Recently, there has been a lot of Facebook chatter about the new Seniors apartments (Lakeview Senior Living) that were under construction at Chiesa Road and Lakeview Pky. It would appear construction started about early fall........then stopped a few weeks ago.
I would like to give a history, as best I know. I can't prove very much, but I consider the sources of information reliable.
This project is a partnership between the Rowlett Housing Finance Corporation and Rise Development, the developer. Rise Development is a very experienced apartment developer. I had personally been very involved in the formation of the Rowlett HFC. I was an original incorporator, however I was not on the HFC board. This deal came to the Rowlett HFC via the HFC's financial consultant. It came very quickly, in fact, so quickly that I was concerned about how it got there. I admit I was suspicious. Being an ex-loan officer, I started checking into the background of the developer. My first couple of days of research unveiled a rather shady involvement with some less than desirable characters in Dallas. I was not happy. I was not supportive. I posed some questions to the new Board President, Rick Sheffield. Rick had posed much the same questions to the developer. A long letter was sent to Rick from Rise Development giving the history of the developer working with the FBI to expose the downtown Dallas schemes. Rick sent that letter to me. I was satisfied with the explanations. However, I still hadn't changed my mind. I still didn't know if Rise Development knew how to build. I kept researching. I learned that Rise was a very experienced multi-family builder. They had completed many projects. I concluded they knew how to build. I reversed my stance and became a supporter of the project. I felt it would be an excellent project for Rowlett Seniors. It was close to major shopping, doctor's offices, and the hospital. It was sorely needed. Earlier, another new Senior facility had filled up with Seniors, many from out of town. Many of the Rowlett Seniors had no chance of renting there. The new project was needed badly, with an emphasis on occupancy by Rowlett Seniors.
I wrote a seven page letter to the City Council supporting the project just prior to Council approving the project. I tell you all this to point out that I'm not a "Johnny come lately" to the parade. My own research gave me a comfort level.......not some friend from the Canasta Club or a Facebook string.
The building permit was issued and construction began either late Summer, or early Fall. I kinda stayed out of the way after that and let the construction get underway. A few weeks ago, I heard a story about some trees being dozed away in violation of city codes. I was really angry. I thought, "How can any developer be so stupid?" A new arrival to the development business, I could understand. But, there could be no excuse for a seasoned developer.
On a completely different issue and completely unrelated to the new apartment complex, on January 8, I had occasion to meet with the developer at the apartment project construction shack. The developer was running late for the appointment and it allowed me time to talk to the construction superintendent. My main business is to audit and approve disbursement of construction funds for banks and their construction/development loans. I can talk the language of storm sewer, sanitary sewer, water mains, grading, and paving with the best of them. I liked the superintendent a lot. He knew what he was talking about. However, in that conversation the subject of trees and work stoppage came up.
Of course, I wanted to know the story, but I didn't want to spook the superintendent. I gave him his lead. He is a quiet, soft spoken man that thinks before he opens his mouth. He mentioned 5 different tree surveys they used to determine what trees to stay and which to go. He had no information to the contrary until "officialdom" showed up with a Google Earth photo showing trees that were to stay, but now gone. It was a violation of code, and a work stoppage was ordered. I'm not sure the exact time of the work stoppage. Of course, the superintendent was chagrined. I started doing some more research.
The finger pointing, blaming, and posturing began. Surely, no CYA was going on. When I hear both stories, and try to remain neutral, some things sticks out. This developer should be way too savvy to make such a bonehead mistake. However, the city files seem to say that the developer had knowledge. The one thing NOBODY can prove, is what actually happened. This thing has communication problems written all over it. Either the city didn't communicate properly, or the developer didn't listen when they did. Perhaps it was both. Any follow up to search out what really happened seems to be non-existent.
using the Rowlett website "Live Feed," I reviewed the P&Z meeting on November 13, in which the proposed "fix" was presented. I have said that the issue of communication could be, and probably was, the problem with the tree issue. The land planner admitted that he "missed" that part of the city code that caused the tree removal problem. However, he said some cities have rules about the issue and some don't. Was he alerted to this code issue? He didn't fish tail. He admitted up front that he missed the particular requirement that caused the problem. However, he is not going to argue with P&Z. He needs them. Question: Did the city adequately communicate to the land planner the city's requirements? Even if they didn't, the planner isn't going to argue with them. In fact, he even offered some other changes to satisfy some of the P&Z Commission observations. He was quite accommodating to P&Z.
I also reviewed the City Council meeting of 12/4. The motion to correct the tree situation was requested to be withdrawn from the Consent agenda by Matt Grubisich, and apparently others who wanted it withdrawn. What happened after that? Where did it go? Is the issue just languishing somewhere? I didn't see it on any agenda after that time.......or I just missed it.
If you watch the P&Z meeting, you will see a lady make a motion to approve the Tree Mitigation plan. Then, VOTE AGAINST HER OWN MOTION. Do you think that's a little bizarre? Folks, that type behavior makes your head hurt. The motion carried 5-2, including the motion maker's negative vote. Do you think there is some confusion in the hallowed halls of the city? Do you think there is some chance that there might be a possibility of a communication issue in some parts of our hallowed halls? You can have all the documents in the city's file that is needed. But, there is no assurance the information was communicated to the developer. On the other hand, the developer could have gotten all the information and just screwed up. Files, memories, and the elements of CYA often makes for strange bedfellows.
The developer's land planner was quite contrite and apologetic. They offered 41 new trees. However, a board member suggested a compromise and they settled on 21 new trees, plus $10K contributed to the city's tree fund. Plus, the planner agreed to move some additional trees of their landscape plan to provide a better sound barrier from Lakeview Pky. Folks, in 10 years the "fix" would be better for the landscape than what was originally intended. The developer's planner was completely honorable in his presentation. They agreed they made a mistake, and did not engage in finger pointing. There is no way to assess total blame, and in any event, the damage was already done. Apparently there has been no solution approved by Council and the project still languishes. The city's HFC is a partner in this deal!! We're shooting ourselves in the foot. Who's winning here? It looks like Rowlett's Seniors are losing.
So.........where is the proposal to fix the problem? How much more discussion is needed? My short answer is easy. "Fix the damned thing." Get on with the project.
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