Naked City

Neighborhood Plan Watch

Four years after the Dawson Neighborhood Plan -- the city's first -- was begun, and two years after it was adopted, the City Council still hasn't gotten its act together to approve the plan's recommended zoning changes. (This implementation phase was expected to take about a month.) Various Dawsonians who weren't involved in the plan -- which covers the area between South Congress, South First, Oltorf, and Ben White -- have campaigned shrilly against it. While the plan's call for certain restrictions on commercial expansion irked businesses on the corridors around the neighborhood, Dawson's adoption of Smart Growth measures like small-lot amnesty -- which can only be done through neighborhood plans -- have drawn fire (as regular readers of "Postmarks" know) in the current anti-Smart climate.

On first and second readings (back in mid-July and late August, respectively), the City Council unanimously approved the Dawson rezonings, which would override the valid petitions of objecting property owners. Council's decision came after much tinkering from the dais, and postponements to gain additional neighborhood input. Property owners claimed (as they always do) that nobody told them they were to be rezoned. The third and final reading was supposed to take place at last week's council meeting, but was again postponed and rescheduled for Nov. 1.

Some longtime Dawson leaders wonder if being the city's neighborhood-planning guinea pig was worth the trouble. In a letter to the City Council, Dawson Neighborhood Association founding President Donald Dodson complains that every delay legitimizes opposition to the plan, which he and other neighbors feel is both misguided and underhanded. "There apparently is no reward for participating in initiatives passed by the Council," he writes. "Council has shown that lies and deceit can win over hard work and diligence." Dawson's alienation from city government is not complete, though: Planning team chair Cynthia Medlin now sits on the Planning Commission and will, one imagines, listen to residents in other neighborhoods who have the same arguments about their neighborhood plans.

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