Garland council OKs plan for housing — a third of it for special-needs clients — on defunct country club site
By: Ray Leszcynski
GARLAND — After nearly five years of rancorous debate among residents, the City Council late Tuesday unanimously approved a concept plan for Eastern Hills Country Club.
A Plano-based nonprofit called My Possibilities is taking over the land, which was the centerpiece of Club Hill, the city’s first affluent subdivision. The group’s plan is to fully convert the former country club site into a development of 300 new homes — a third of which would go to My Possibilities’ special-needs clients — and walking trails.
The council approval came after neighbors — who had fought off proposals to pave over the 178-acre club and golf course with as much concrete and houses as possible — eventually accepted reality: Their beloved club was never coming back.
The club had foundered in recent years and eventually closed overnight in 2014 and was padlocked, to the surprise of its neighbors. And many Club Hill residents say they’re tired of what has become a brushy blight. They’re ready to make their neighborhood a destination again.
“I’ve waited around for six years watching the property go to waste,” Wesley Johnson, whose street backs up to the property, told the council. “I don’t think you are going to get another better deal.”
My Possibilities is a decade-old organization that provides vocational education for adults across North Texas who have intellectual and cognitive disabilities. The group will own about 100 of the new homes. It will try to sell the rest at prices between $350,000 and $425,000.
Within 15 years, a vast majority of My Possibilities clients will depend on long-term residential support, said Michael Thomas, the group’s executive director. Adults with special needs are outliving their parents, with whom they reside, and will need places to stay.
“Nobody on a national level has solved this problem,” Thomas told the City Council. “We wholeheartedly believe that this model in Garland, Texas, can potentially be the answer.”
The development’s homeowners association will feature on-site, on-call nursing and security and basic landscaping. Neighbors will have access to all trails and will be able to buy swimming pool access.
Thomas said partners in Virginia, California and Nevada believe in the housing model and are monitoring the Garland effort.
The organization plans to pay $12 million to buy the land and develop the amenities. Thomas said about $10 million was secured through donations.
Jerry Carter, who lives nearby and built many of the homes in Club Hill, called the My Possibilities plan, with its trails and amenities, the last golden opportunity for south Garland.
“This development represents a different type of development than what our other homes have been,” Carter said. “This group is going to do more of the community look, which is the 2000s. We’re 1960s and ’70s and ’80s and ’90s around there, but this is the look that’s being developed today.”
The concept is 250 fewer homes than were proposed in 2015. Thomas also said the client residents don’t drive. That will mean less new traffic on two-lane Country Club Drive, the only street into and out of the property.
The My Possibilities plan also has more than twice as much green space as the city requires. The plan calls for a 75-foot buffer between new and existing homes — those with a view of what used to be the golf course and is now brush.
Still, not all of Club Hill’s wish list has been fulfilled. Some want the development to have wider streets and to put its largest homes closest to the executive-style homes that lined the former golf course.
Brandy Currence opposes the development because the lots are smaller than existing ones nearby.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that the My Possibilities organization is a good one and they have a great mission,” Currence said. But, she added, “We can and must strive to do better.”
The organization and its developer will have to return to the council with a detailed plan before starting construction.
“We don’t go dark between tonight and the detailed plan,” said Thomas, the My Possibilities executive director. “Our hope is that the community members here would continue to work with us on some of these issues that are concerns.”
TIMELINE: Eastern Hills Country Club
1954: Eastern Hills Country Club opens with an 18-hole golf course, tennis facilities, pool and clubhouse.
1980s: Tennis stars Arthur Ashe and Stan Smith appear there.
2001-11: Club hosts golf’s Texas Women’s Open Tournament.
2006: About 50 become “equity members” by putting up money to save the club from bankruptcy.
2013: Club owner files for bankruptcy.
January 2014: Gates are padlocked and phones disconnected.
April 2014: The club sells outside bankruptcy court for $4 million; $2.4 million goes to creditors, including $500,000 to the equity members.
2015: With yards full of signs saying “Save our neighborhood from OVERdevelopment,” a group called Friends of South Garland helps fend off a Henry S. Miller plan for 550 homes on the property.
Sept. 9, 2018: The City Council unanimously approves a plan to redevelop the property with 300 homes and trails.
Reference: Dallas Morning News