Supporters of a City-designed plan to improve the appearance of the White Rock Lake spillway say only one obstacle stands in the way: money.

“The only major hurdle to making it a reality is funding,” says Councilwoman Mary Poss.

The $10.6 million package of improvements focuses on landscaping, streets, sidewalks, intersections, pedestrian access and parking areas. Some highlights:

  • Redesign the Gaston Avenue-Garland Road-Grand Avenue intersection for better traffic flow.
  • Develop a system of trails, with one intended mainly for use by cyclists and skaters.
  • Preserve, restore and develop park areas. The area near the historic Filter Building would be one spot targeted for this development.

In addition to the infrastructure, the City staff and a steering committee made up of neighborhood residents and business owners also worked on land use and zoning requirements. Results so far include a pledge by business owners near the spillway to correct all code violations (such as improper signage and litter) and initiation of a business Crime Watch.

The suggestion for custom zoning in the area (which would allow the City to require certain landscaping, design standards and lighting be met if the businesses were closed and then re-opened, or purchased by a new owner) has been put on hold.

Potential funding sources for the improvements include transportation programs administered through state and federal government; City and county funds; grants from non-governmental organizations and civic organizations; and funding support by corporations.

The funding initiatives and new guidelines came after months of fruitless requests by some to “zone out” some businesses, such as liquor stores.

“You can’t just zone out somebody’s use,” Poss says. “People do have property rights.”

Talks between property owners and residents have become less divisive, Poss says, with both parties working toward improvement goals.

The quickest route to luring different types of businesses to this area lies with the private sector, not City zoning requirements, Poss says. If a private developer pursues a “significant redevelopment throughout the entire area,” that would “ultimately be the fastest way to get the changes the community is asking for.”

Poss and Council member Veletta Forsythe Lill received an enthusiastic response to the design plan from the standing-room-only crowd during a recent public meeting at Trinity Lutheran Church in Lakewood. Audience members had some questions, suggestions, and plenty of applause for the presentation of the plan by City staff members.

Even in the face of the overwhelming approval, those leading the meeting didn’t mince words about how much work remains to be done.

“Please understand that money for these projects is not allocated,” Poss said, explaining the need to apply to state and federal agencies for funds.

Said Lill: “The short answer is that it will take time. A long time.”

The White Rock Lake Spillway Urban Design Plan is tentatively scheduled to go before the City Plan Commission this month, then to the City Council in May. For more information, call senior planner Leif Sandberg at 214-670-4213.