DeSoto Council Listens and Responds to Residents Who Said “No” to New Hampton Road Character Zone

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DESOTO—The DeSoto City Council continued last month’s meeting by revisiting the Hampton Road Character zoning area.

DeSoto residents had voiced concerns regarding the rezoning ordinance relating to properties in the Hampton Road Character zoning area.

The five new zoning districts included the Urban Center, Urban General, Neighborhood Services, Urban Neighborhood, and Neighborhood Transition. Residents spoke in April and again last week, many against and some in support of the changes.

Applicants at the April meeting said they did not believe their voices had been heard, making last week’s meeting a chance for speakers to respond to the new zoning ordinance by way of public comment before the city council.

DeSoto’s Development Services Director Charles Brewer opened the Public Hearing by reminding the council on March 26, 2024, a public hearing was held on the rezoning with 34 comment cards presented to the Planning and Zoning Commission: 16 in opposition, 10 in support, and eight individuals being neutral to the city’s request to rezone all the properties within the new Hampton Road Character Zone area.

Following this, a motion was made to recommend this to the city council, but with only five members in attendance at the meeting, the recommendation failed.

The council revisited the public hearing in April, and 17 public comment cards were presented to it; 12 were in opposition, and five individuals were in support of the changes.

Since then, Brewer said the city’s consultants conducted two public engagement meetings in late April, and they made a presentation to the council at the May public hearing. On April 22, 60 residents attended the engagement meeting, and on April 23, 33 individuals attended.

The consultant, Brad Johnson from Halff Associates, reminded the council that this public hearing was to map the already adopted new zoning district to properties in the new zoning district. Johnson reminded the council that the heart of the new district is about creating a walkable/bikeable feel in this area of DeSoto. An emphasis was on attempting to revitalize the area, offering a new feel for residents and those visiting the city.

Johnson went on to repeat the character code and its basis for necessary change in the rezoned area, reminding businesses already existing there they would be allowed to continue under the previous code if no big changes were implemented by their business.

Johnson also told the council there is support for the project, but property owners are concerned about property values and why the change is necessary.

Johnson told the council that of those who attended the April meetings, their concerns were as diverse as traffic issues due to the new project, not wanting the change, wanting to understand the changes, understanding the zoning impact, and some at the meeting who were in support of the economic benefits forthcoming with the changes.

Johnson’s feedback to the council after the April meetings included integrating more flexibility in the code for single-family homes so that they can rebuild in a disaster, requiring an SUP for accessory dwelling units, and monitoring traffic patterns.

A number of residents spoke at the public hearing, beginning with Madelyn Baker, who said she was in the transition area and there was supposed to be a road through there. ” Everyone is saying there is no plan, but someone has a plan. Who has the plan?” No one on council answered her, and she wanted to know when she would get an answer. Her second question was, “What does the transition area mean to me?” and then she asked, “When will I get the answers?”

Ann Gibson, who has lived in DeSoto since the seventies, said, “I believe all this is as crazy as driving down Chattey Road.” There were laughs and claps as she said, “If this rezoning should be determined and you want to go forward with this, you owe the citizens like us who have lived in this city a long time a chance to vote on this. It has been a long time since I have seen any bond elections for aquatic centers and all this major spending, and I have a problem with giving a handful of people the right to change our lives. I am not in this area now, but I have reason to believe you will go all the way to the city limits if you get your way this time.” She told the council, which was followed by applause that there is a problem with the infrastructure and in her neighborhood the “brokenness and decline… the city needs to fix what is broken now.”

James Haynes spoke, he has lived in DeSoto since August 1981. He said, “The Hampton Roads changes to what it is now to the two lanes and turn lane for what looks like two miles in here” will be creating a bottleneck, and it is not practical. He also asked about the cost and said, “We citizens have received no information on how this will be paid for.” He also reminded that COVID changed much and “brick and mortar stores are closing and this idea if you build it, it will come, no, not necessarily.” He called the idea a pipedream.

David Jones from Dallas is a commercial broker representing one of the property owners in the affected area, a doctor who has been in that location for more than 35 years. His concern is that his building could be torn down, and the insurance will only pay for the cost of what he’s torn down, and he will be a non-conforming user. If the building becomes vacant, the leasing of the property can become abandoned if not leased in the time given. “There needs to be more flexibility with the commercial projects,” he said.

Candace Bowman did not speak but noted she was opposed to the project.

Herbert Marsh spoke. He lives outside of DeSoto but has a business and “wants DeSoto to thrive.” He said he is opposed to the character code as it exists” and thinks more studies regarding the traffic issues need to be conducted. He also said the data he was directed to by Halff Associates was 59 pages and skewed since it was done during the global pandemic. “I think we need to revisit those studies. This affects a lot of homes in DeSoto.”

Cynthia English, who lives in DeSoto, said she was not going to speak but did, and she is for change. “DeSoto needs to stop living in the past.”

Cindy Bloomfield said her property would be in the Urban Center, and she is opposed to the rezoning and the Hampton Road changes “like a lot of people. I guess shame on me if you have already voted on this, and I was not aware of this type of meeting.”

Elma Goodwin said she is for it and that decisions must be made for the majority.

Mary Bonaparte, a DeSoto resident, asked the council to look at the Special Use Permit where you can build from 3000 square feet on up, and she said this looked like where the “projects” used to be, “the city needs to pay attention to what happens with this project.”

Esha Ahmad from Irving, with a property in DeSoto, said he is in favor of the development: “It will bring a bright future.”

Ray Stubblefield, a resident for 45 years, talked about the metroplex receiving millions of additional people in the next 30 years. He said he had a problem with the traffic on Hampton Road when there were other options: “No, no, no. There are too many people coming here, and there needs to be flow.”

Roy McCalister signed up to speak but did not. Jayme Lopez said she was in favor and six more names were called who did not come to the podium with favor or opposition noted.

Mayor Rachel Proctor opened the floor for council members to speak on the rezoning issue and public comments.

Mayor Pro Tem Letitia James was not in attendance at the meeting, but other council members commented, beginning with Place 2 Pierette Parker. Parker said she spoke in-depth with Brewer and “I am in favor of always trying to grow, but this does cause me some pause and I too, also have a thought process about the accessory units.”

She said she has spoken with many residents and rezoning is in her area of Place 2 and she wanted to know how many residents would be flipped based on the rezoning map from residential to commercial. There was no answer to that question at this time.

Place 6 Crystal Chism said she had a few residents reach out, and she said her position on this item was about keeping in mind the “development we bring and always keeping oversight over it as it enters our city.”

Place 4 Andre Byrd voiced his opinion, stating he has listened and read about the project, and he would love to see growth, “but right now growth seems like an elephant.” He said he believes the vision of Hampton Road is “our best effort, but to my council woman’s point how do we control it” and he said he needed more time to educate himself on what should happen first.” He believes if they don’t do something now, they could lose control, so how can they take control of what they have now without impeding it, and how can they set the parameters?

Place 3 Nicole Raphiel commented and said she had attended one of the April meetings and she said “one of the pain points for me was the neighborhood transition and what felt like a lack of control. And, discussing “how do we get there” where we want to go. She said she believed they could get to some place where everyone is happy.

Mayor Proctor said she echoed the sentiment of many of her colleagues “in terms of what we are looking to accomplish.” She thanked those who came to speak and added, “We all want to see DeSoto grow.”

Place 5: Dinah Marks made the motion, beginning with her thoughts, “We do hear you.” She added that nine were against and eight were for speaking at the meeting, and she said, “Looking at the data, it is somewhat even, and we do want to see DeSoto grow.”

Marks then made the motion to withdraw this zoning case, making a request that it be resubmitted through Planning and Zoning after the council has had an opportunity to revisit some of the ideas that had come forth in the night’s meeting.”

Parker seconded the motion, and it passed unanimously with applause from the audience.

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