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Residents Opposed To White Rock Lake Restaurant Proposal Unload On Developers

Residents near Dallas’ White Rock Lake unloaded on developers Tuesday night as they pitched their plan for building a restaurant in the park at a location known as Boy Scout Hill.

Angry opposition to the restaurant had been building for weeks.

Seated on the dais at the front of the sanctuary at the Lake Highlands Baptist Church, developers Lyle Burgin and Richard Kopf looked like ducks in a shooting gallery.  One after another, residents who live near the lake took aim at the developers’ proposal.

Credit Shelley Kofler / KERA News
Developers Lyle Burgin and Richard Kopf faced harsh questioning from residents who oppose a restaurant in White Rock Lake Park.

“What you’re considering taking is one of the most beautiful views of White Rock Lake overlooking downtown that is free to all citizens of Dallas," Greg Brown said. “Then you’re wanting to charge the citizens of Dallas for that view.”

The crowd erupted with applause.  

Nearly all of the 500 people who packed the meeting objected to replacing two-and-a-half acres of open park space and native blackland prairie with a moderately upscale restaurant and 160 parking spots.

“You’re wanting to pave paradise and put up a parking lot,” Terri Raith said as she quoted a famous Joni Mitchell song.

Raith accused the developers of staging a land grab.

“You’re wanting to take the only mountain top we’ve got and take it for your personal use," she said. "And I don’t know why you think you even think you can do that."

Credit Shelley Kofler / KERA News
Restaurant developers want to use 2.5 acres at White Rock Lake's Boy Scout Hill for their restaurant. The grassy open space includes native, blackland prairie.

Lots of boos and hisses

Boos and hisses erupted as a single speaker spoke in support of the restaurant saying she would “love to sip a margarita by the lake.”

The atmosphere grew even more confrontational as another speaker challenged developer Richard Kopf.

“How can you be so thick-headed to anger so many people? You are arrogant enough to think you’ll get this because you have powerful friends. I can see it in your eyes, man,” the speaker charged.

Kopf responded: “That is not the way we approached this. We have met with a lot of different people, and we have asked for ideas, and thoughts and suggestions and comments back.”

Developers defend themselves

Kopf explained that developers would build the restaurant with private money but the city would own it.  A portion of the money from the restaurant would go into a fund that would support groups making improvements in the park.

“We would be providing a source of funding for projects at the lake those organizations are trying to do,” Kopf said.

Dallas City Council member Sheffield “Sheffie” Kadane, who represents the White Rock area, raised further doubts about the project’s success when he strode to the front and held up his new T-shirt, which read “Save Boy Scout Hill.”

Kadane told the crowd: “Once it (the restaurant proposal) comes to the City Council, I will not be approving this restaurant.” 

Objections by a council member to a project in his or her district usually means it will be rejected.

Kadane said he expects developers to drop the restaurant proposal because of overwhelming opposition.

Credit Shelley Kofler / KERA News
Dallas Council member Sheffie Kadane brandished a "Save Boy Scout Hill" t-shirt and said he would oppose putting a restaurant in the park.

Not giving up

But Lyle Burgin says it’s not over.

“It’s disappointing to find this much opposition, but no, we’re not giving up the possibility yet,” he said.

Burgin says he and his partner plan to meet with other area groups in hopes they’ll be more receptive to building a restaurant in White Rock Lake Park.