Forty east Dallas neighbors gathered at Matt’s Rancho Martinez to hear from representatives of the owners of Skillman Live Oak Center and Andy’s Frozen Custard about plans to rezone multiple plots and locate an Andy’s Custard on the site.
The meeting was moderated by Melissa Kingston, a member of the District 14 Planning Commission appointed by Councilman Paul Ridley.
As the lawyer Earlier reported, Canadian investor Sun Life Assurance bought the center which includes Chips and Matt’s in August 2015. A purchase in 2016 added the vacant Wells Fargo office and drive-thru to Sun Life’s holdings. Sun Life also owns the Buzzbrews building and the EDDC building, but these lots are not included in this rezoning application.
As shown on the site plan below, the building housing Chip’s and Matt’s is zoned Community Retail (CR). Behind the center, in four separate areas, is a parking lot and the vacant Wells Fargo building. Two lots are zoned for multi-family (MF-2A), one is zoned for parking (P) and the Wells Fargo building is a limited office (LO-2).
Sun Life’s request is to change these four parcels to Community Retail (CR) zoning and replace the entire site with Lot 1 for the existing building and parking lot and Lot 2 for a proposed Andy’s Custard . The owners also want to move an existing municipal right-of-way in the middle of the parking lot to the eastern edge of the property to connect to the driveway and place dumpsters there.
Staci Bowen of Crestview Real Estate, who manages the property for Sun Life, reviewed Andy’s aerial plan and new site plan. She noted the existing multifamily zoning and said Sun Life had done a study that showed structured parking with multifamily above the parking lot could be successful, but decided “we bought it as a as a mall and we want it to stay as a mall. center.”
“In this process,” Bowen said, “Andy asked us to locate a store in Lakewood.”
At the end of Bowen’s exam, quick questions about traffic, garbage, street racing, noise and lights from neighbors began. A neighbor two blocks from La Vista asked why he wanted to place a commercial business open until 11 p.m. next to a historic residential area.
But there are a few eating establishments in the area that stay open late. Buzzbrews is open 24 hours a day. Cosmo’s and The Pour House are open until 2am
Several questions focused on the height difference between the existing multi-family and office zoning and the proposed retail zoning. The MF-2(A) zoning has a height limit of 36 feet, and the LO-2 zoning has a height limit of 95 feet. The requested CR zoning has a height restriction of 54 feet.
For all of these classifications, the limit drops to 26 feet for the portion of the site adjacent to the residential neighborhood to meet the residential proximity slope requirement of the zoning code.
Eric Reed, of Springfield, Missouri, is the Andy’s franchisee for Dallas, Oklahoma and Central Florida. It operates seven stores in Dallas (including one in Lake Highlands) and seven others in Orlando, Tulsa and Oklahoma City. Reed connected better with neighborhood attendees, noting the accommodations he has made in other neighborhood locations, his emphasis on hiring local residents, and his support of community schools. Reed said his deal was a 35-year ground lease and he was not buying the site outright, which is usually his preference.
Reed acknowledged the impact of its operations on traffic. The Wells Fargo sidewalk already in place will be used to enter and exit the business, which is busiest from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. “Maximum production” is 45-55 cars per hour with a throughput time of 60 seconds.
Meeting attendees attempted to balance Andy’s appeal as a walkable neighborhood business with the demand for CR zoning.
“It’s not just a nice little ice cream shop,” said a neighbor. “This CR zoning works with the property and if Andy fails, CR zoning could allow so many other things that aren’t good for the neighborhood.”
The feeling seemed like a thumbs up for an Andy, but a thumbs down for a complete rezoning of the 3 acres in CR. If Andy is closed, the entire site would still be zoned CR, which opens up a range of opportunities for redevelopment that may not be so welcome in the neighborhood.
One route Crestview chose not to take was a planned development district (PD) where site plans, landscaping plans, and uses are subject to detailed city approvals. Bowen said they had thought of a PD but wanted to clear the parking lot, abandon the current right-of-way, move the dumpsters and were told “city staff don’t like PDs.” .
Kingston spoke towards the end of the meeting.
“We’re not going to rush this process,” she said. “This won’t be the only meeting. I want your questions answered. I want feedback from the community. I want to hear what you think.
“It’s a really big ask. They sold it as, ‘You get a custard store.’ Not only are they asking to zone a substantial part of the site, they are also asking to drastically change traffic patterns, reduce walkability and replace the site, which means they could do a bigger development in the future. It doesn’t make sense to me.
As Kingston ended the meeting, she said, “I don’t like it. I believe that what is proposed at this time is inappropriate. That said, this property doesn’t work as well as it could. There are changes that might make sense.
If Crestview had met with Kingston before this neighborhood meeting and heard her so strongly opposed their proposal, this meeting would not have taken place or at least the agenda would have been different. There might be a path for Andy, as the neighborhood heats up to Reed and the idea of a local custard shop, but in its current state, this rezoning request seems DOA.
Click to sign up for The Lawyer’s Weekly News Digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Lakewood/East Dallas.