Belmont Addition CD 'enforcement committee' is gonna sue over 5902 Goliad, and we will be the ones paying for it
Update Thursday afternoon - The Board of Adjustment denied the BACD appeal to revoke the building permit for 5902 Goliad - click here for details!
BD Exclusive - Read the email from the so-called Belmont Addition CD enforcement committee, threatening to take the couple building 5902 Goliad to court if they don't change a design already approved by the City. If you live in the BACD, did you authorize a lawsuit that might cost you big bucks???
Many years ago, there were no Conservation Districts in Dallas. Battles between long-time residents and new home builders made the Hatfields and McCoys look like a food fight at the elementary schools. Vandalism against construction sites, including spray-painted walls (or worse) and damaged construction supplies were not uncommon.
Soon, smart people in at City Hall stepped in to stop the wars. City Planners and forward-thinking residents created the world of Conservation Districts (CD) and Historic Districts (HD). It was a unique way to allow neighborhoods to organize, set standards and goals for how they would develop. Conservation Districts would grow and flourish, and eventually could become Historic Districts.
But this great change came with an unusual requirement. A neighborhood could organize a CD (or HD), collect the proper amount of signatures to apply for it, hold the meetings needed to collect design ideas from residents, and develop the design and construction standards they (collectively) wanted applied to all future construction and renovations.
The enforcement of these standards, and the approval of permits, was a power completely reserved to the City. If someone wanted to build or renovate in the CD, they had to pass a review at City Hall to make sure all the conditions of the CD were met. Once that test was passed, Building Inspections would review the construction plans to make sure they met city, state and national codes for building structures (in English - Is it safe, is it the right height, etc). If the plans passed the review, a building permit was issued.
And soon, there was peace in the land. Conservation and Historic Districts were created and approved by the City Plan Commission and City Council, and everyone was happy. That's not to say there are not some problems in the rules. Even the best architects and designers could not anticipate every unusual quirk, or even loopholes no one expected until a weird construction problem required an unusual solution.
For nearly 20 years, it's worked out pretty well.
But then a dark pall fell upon the land, specifically the Belmont Addition Conservation District (BACD). In this CD, we have the only so-called enforcement committee in Dallas. The BACD is not a neighborhood association, they have no bylaws, and they have no one looking over their shoulder. They are judge and jury on any plan or idea. And sometimes, even when the plans are kosher and approved by the City, they will call it out and say
No, we don't like that - just because it's something we don't like.
And woe unto those who dared to move into this neighborhood and try to improve an existing home or build a new one. They so-called enforcement committee has no enforcement powers granted to them by the City or any other authority. Instead, they have used legal intimidation to sow havoc upon plans and people they simply do not like. They fight the City's Building Inspectors, saying they don't live here and should not tell them what to do. They tell people how to build houses they like, and when they don't listen, there are harassing emails and meetings in private homes designed to intimidate even the strongest willed persons. Even after the City approves the building permits, they fight on, costing the poor souls they attack money money money. There have been lawsuits and secret agreements to never build, and private deals with terms we mere mortals who are allowed to live here will never know about.
This committee does not ask the 500+ residents of the BACD what they think. Why should they, since they are all-caring and so much more knowledgeable than everyone else? The enforcers are special: They take time off from work to attend hearings, while belittling people who sign petitions but cannot afford to take off work to support a homebuilder. Woe unto those who cross their paths for you shall be stricken from email lists, and maybe even sued.
Such a battle is taking place over 5902 Goliad Avenue. Before the dirt was turned, the enforcers harassed and insulted the Brittany and Dusty as soon as they applied for a building permit and CD review. It's too tall, it's too high, it's too off grade, and on and on and on. Even when Brittany and Dusty fought back, saying the demands by the CD were not even in the CD's rules or City Code, the enforcement committee kept pushing, and harassing and threatening them to force subjugation. There was a meeting in the Kingston home between the so-called enforcement committee and Brittany and Dusty - and Brittany clearly knew the City Code and CD rules better than anyone on that committee.
The enforcement committee knows their CD rules are messed up. They were messed up when written nearly ten years ago, because the people pushing the CD would not accept the advice of architects who tried to show them where it was falling apart. BD sat through those hearings, they were mind-numbing on purpose. Out of 500 homeowners in the CD boundaries, only 89 voted for it, and 15 against it (BD's posting that number from memory). But the so-called enforcement committee has no problem saying 80% of the residents supported the CD. There has been a fight over almost every single major construction project in the area, but it's all been below the radar. Until now.
When Brittany and Dusty secured their Building Permit, the enforcement committee filed a complaint with the Board of Adjustment. Yes, that is legal and the process is in place, no argument there. And in dozens of pages of PowerPoint presentations, they argued about issues that were in fact absolutely legal and kosher. But the bottom line was still the same -
No, we don't like that - just because it's something we don't like.
So on the night after the hearing, Brittany and Dusty asked the enforcers by email -
Give us your most reasonable suggestions, and we will consider them when we meet with our builder in a few days.
And the enforcers said, days after the meeting was held -
Here are our ideas, take them or leave the neighborhood forever.
Let's take a breath here and ask everyone who lives within the bounds of the BACD -
Hello??? Did you sign up for this so-called enforcement??? Did you know the BACD has sued and harassed people on your behalf, all in an effort to preserve what they believe is our unique Belmont style? Are you really okay with that? Do you have lots of money to throw away??
