At its January 8 meeting, The Dallas City Council will reconsider a controversial plan to hand off a public park to a private group — a plan that the same council already rejected in December.
The property is Reverchon Park, located at 3505 Maple Ave., a mostly pastoral 40 acres, but with a baseball field that is deteriorating. The plan that the city Council rejected on December 11 was a proposal by Don Nelson, general manager of the Dallas Mavericks, that would have added a 3,500-seat stadium for sporting events and concerts.
Even despite the shabby field, the park gets rave reviews. Narcity recently called it "magical," "one of the coolest parks in Dallas," saying:
Council members who voted against Nelson's deal in December expressed concern about lack of input from the community, and a lack of studies done on traffic, parking, or environmental impact.
Council member Adam Bazaldua suggested delaying the deal for 60 days to allow for community engagement, but Nelson and company said they'd walk if there were a delay.
But instead of walking, they recruited city council member David Blewett to be their "negotiating partner" in an attempt to revive the deal. On December 13, Blewett quietly wrote a memo to Mayor Eric Johnson requesting the council reconsider the development project.
"I voted against the deal back in December because I was very concerned about the lack of community access to the new facility and the lack of community input in the operation of it," Blewett says in a Facebook post. "I was also concerned about the seemingly low financial benefits to the city."
"The Deal Group wanted to be sure they had a negotiating partner in order to revise the deal," he says. "So I signed the memo indicating it could be reconsidered."
The memo was kept under wraps until January 3. Johnson then added the item to the meeting's agenda.
This proposal will give away 6 acres of public land to a for-profit company who will raze the current stadium and build a new one that they'll use for semiprofessional sports teams.
But Reverchon has limited parking options, and no public transportation.
The only opportunity the public has had to weigh in on any plan for Reverchon Park was a meeting in 2017. However, that meeting was to evaluate a more modest renovation of the ballpark.
The public has not had an opportunity to weigh in on the current proposal. Organizations such as Uptown Dallas, TUNA, and the Oak Lawn Committee who represent residents in the area have not been consulted. Neighbors from adjacent buildings were also not informed.
This is possibly not even legal under state law. A Parks and Wildlife code states that a department, agency, county, or city may not give away public land until it first determines that there's no "feasible and prudent alternative," and that any giveaway has to minimize harm to its use as a park or recreation area.
There are also rules on notifying the public, at least 30 days ahead of time.
Some residents who signed up to speak at the January 8 city council meeting were called on January 7 and told they would not be able to speak after all.
Dallas resident Carol Bell-Walton says she was called by someone from the City Secretary's office.
"A caller identified herself as being with the City Secretary's office and told me I could not speak at tomorrow's council meeting on the Reverchon agenda item," Bell-Walton says. "I asked her if she was calling everyone, and she said yes, all of the speakers were being canceled. I asked, 'How does this happen?' She replied, 'The City Secretary had a meeting with the Mayor and was instructed to cancel the speakers.'"
Mayor Johnson's office was forced to post an update, stating that the confusion over speakers was "based on a technicality."