    It’s time for the city council to stand up for the neighbors. If the church has outgrown its parking, won’t the facilities be next? Where does it stop? It’s great that a church is growing; however, it knows the property under its control and should operate accordingly. Most churches face growth problems, and many are forced to find an alternate site. Perhaps, a more creative solution should be considered. Other churches across the country (PCBC locally) use buses from nearby parking lots successfully, so what’s the difference here?

    I don’t see much of a difference between the churche’s problem and those of the local schools. Parking at all of them is non-existent, and, yet, there are no plans for parking lots so we can walk our young ones to school or have a “convenient” spot for school events. Let’s face it, the parking and traffic around the schools is a much more pressing problem. I feel for the folks with the preschoolers, but that queue lane on University looks like it moves pretty well.

    Oh, and AD, pass by any church with a parking garage on a Sunday and tell me that it has improved traffic flow. If it did, I wouldn’t be stopped by a cop on NW Hwy every Sunday after PCBC services.

    Reply
  • August 17, 2010 at 11:39 pm
    Permalink

    One of the first roles of a Church is to be a responsible member of the community and a good neighbor. It’s even scriptural: “Love thy neighbor as thy self”.

    So, I was surprised that HPPC did not solicit more neighborhood input when they began planning for this currently debated expansion. They certainly had to know that many of their UP neighbors, and probably several of their own members, would be very skeptical of a major expansion and parking facility that would take homes and dramatically increase traffic problems on University and McFarland; especially on Sundays.

    Few who are intimately familiar with University Park would argue that HPPC is a valued and beloved long-time institutional mainstay of our community. And, nobody with good eyesight and driving skills could dispute HPPC’s need for more Sunday service parking.

    But, it should also be remembered that University Park is quite unique in that it is landlocked on all sides by Dallas and Highland Park, and it already hosts a huge proportionate share of tax-exempt property. SMU; our many parks; our municipal facilities; the HPISD High School, Middle School, two elementary schools, and the HPISD Administration Building; the YMCA; the Holmes Aquatic Center; and some of the largest Churches in the country all represent cherished jewels in our community. But, they are also tax-exempt gems that raise our taxes whenever they convert taxable property to tax-exempt property. (Highland Park has only two elementary schools.)

    Most residents of University Park certainly want our Churches to be successful, and to see them prosper. In these difficult times, it’s good to know we have wonderful houses of worship to minister to the spiritual or other needs of our friends and neighbors. However, Church growth should not be a burden on its neighbors, should not reduce the property values, or cause them other undeserved elements of harm.

    From a traffic standpoint, Park Cities Baptist Church and University Park Methodist Church have advantages HPPC does not enjoy. PCBC is on Northwest Highway, and disburses the parking from its underground garage away from neighborhoods.

    UPMC is located on Preston Road, and disburses most of its surface parking constituents quickly onto Preston’s four lanes and other directions.

    My guess is that if HPPC would go back to the drawing board, reduce considerably the footprint it proposed, create an underground parking garage, expedite Sunday garage access and egress with the help of additional UPPD officers, and make better use of off-site shuttles, I think many of the neighbors would mitigate their objections.

    The neighbors aren’t looking for a perfect solution – just one everyone can have faith in and live with.
    wjmj

    Reply
  • August 20, 2010 at 11:58 am
    Permalink

    @N.F., thanks for your good and insightful points. Those who live around HPPC have always been good neighbors to the church and expect the same in return. Fighting for a zoning change that will destroy a residential block of homes against the neighbors’ will is not the answer. We remain open to discussing alternatives with HPPC but will not back down from our opposition of a surface parking lot and other commercial uses in the heart of our beautiful neighborhood.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *