From KERA News:
The Dallas Public Facility Corporation opted to delay its vote on acquiring the land for the Cypress Creek at Forest Lane for at least a month. The board is appointed by the city council and has the authority to acquire and develop land for public purposes, including affordable housing.
Board members directed the developer, Sycamore Strategies, to conduct more community engagement meetings with nearby homeowners, and then bring the proposal back to them.
Several people who live in neighborhoods not far from the proposed development came to speak about the project. Most were opposed, citing a fear that it would increase traffic and crime, or negatively impact public schools.
Opponents, including area council member Adam McGough, also said they should have been informed of efforts to move forward a deal that looked dead in the water two years ago.
Zachary Krochtengel told the board that he’d faced massive opposition in 2021 when he sought to procure the tax credits, and that he didn’t think more conversations would change the minds of neighbors opposed to the project.
Nonetheless, the public facility corporation board told him to hold more public meetings.
“Based on a lot of the citizen input that we heard earlier, it sounds like you guys did not sit down with communities surrounding this particular project and had discussions or meetings,” board member Ronald Stinson told him, saying he though more such meetings were called for.
Some speakers spoke favorably of the deal, saying that the area was in desperate need of affordable housing, that it would help businesses nearby if workers could afford to live in the area, and that more housing would reduce homelessness.
The Texas Department of Housing and Community Development awarded coveted federal tax credits to the Cypress Creek project in 2021. The project was scored highly by the city because it is in a census tract with comparatively low poverty and is near to public transit, but the site has been dormant since then because a 1970s deed restriction.
Despite the calls for delay, there is a clock ticking: Krochtengel has until the end of 2024 to build the project and lease the apartments, or he’ll lose the tax credits.
They board directed Krochtengel to try again to negotiate with the owners of an office building and other properties next door to dissolve the restriction that bars the building of apartment complexes.
Krochtengel said he’d made multiple attempts to negotiate with William Roth and other property owners to get out from under the private deed restriction.
“It unfortunately did not work out in that manner,” Krochtengel said. “I think he and I just have a very different opinion about whether affordable housing is suitable on that site.”
After the negotiations failed, he began trying to partner with a government in an arrangement that would nullify the restrictions.
Roth, who owns a commercial real estate company, told the board it would harm his investments and trample his rights as a property owner if the city, through the public facility corporation, were to overrule the deed restriction to build affordable housing.
“We bought our property based on the development plans for the area, which was designed for commercial operations, for offices, retail and services businesses,” Roth said.
One board member, Mary Poss, said she thought that move would be risky, especially since conservative lawmakers in the Texas Legislature are looking to curtail or even kill the entire enterprise of public facilities corporations.
“I think a lot of people would consider that a taking of private property,” Poss said.
Krochtengel said the city is well within its legal rights to take this action, and that it has done so in several instances before.
Her colleague, Alan Tallis, said he thought the project should be approved.
“We’re supposed to be looking for and supporting workforce housing, and helping the housing situation in the city of Dallas,” said Tallis. “Of all the projects I’ve seen come through, this one really fits that bill.”
The Dallas City Council originally planned to consider the project and possibly vote on some form of partnership with the developer in its March 8 meeting, although it is unclear if that will be changed by the delayed vote from the public facility corporation.