Standing outside the 68th Civil District Court, attorney and past president of the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League, John McCall Jr. announced a small victory in the fight to save Oak Cliff Christian Church from demolition.
“We got what we came here for and that was time,” said a hopeful McCall. “We actually got more than what we came here for and we’re going to get records.”
District Judge Martin Hoffman put his seal of approval on McCall and DISD attorney Robert Luna’s Rule 11 agreement to halt demolition of the church until Feb. 5 – that’s when they’ll meet again at Hoffman’s court (10 a.m. sharp) to hear arguments for and against a temporary injunction on demolition. Part of that agreement will also include a 5 p.m. Jan. 29 deadline for DISD to hand over financial documents that prove more than $21 million in federal relief funds weren’t used to purchase the church and other properties being acquired for a new Adamson High School. Luna said DISD used funds from a 2008 bond money. [Here's why the federal funds angle is a no go for DISD]
In sports terms, the preservationists – the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League and Preservation Dallas – got some time put back on the game clock. Just enough time to throw one last Staubachian pass and hope to find their miraculous Drew Pearson game-winning touchdown catch in the form of DISD’s violation of the The National Historic Preservation Act.
Jump if you’re like me and you enjoy hearing lawyers discuss strategy and other “inside baseball” tidbits.
Before McCall stepped into the courtroom with Michael Amonett, the current president of the OOCCl, we talked about why he and Amonett believe federal funds were used to purchase Oak Cliff Christian Church.
Mcall: “That came off of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. In July of 2009 DISD received approximately $21 million out of that fund. Ironically enough, that was July. They purchased this building in August of 2009, pulled the [demolition] permit in December of 2009, and so the paper trail looks pretty culpable for them especially when you pay $450,000 for what is going to be a tennis court structure and you’re probably going to have another $30 and $40,000 in abatement and demolition. So, that’s one expensive tennis court when you’ve got empty lots sitting all around it.”
“If you have paid any attention to DISD and their finances, there have been such shortfalls over the last several years and [Superintendent Michael] Hinojosa has been drug over the coals, it’s hard to think that they have a spare $450,000 for this kind of crap. I think federal funds have been clearly important for this kind of expansion of Adamson. That’s what it has been all about.”
When you compare those numbers to what I’ve heard from other property owners such as the Town Hall Adult Day Care Center where they say DISD has offered them only $95,000, you begin to raise your eyebrows a little. It becomes a little more suspicious when you consider how easy it is for school districts to condemn pieces of property and pay the “fair market value.”
The picture that McCall painted for me was that of a school district well aware of the backlash that may come from demolishing a potential protected property, moving quickly to purchase it without public involvement.
But at this point McCall’s argument is just suspicion. For a violation to occur McCall and company have to prove a trail leads from the federal dollars to Oak Cliff Christian Church’s purchase and that the church is indeed worthy of being on the National Register of Historic Places.
The latter came in the form of a letter sent today from Greg Smith, the National Registry coordinator for the Texas Historical Commission:
“The Texas Historical Commission strongly supports the church’s preservation and encourages the Dallas ISD to take steps to identify ways that the building could be put to productive use. Any project that has the potential to alter any of the historic characteristics of the building may be subject to review under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act if federal funds, permits, or licenses are required.”
As for McCall he said he has a hard time believing DISD has kept all their receipts:
“I think it’s going to be very vague and very difficult. I don’t think they’ve earmarked the funds and they know that’s the issue.”
For a thorough history lesson on Oak Cliff Christian Church, including some Oswald info, read this presentation that Amonett sent to the Texas Historical Commission: