Lake Highlands Town Center. ( Photo by Rasy Ran)

Lake Highlands Town Center. (Photo by Rasy Ran)

Development and landscape plans for the retail portion of the Lake Highlands Town Center — the subject of much neighborhood discussion with the not-as-of-yet-formally-announced-but-generally-understood-to-be Sprouts as anchor — reached the City Plan Commission last Thursday. Cypress Real Estate Advisors, the owner and developer of the Town Center, needed the commission’s stamp of approval that their plans fit within the guidelines of Planned Development District (PD) 758, which the city created for the Town Center in 2007 and amended in 2010.

Cypress received that approval, but Commissioner Tip Housewright, who is Lake Highlands Councilman Adam McGough’s appointee, gave his with “much reluctance”.

Tip Housewright. (Photo by Rasy Ran)

Tip Housewright. (Photo by Rasy Ran)

“This project is a once-in-50-years opportunity to reshape our community for the future,” Housewright said, also noting that he “continues to be believe [Cypress’ retail plan] falls short of the spirit and vision that created the zoning and economic incentives associated with this property.”

Housewright made these statements after motioning for the plan’s approval. He also said that the commission is “obligated” to approve the development plan and “compelled” to vote in support. He thanked the developer for “working with City Design Studio and City Staff to make important improvements to the retail center development,” but said he “may explore the option of re-opening PD 758 in order to insure a more favorable outcome on the balance of the undeveloped property.”

All City Plan Commission meetings are recorded and posted on the City of Dallas website, and Housewright’s entire 5-minute statement, which is worth listening to, can be heard here, beginning at the 10-minute, 30-second mark. Neighbors also may recall Housewright’s alternate vision for the Town Center’s retail section from our November cover story.

PD’s create a framework for developers to plan large projects and generally give them some flexibility as the site and real estate markets change and evolve. After a PD is set up, developers have to come before the commission with development plans to make sure that the plans meet at least the letter of the PD, and if they do, the commission is “obligated” to approve. It’s a check on the developer’s promises to meet the standards in the PD. Developers aren’t burdened with going back to the City to rezone sections of the property in piecemeal fashion as the project gets built out as long as they play in the defined limits of the PD sandbox.

What Housewright conveyed at last week’s meeting was that he thinks the Town Center has a leaky sandbox, which is why he is considering amending the PD. He approved Cypress’ plans because the rules governing Plan Commission approval of PDs limit what the Plan Commission can change on plans submitted for previously approved PDs.

After Housewright’s remarks, Commissioner Neal Emmons asked that his second be withdrawn because he wanted more time to study the plans. All but two commissioners voted to approve the plan.

No word on where Adam McGough is on this, but his Plan Commission appointee, longtime neighborhood resident and volunteer leader Tip Housewright let the world know where he stood yesterday. Could be an interesting spring and summer.