On January 10, the Council voted 4-2 to change the Housing Policy, opening the door for the approval of more apartment projects. The Council members who favored this move were Walden, Duffy, Angell and Arfsten, three of whom were elected in the last Council election.
Then this past Tuesday, the majority of P&Z Commissioners voted to approve AMLI’s request to rezone the Quorum property so they can build 349 more apartments. Notably, Tom Braun, John Meleky and Kathryn Wheeler are the new committee members who voted in favor of AMLI’s request. All three are appointments of the same Council members that voted for the policy change.
None of this would be worth mentioning if the outcry from residents voicing their plea for “No More Apartments,” had not been so tremendous over the past few months. Residents have sent numerous emails to Commissioners and Council members, expressed their concerns at public forum sessions and at gatherings such as the Mayor’s Coffee. Yet it is obvious that all of those outcries fell on deaf ears from those who actually ran Council campaigns with a promise of no more apartments.
Throughout the extensive presentation made by Taylor Bowen, Executive Vice President and Co-Chief Operating Officer of AMLI Residential, it was clearly evident that the proposed project would have luxury quality apartments with fine amenities for its renters. Thus, none of the Commissioners had issues with the quality and attractiveness of the project. The point was, it’s more apartments.
Bowen did his best throughout the presentation to identify all the aspects that he considered benefits to Addison. But at one point, towards the end of his presentation, he became more aggressive, emotionally selling the project, even turning away from the Commissioners at one point, facing the residents in attendance and rhetorically asking them in a condescending tone, “Why don’t you want any more apartments?” Then adding, “Politics in Addison is embarrassing.”
It’s not known how Bowen’s final attitude settled with the Commissioners, but several in attendance later expressed how offended they were by his condescending manner and inappropriate remark about politics. Meanwhile, Commissioners Robinson and Schaeffer both prefaced their comments by confirming that they had no issue with the quality of AMLI’s apartments. What they did take issue with was that having only received their packets on the previous Friday, no time had been devoted to exploring other possibilities of “best use” for that property. They also addressed the fact that numerous citizens had already voiced their concern for no more apartments and those concerns should be considered. To point out the later, Schaeffer reminded his fellow Commissioners that already Addison has committed to adding 4,761 more apartments that are yet to be built. As a result Schaeffer motioned to table the issue for a month in order to get answers to these and other questions. That motion failed 3-4 with Schaeffer, Robinson and Morgan voting in favor and Braun, Meleky, Wheeler and Griggs voting against.
Wheeler then made a motion to approve the zoning change. The motion was seconded by Braun and passed 4-3 with Braun, Meleky, Wheeler and Griggs voting in favor and Schaeffer, Robinson and Morgan voting against.
Thus, it brings to focus the importance of how you vote.
Is There Some Apathy About Local Elections?
Fear tactics drove voter turnout in the Town’s last Council election. Voters were threatened with scare tactics which all revolved around the concern of more apartments being built. Yet the same candidates that ran on that threat are the very Council members that have done an about face. Some voters are now realizing, those threats were not completely true and others are feeling betrayed. In that Council election the voter turnout totaled 1,558, or 17.34 percent of those registered to vote in Addison.
Experts say that when fear tactics are engaged in, certain segments of the population respond more intently whether they have all the facts or not. Yet overall, and without some major negative issue, voter turnout throughout the nation is on the decline when it comes to local elections. Governing.com writes about this with a headline: “Voter Turnout Plummeting in Local Elections,” explaining that, “Voter turnout for local elections has historically lagged but is getting worse.” Governing goes on to point out research from the University of Wisconsin findings show that voter turnout in odd-numbered years, in particular, declines. This is an odd-numbered year.
So Why Is This?
When life for most citizens is so comfortable in one’s community complacency can set in because nothing much motivates them to vote. That lack of engagement can cause residents to be uninformed of what’s really going on until it’s too late.
A perfect example of people being somewhat complaisant and then all too late realizing that they are being impacted in a way they find negative, is reflected in a recent back and forth that transpired on Nextdoor Town of Addison. An upset resident seems to have suddenly realized that a gun range is being built on Midway. Erroneously, they reported that this gun range was being built in Addison and when it was pointed out that it was actually being built in Farmers Branch, the complainant then tried to lay blame on Addison’s Mayor for not letting residents know anything about it.
The reality is that there was a considerable coverage about this gun range early on, including a large feature in The Dallas Morning News that ran prior to the vote. Addison’s Mayor did exercise as much opposition as appropriate by personally contacting the Mayor of Farmers Branch to express his displeasure. And despite how the disgruntled resident feels, the fact is that it is not appropriate for any Town’s Mayor to get deeply involved in another town’s issues. Citizens also have a responsibility when they have concerns, but those concerns should be expressed at the appropriate period of time. In this particular situation there was enough visibility of the issue early on that several Addison residents did do their part to express concerns and objections prior to the final vote in Farmers Branch. Yet despite concerns expressed at the time from Addison residents, on August 17, 2016, the Farmers Branch Council approved the gun range.
The current petition being sought by the individual on Nextdoor Town of Addison is a perfect example of waiting until the horse is out of the barn to get engaged. It’s also a perfect example of being so uninvolved that once there is involvement some of their facts are wrong. Where were these people when it really counted?
All that said, it still comes down to the representatives that were placed into the decision-making roles and that falls right back onto the voters who put those individuals in those decision-making positions.
This is exactly what Addison is facing right now. On one hand residents have aggressively expressed their desire for no more apartments, yet the majority of the Council representatives elected to represent these resident have ignored their pleas.
Will You Be Relevant?
When one has lived in a community for a period of time it can be easy to take things for granted—particularly when most things are going well. Yet to do that risks remaining relevant. To remain relevant in this rapidly changing world means staying curious and engaged and acutely aware of the subtle changes that can have long-term impacts down the road.
It means opening one’s mind to current conditions and realizing that there is great truth to the saying, “What got you there, won’t get you there.” Certainly there’s value in history, yet only when combined with acknowledgment and realization of the differences in today’s economy and governing versus the ways of yesterday. That requires being involved enough to have accurate facts and not to be persuaded by innuendoes and false promises.
Walt Disney had a great saying: “When you blend the old with the new, you get new again.” That means governing leaders have to be knowledgeable and experienced enough to be well-informed of decisions made in the past, yet highly aware of issues to be dealt with in the future and open minded enough to consider new and innovative ideas that may come before them.
The Voters Role
As for Addison citizens, it means this is no time to take rumors as facts. It is time to get engaged and find out firsthand just what is at stake and who best will deal with the issues at hand. It’s important to find out just how knowledgeable our candidates are, why they are running, what they feel they can contribute to the Town’s future and, most of all, how willing they are to truly represent the people that vote for them. This is no popularity contest. This is serious business. And nothing points that out more than this week’s decision by P&Z to approve the zoning change on Quorum so that more apartments can be built.
Yes. This issue has yet to come before the Council for final approval and is likely to be on the Council’s agenda sometime in February. But, given the fact that the new Commissioners appointments were made by the three new Council members, the handwriting is pretty much on the wall.
This somewhat predictable outcome, which many are now seeing as a “slam dunk” decision, is a perfect example of the consequences, of how well voters are informed of candidates real motives, and how voters vote.
Photo Courtesy Flickr/Theresa Thompson
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