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'Save Elm Thicket/Northpark': Neighbors in historic Dallas community divided over proposed zoning changes

Yard signs across the Elm Thicket/Northpark neighborhood show how proposed zoning changes are driving a wedge between residents who support and oppose the issue.

DALLAS — Some residents across a historic community in Dallas are at odds over proposed zoning changes. 

The Elm Thicket/Northpark neighborhood is seeing some significant signs of development. The historic Black neighborhood, near Dallas Love Field, has many traditional cottages and one-story single family homes. New development is bringing larger two-story and three-story contemporary homes to the community.

“Deregulation pushed us from the east side of Lemmon Avenue. Gentrification, now, is starting to push us out of the neighborhood,” said Jonathan Maples, president of the Elm Thicket Neighborhood Association. 

Maples and Sonya McHenry are longtime residents and part of a grassroots push called "Save Elm Thicket/Northpark."

“We do have those that want to come in and make a lot of changes to the neighborhood,” said McHenry. 

The residents are among neighbors who said they support proposed zoning changes that would protect the history and integrity of the neighborhood. Some homeowners describe the trend of newer development as inviting larger and more contemporary homes that tower over some of the traditional structures.

“We want a good quality of life here. We want to keep the quality of life,” said McHenry.

Some neighbors said they support zoning changes that would limit the size, height and roof types of new homes that don’t fit the character of the historic neighborhood.

Not all neighbors agree with the proposed zoning changes.

“You’re going to prohibit my ability to grow and grow with my family and build on my property,” said one resident, who said she opposed the zoning change.

Several Elm Thicket/Northpark residents attended a virtual public hearing about the zoning issue over the weekend. It was hosted by the City of Dallas.

“To make changes in the middle of a boom, just doesn’t make sense to me,” another neighbor said, as he voiced opposition.

A different homeowner added, “The preservation of Elm Thicket/Northpark as it was 10 or 20 years ago is just no longer possible. That ship sailed.”

Though divided, neighbors on both sides of the controversy expressed they believe the issue is about protecting their property.

“My biggest fear is this neighborhood will be lost, like State Thomas in Uptown,” said Maples.

The proposed zoning issue will be set for another public hearing before the City Plan Commission, before it goes to Dallas City Council.