Amid the opposition surrounding the the proposed luxury high-rise residential community at the northeast corner of Preston and Northwest Highway, one aspect of the debate has hit a nerve among neighbors. Their District 13 city councilmember Jennifer Staubach Gates has had to remove herself from the process over a conflict of interest. Her husband, John Gates, is the CEO of Jones Lang LaSalle, the commercial real estate firm that brokered the deal with the developer, Transwestern.

“There’s no way it could have been avoided unless Jones Lang LaSalle did no business in the city of Dallas. They’re a big, international company.”

Councilwoman Gates released a notice, explaining the city’s strict policy on such things “to ensure fair and impartial decision making and to avoid the appearance and risk of impropriety.” Read the entire letter here.

Most neighbors surrounding the proposed site — particularly those in Preston Hollow East, which lies directly north of the property — are staunchly opposed to the project. They say it would dramatically change the look and feel of the neighborhood, and Gates’ absence from the debate means they won’t be represented by the person District 13 residents elected to support them in situations just like this.

But the person they elected also happens to have major ties to big real estate.

“There’s no way it could have been avoided,” Gates told me over the phone yesterday, “unless Jones Lang LaSalle did no business in the city of Dallas. They’re a big, international company.”

And that’s a valuable piece of land, as is just about every high-traffic corner in Preston Hollow.

These conflicts of interest happen to councilmembers; it’s not unheard of, and Gates says there’s a good process in place to deal with it. In this case, neighbors instead will have to work with District 11 Councilman Lee Kleinman, who actually lives closer to Preston Center than Gates does.

“He understands the neighborhood,” Gates says. “Our districts are side-by-side.”

But that’s not enough for Preston Hollow East residents who are holding strong to their opposition. They launched a petition against the re-zoning via change.org  with more than 300 signatures and counting. (It’s important to note the city process hasn’t officially began; the developers have not yet filed a re-zoning application).

We may even start seeing some yard signs pop around around the neighborhood as soon as this weekend.


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