To quote a neighbor
Who the f*ck died and make them king and queen of the neighborhood??
So far, the enforcers have been very successful at pushing their warped vision of what is good and bad. They made slimey deals with builders after flashing the lawsuit card. There are real estate agents who will not bring their clients into this area. There are home builders who won't even think about building in our area just to avoid even the slightest hint of litigation.
Look at this settlement agreement between BACD resident and home builder Jeff Baron and BACD, signed by Melissa Kingston on behalf of the enforcement committee.
But, what would happen if the enforcers sued the wrong person?? Instead of rolling over and giving in, what if they fought back with everything they had? What if they turned around and sued every member of the so-called enforcement committee? Since it's not a real organization, with real bylaws and insurance, they could (according to attorneys I have spoken to) be sued individually and personally, and for lots and lots of money. Your homeowners insurance ain't covering this kind of lawsuit.
This legal theory has some legs on it, thanks to Melissa Kingston's own words. In the agreement with local builder Jeff Baron (above), Melissa included a definition of BACD that casts a pretty wide net..
5 - For purpose of this Agreement, the definition of BACD includes all past, present and future residents, officers, committee chairs, committee members, directors, agents, members, managers, joint venturers, partners, limited partners, parents, subsidiaries, affiliates, divisions, shareholders, representatives, employees, attorneys, insurers, predecessors, successors, and assigns, and any other person or entity acting on its behalf, jointly or severally.
What if the so-called enforcers lost the suit and were forced to pay damages of tens upon tens of thousands of dollars?? What would you do if someone from the so-called enforcement committee came to your door with an envelope and a copy of the judgement, and said,
You don't know me, but I live on the next block and I am on the CD's enforcement committee. We sued someone to keep them from building a house a few blocks from here. I know you never heard about the lawsuit, because we did not really want you to know about it.
Well, we lost. OMG we lost really big. They sued not only me, but all of the other persons on the committee. They sued the entire neighborhood since we said we were YOUR enforcement committee. And your portion of the damages comes to $15,000.
Can you write a check now? I need to go to all the neighbors on my street and get their money too, and I really don't have much time.
The Building Permit for 5902 Goliad was not revoked after the December hearing, so Brittany and Dusty started building a great and beautiful home. City inspectors have been green-tagging the building process every week. In a few days, they will all be back before the Board of Adjustment, and it will be a replay of the first hearing. Almost. Because this time they have no choice but to stop kicking the can and make a decision.
If the so-called enforcement committee loses the fight, they have ten days to file a lawsuit in State Court against the City and start the process to convince a judge the permit was improperly issued, which could take a year. And for good measure, they may try to stop the construction process until the legal fight is settled with a Temporary Restraining Order. If they can't stop it, they can only hope it will be torn down if they win.
It does not matter what the Board decides. The so-called enforcers have decided, This is going to court and we're gonna cost Brittany and Dusty a small fortune. They will sue until their ears bleed, then they will sue again.
In a BD exclusive, here is the email sent by the enforcement committee's Melissa Kingston after the first hearing. The first paragraph is simple and to the point -
Thank you for reaching out to us in an attempt to find a mutually satisfactory resolution of our dispute. We would very much like to reach a resolution with you and put an end to this dispute and avoid future litigation over this matter. I am sure you feel the same way.
Read the entire email; BD has blocked out names of City Staff and the home builder for privacy. You can see more documents, site plans and correspondence in the matter by clicking on this file folder link.
Brittany told Melissa Kingston and her so-called enforcement committee to take a hike back in August, when they started the permit process, since the so-called enforcement committee has no legal authority to tell anyone how to build a home in the BACD (scroll down to page 2 of the PDF).
Melissa Kingston sent another email Brittany and Dusty just a few months before the hearing. It's offensive, it's bitchy, and it's standard operating procedure for this group. It's not protected by attorney client privilege either.
For the record. The house is not three stories (a 47-inch foundation is not considered a separate story, City Code says so, and there are homes in the CD with the same or higher foundations), the height of the grade is legal, the height of the house is under the 30-foot limit, and there is no requirement they raise the garage at all. These are changes the so-called enforcement committee pulled out of their collective butt because the CD rules are poorly written and it has loopholes. They have pulled this crap on every single project in the area, which means the CD rules simply can't apply anymore.
The City approved the plans, the house is being built to those plans. Game over.
Future litigation?? That's not a threat, it's a promise. The so-called enforcers have done this before and they will indeed do it again.
There's not much we can do except watch the hearing and hope for the best. The Board of Adjustment is quasi-judicial, which means you can't lobby them. Their decisions are not reviewed by the City Council. It's supposed to make decisions that are clear and final, but they kicked the can down the road in December. And this hearing will feature the same parties- The so-called enforcers vs the City Attorney, defending the Building Inspectors.
If you live in the BACD, you can ask them to stop. You can tell them,
Hey, we never signed up for this crap! You can bitch about that house all you want, but don't ask me to pay for it.
The hearing is Thursday afternoon. That means there is still time to tell the BACD enforcement committee to back off the appeal and stop the threats and harassment. Here's the link to the BACD's website and block captains. Send an email, they really want to hear from you. Not. Just don't expect them to listen. The train has left the station and the engineer is itching for another big legal fight.