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Dallas County Commissioner Andy Sommerman presents the plan for Cottonwood Forest.

Same song, different verse: An affordable housing project is proposed on Forest Lane, and the majority of the residents don’t like it. This version involves District 2 Dallas County Commissioner Andy Sommerman, who held a public meeting Monday night on the proposed Cottonwood Forest single-family development. 

Dallas County secured American Rescue Plan funds — designated solely for workforce housing — to purchase the $6.5 million property on seven acres at Forest Lane and Stults Road. 

While the commissioner said he recognizes that some residents don’t like the project, there aren’t a lot of options for the site. 

“I really like this project,” he said. “There’s no Plan B. I don’t have the money for it. Your choice is this or a burned-out church and a homeless encampment. If you want to put a park there, I don’t have [the money]. This is what the dollars were earmarked for.”

Affordable Housing

The homes in the proposed Cottonwood Forest development would be for “nurses and teachers” who earn between 60 to 120 percent of the Area Median Income, Sommerman said. 

“This isn’t poverty housing; this is workforce housing,” he said. “This is for people that are having difficulty finding homes to live in because the price of real estate is so high in the Dallas area. Again, these are single-family dwellings.” 

Cottonwood Forest
James Armstrong

Anti-flip and anti-rent restrictions would be placed in the contracts when the homes are marketed and sold, Sommerman explained.  

Closing on the property is imminent, set for early April, Sommerman said. 

While he hasn’t selected a builder or announced a construction timeline, residents took note that Builders of Hope CEO James Armstrong was in attendance at Monday’s meeting. 

In an effort to add more affordable units to the area, Dallas County Commissioners Court has approved eight affordable housing projects in the past year. The plan, according to Assistant County Manager Jonathon Bazon, is to provide 2,000 affordable units by 2026. 

It could get a roof over the heads of those who might not otherwise be able to afford one, but residents in the area of Dallas’ CIty Council District 10 say they’ve been overwhelmed with affordable housing lately.

Residents at a separate public meeting a couple of days prior expressed concerns that a lower-income bracket could bring more crime to their neighborhoods. 

Most Residents Don’t Like The Plan. 

Some of the residents who attended Saturday’s meeting also showed up Monday night. 

“Exactly how is this going to help the community?” one resident asked. “We do have a major problem here. There’s a lot of crime in this district.” 

Residents at Monday’s meeting wanted to know how incomes would be verified, whether traffic studies would be conducted, and whether a police substation could be built in the area. 

Cottonwood Forest

“I’m concerned with what will happen if it becomes like Valley View Mall, with roaches and rats running all through the neighborhood, not just the vermin, but the human kind,” another resident said. 

While homebuyers can be vetted at the outset, “it’s not possible and it’s not feasible” to monitor whether someone changes jobs or their income increases or decreases, Sommerman explained. 

Other residents raised concerns about the impact of construction on the surrounding neighborhoods. 

“Westfield Street and Woodshore [Drive] have been decimated and torn up for over two years because contractors could not complete their work,” a resident said. “Demolition of the church is going to have more impact on traffic immediately. Is there going to be some type of performance clause in that contract where whoever gets it has to pay for every day they’re late?”

Sommerman remained direct throughout the meeting, saying there would be performance clauses.

Northwood Estates resident Mike Nelson said the new development would negatively impact his property values. 

Mike Nelson

“What the appraisal district does, I have no power over that,” Sommerman responded. 

District 10 Dallas City Council candidate Sirrano Keith Baldeo attempted to turn the forum into a stump speech, saying he wouldn’t support the project if elected in May. 

But Dallas County doesn’t need the support of the Dallas City Council or City Plan Commission. The land is already zoned R-10, so a rezoning isn’t required, Sommerman explained. 

District 10 council candidate Kathy Stewart also attended Monday’s meeting. 

Representatives from Dallas Area Rapid Transit agreed to share with their real estate team the neighbors’ requests for fencing between the DART station and Stults Road. 

Commissioner Sommerman said he heard loud and clear that some people don’t like it, but reiterated that his options are limited. He took names and email addresses of attendees and promised to keep them updated on the project. 

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