Koop Responds to Prestonwood Cross Plans

A rendering of the 40-foot cross that will soon join Prestonwood's Campus.

Sometimes when I’m writing a story, everything goes as it should. People answer the phone. I get the information I need by deadline, and all is right with the world. Other times, the sources and photos come crashing in days after the article goes to press. And a slim percentage of the time, I never hear back at all. While it was too late to include in this week’s paper, I’m happy to report I have some new information on the plans for a cross on the Hillcrest Road campus of Prestonwood Baptist Church.

Hillcrest Forest Neighborhood Association President Bruce Wilke weighed in on the cross. He said while the association thought it was larger than it needed to be, there was no formal objection to the cross.

“We understand that in a neighborhood as large as ours, there will always be differing opinions on various issues, and we respect their concerns,” Wilke wrote in an email.

Councilwoman Linda Koop emailed several documents on Friday detailing the role of city code in this matter as well as a meeting she had with Prestonwood representatives. Here they are, for your reading pleasure:

Dear Neighbors,

Recently a case went to Plan Commission, which involved the Prestonwood Baptist Church on Hillcrest between Forest and Churchill Way.  The case was to document a change on the original Plan Development District Document for the property.  The Church was adding a 40-foot cross (the vertical element is 16 inches wide by 16 inches in depth) near the front facade of the main building and relocating two signage monuments. I have checked with the City Attorney and under the City’s regulations and codes, the church had the legal right and was in full compliance with “height restrictions” and all the requirements of the “minor amendment” process to put up the cross; relocate the two signage monuments; and mitigate for tree removal. Appropriate “documentation” of the changes on the Plan Development Document was the only item the city could legally consider when the case came before Plan Commission. This type of request is a “minor amendment” and does not go to City Council.

In meeting all the requirements of the city’s regulations and codes for the “minor amendment”, the Plan Commission had to affirm its administrative duty and place the schematics for the cross on the Plan Development District Document as required by city code.  Neighbors came to the hearing and voiced their concerns about to the cross, its illumination and the removal of seven trees. I very much appreciate the neighbors taking time out of their busy schedules to attend the Plan Commission meeting and voice their concerns.  Even though the Plan Commission carried out its legal duty the neighbors felt more could have been done to encourage the Church to compromise in a good faith effort on the trees and the illumination hours. It was in that spirit that Plan Commissioner Bruce Bernbaum and I met with the pastor of the church this week.

As a result of our meeting the Church has agreed to remove only five of the original seven trees slated for removal. Of those five, two will be relocated behind the cross.  There is some question as to the health of these two trees.  I will ask the City Arborist to verify if the two trees can survive being relocated. If they can not, they will be replaced with trees of the same “caliper inch” or greater. The Church will (per city code) not  allow ”spill-over light” from the illumination of the cross. In addition it will cease lighting the cross at 10:00pm.  I have also asked the church for a schedule for the lighting of the parking lot.  They have complied and the letter is attached.

Again, I want to thank all of those who attended the Plan Commission meeting on behalf of the neighborhood or wrote me in favor or opposed to the application.  Please know that I appreciate your input. Be assured that I will always continue to support the neighborhood.

Best Regards,

Linda Koop

Dallas City Councilmember, District 11

Preston Wood Dallas Campus Lighting

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