developer, city clash over rules

Restrictions contested in plan for historic area

the dallas morning news

May 1995


Dan Shine Staff Writer of The Dallas Morning News

 

Braden Power had grandiose plans for the rundown Spanish Mediterranean style apartment building in the
Munger Place Historic District.

When he bought the property late last year, he envisioned palm trees and other elaborate landscaping,
mosaic tile work around the door and steps and a hilly park in an adjacent lot. But Mr. Power, 25, soon
discovered that much of what he wanted to do for the nine unit building in the 4900 block of Worth Street was against city code or the historic district's ordinances.

"Highland Park doesn't have it," Mr. Power said, referring to the strict rules that govern how properties in the district can be changed. "The M streets don't have it. This has gone too far."

But city officials and homeowners in the Old East Dallas neighborhood said the rules ensure the prolonged
integrity of the historic area and make it more appealing to potential buyers.

The conflict between developers' decorating wishes and city ordinances aimed at preserving the area's
tradition is at the heart of a dispute between Mr. Power and the city, the district's task force and the
Landmark Commission.

City officials and members of the historic district's task force told Mr. Power that his driveway was too wide, that parking was not allowed on the adjacent lot and that the trees he wanted to plant were not permitted.

"I'm all for it, if everyone has to do it," Mr. Power said of the ordinances. "No one else in the neighborhood has had to do it. It's totally selective."

Jim Anderson, senior historic preservation planner for the city of Dallas, said that is untrue.

"We've had many people take dilapidated properties and fix them up, and they've all gone by the ordinance
and by the city rules," Mr. Anderson said.

Landmark Commission chairwoman Trudy O'Reilly said task force members told Mr. Power not to do any
work until he got approval.

"We told him it wasn't appropriate, and he went ahead and put it all in anyway," she said. "He knows the
process. It's not naivete."

Mr. Power, who owns 11 properties in the area, said he was frustrated by the restrictions and angered by the
way he was treated. So he went ahead with his plans, spending thousands of dollars on the landscaping.

"I talked to neighbors, and they never had a plan," said Mr. Power. "I did my own plan, and I've got greatlooking trees. There's no way they can say it's not beautiful."

Besides, he said, he sees trees all around his property that are not on the approved list. Ms. O'Reilly counters that those trees were there before the neighborhood became a historic district and adopted some rules.

Mr. Anderson said the landscaping issue is "just the tip of the iceberg." The real dispute, he said, is over the driveway and tenant parking. "He is breaking major building codes, and we try to tell him how to rectify them and he says we're picking on him," Mr. Anderson said.

Mr. Power said some of the ordinances are "counterproductive," and he charges that the district's task force wields too much power.

"They'll never get anyone in here who's going to want to deal with this," he said. "I could have left that lot a mud pit there, and it wouldn't have been against the ordinance. Instead, I try and improve it and this is what I get."

Mr. Power also points out that before he bought the building, police officers were frequent visitors to the
apartments. Records show that during the past four years there have been numerous complaints to police
about prostitution, drug dealing and disturbances. Mr. Power said his renovation has eliminated those
problems.

Ms. O'Reilly argues that strict code enforcement has increased property values in the historic district and
attracted investors such as Mr. Power.

"Braden is a nice person, and people want to see the older apartments redone," she said. "We'll work with
him any way we can. But at this point we can't OK what he wants to do."

Since the dispute began, Mr. Power has removed two offending holly trees but has changed little else. Mr.
Anderson said Mr. Power could soon face citations and a daily fine for the violations.

"I may have to pay a fine for planting a bush," Mr. Power said.

Ms. O'Reilly said the district has given out dozens of "certificates of approval" to residents making changes.

She said Mr. Power's protests are an isolated incident for the historic district.

"The only thing the city asks is that you comply with ordinances and historic district guidelines," Ms. O'Reilly said. "That's not a lot to ask."


PHOTO(S): (The Dallas Morning News: Randy Eli Grothe)
Braden Power has gone ahead with some changes at his apartment
building in the Munger Place Historic District despite city
regulations he believes are unfair. "There's no way they can say it's
not beautiful," the developer said. ; PHOTO LOCATION: Disk 68a /
NB_18BradenPower (cf 80551).
Copyright 1995 The Dallas Morning News Company