Video: UP City Council Continues the Bush Library Debate

February 28, 2010 by · Comments Off 

Ruthie Keister

The University Park City Council will continue the public hearing Tuesday about rezoning for a Bush Library parking lot.

Community members are invited to share their feelings about whether or not the Planning and Zoning Committee should rezone residential land to build the lot.

Here is what people told us at the first part of the meeting February 22.
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Bush Library “Parking Wars” Will Continue for Another Week

February 23, 2010 by · Comments Off 

By Ruthie Keister

The University Park City Council held a public meeting Monday night to discuss a rezoning request for land on SMU Boulevard.

In an effort to begin building the George W.  Bush Library, the Bush Foundation wants the Planning and Zoning Commission to rezone the land north of SMU Boulevard between North Central Expressway and Dublin Street.

With the exception of one man standing in front of city hall with a sign reading “W= War Crimes”, the general consensus at the meeting was pro-George W, just not for his library, or at least the current plan.

Members of the Bush Foundation and opponents each received a 30-minute time frame to make their argument. Community members were then allowed to speak their minds after their respective viewpoint was discussed.

Though it may seem like the issue is turning into a bitter battle between residents of University Park, some say that is not the case.

“It’s not a vote against these friends and neighbors,” said Tina Peyton, a long time UP resident, “but a vote for the future of our city.”

Those who spoke out against the plan for the library were mostly local residents who worry about the increased traffic and safety issues, as well as SMU’s ever-growing campus.

“It represents a continued encroachment by SMU,” said Gigi Welch, who lives close to the area in question on Dyer Street.

Tom Bowen, a Dyer Street resident, agreed.

“Our neighbors’ concerns are that SMU continues to buy property,” he said. When land is adjacent to SMU property the school would continually try to buy it, he argued.

Sharon Fjordbak, who received degrees from both the Cox School of Business and the Dedman School of Law, said the proximity of SMU actually increases home values. She argued that the land will be put to appropriate use.

“SMU will not settle for anything less than the best use for the land,” she said.

The major problem most opponents have with the current plan is that is places a parking lot on the north end of the 45 acres allotted to the project.

As planned, the lot will be several feet below ground with berms separating it from street level and landscaping disguising it, but any parking around the SMU campus is difficult as is.

“Parking has always been a problem in my 72 years of living in University Park,” said Roy Coffee Jr., a former UP mayor.

Though the Foundation sent officials to present their side at the hearing, the opponent’s presentation was led by three community members, all of whom live on Dyer Street just north of the planned parking area.

Kit Case, who began the opponent’s presentation, was also upset by the “encroachment” of SMU on the residential community. He argued that SMU has a way of getting what they want.

“It was almost as if P and Z knew SMU would get what they want,” he said of previous meetings with the UP Planning and Zoning Committee.

Case also cited some statistics, which he said was conducted fairly by the community, about the degree of opposition in the area. “We found out 96 percent of all the residents in this area were against it,” he said of the parking lot.

An alternative offered to eliminate the problem would be to switch the parking lot location with the location of the park, which is set to be built to the south of the library and policy institute.

That is not a viable option though, said Mark Langdale, the Foundation’s president, because it would cause library patrons to drive past the entrance and then walk around the building to get in.

Changing SMU Boulevard into a two-lane road was another option that Christopher Poe, a Dyer Street resident who also has a PhD in transportation engineering, put before council members.

“If they’re not bringing in a lot of traffic, a two-lane should be fine,” he said in regard to claims by Harris and Langdale that the traffic on SMU Boulevard and the surrounding residential streets would not be greatly impacted.

Opponents asked that the Foundation do more research into other options for parking lots, specifically curving SMU Boulevard north, instead of south so that parking could be placed between the street and the building.

The only stipulation is that there must be a 100-foot buffer between the lot and the building for security measures.

Community members who spoke in favor of rezoning argued that the designs have been researched and developed by renowned architects and the current arrangement is the only one that will work out.

Langdale says Robert Stern and Matthew Urbanski, the architects for the buildings and the landscaping respectively, have deep experience in designing institutional buildings.

Because of a misprint of the date of the meeting, City Council president James H. Holmes has decided to keep the meeting open until March 2.  The hearing will then close and the council will render a decision.

Holmes and other council members asked the Foundation to research the options set forth by the opponents before the next meeting and the Foundation agreed.