Truth, Lies & Half-Truths

MakerSpace:

HOW THE CITY OF GARLAND PUT OUT THE NOT-WELCOME MAT 

To One Nationally Acclaimed 501(c)(3) Community Workshop


Many loud and frightening assertions were recently made by City Council members  Rich Aubin and Anita Goebel about one nonprofit that was potentially interested in leasing the Armory. Dallas MakerSpace, a well-respected and successful community workshop in Carrollton looking to expand, was willing to invest HALF A MILLION DOLLARS of their own money and expertise to bring the building up to current code. Unlike the City’s oft-repeated figure of $7 MIL to make the Armory work for the Parks Dept. (not just bringing the building to code, but also completely remodeling the main armory and other smaller buildings, furnishing them, decorating & landscaping them, etc. to suit the Park Department’s very specific requirements), that $500,000 figure paid by the nonprofit would have brought the building up to current code and made it fully usable by them.   


After a lengthy diatribe against MakerSpace was posted by Anita Goebel Board appointee Eric Stuyvesant to justify the decision to demolish the Armory rather than lease it to MakerSpace, I took a day to investigate the horror stories circulated to "keep out" MakerSpace from the Armory. 


Somehow, overnight, MakerSpace became the "bogeyman" in a political dogfight.


Here are the written assertions made by Eric Stuyvesant, who personally lobbied against MakerSpace and urged immediate demolition of the Armory, and my comments after tracking the assertions down as best I could:  


1. "This was not a rash decision by council, that discussion had been ongoing."   


HALF-TRUTH: The discussion had been ongoing among the City Council for several months, but not announced to the public (aside from agenda items posted on the City's website--not common reading for most citizens). Moving from theoretical "what-if" discussions directly to a decisive $2.1+ million vote without first going through the normal process of studying the potential site and the impact on surrounding neighborhoods, getting input from the public via online surveys (as the City did with the previous dog park site selection, see here: http://www.publicnow.com/…/5944D27ADB66E9B716449F8E4854A405…), and developing an approach that takes into account concerned citizen groups (South Garland Little League, Pawsibilities, Neighborhood Associations, etc.), was indeed rash. "Rash: displaying or proceeding from a lack of careful consideration of the possible consequences of an action." 


2. "The Mayor himself voted twice for the skate park and the dog park at Central Park."   


TRUE. But the Mayor has since issued a public mea culpa, saying publicly that he refuses to "double down" now on his mistake. https://www.dallasnews.com/…/garland-mayor-says-parks-board….   


3. "South Garland Little League, while concerned with the dog park is absolutely opposed to a MakerSpace which operates 24/7/365, often without supervision."  


HALF-TRUTH: The SGLL understood that if MakerSpace moved into the Armory, they would turn their practice field into a parking lot. They were not initially informed that the dog park/skate park would take their practice field. The Dallas MakerSpace, one of several potential lessees of the Armory building, does operate 24/7/365 as a members-only key-access facility, without 24/7 staff. Alex Rhodes, on the Dallas MakerSpace Board of Directors, said they wouldn't  have needed the ballfield for additional parking.   


4. "The concern isn't with general hobbyists, but with one of the main proponents for the use of the Armory self-admission that he would be manufacturing gun parts, and using it as a refill station (munitions)."   


HALF-TRUTH:  It is currently allowed at the Dallas MakerSpace, as is legal throughout the State of Texas, for citizens to clean their legally acquired guns, but making guns is NOT permitted; it is a felony! Assembling a legal gun from parts legally acquired elsewhere is currently permitted (as it is everywhere in the state). Reloading bullets, legal throughout Texas and a widespread practice among hunters, is currently permitted. (I'm friends with two church elders who routinely reload their bullets after hunting trips.) From Dallas MakerSpace rules: "Firearms, gunpowder, primers, and assembled ammunition cannot be stored at the Makerspace." 


5. "There is also concern over the decibels created when testing jet engines, and the potential for using Glenbrook to test out newly built race engines."   


HALF-TRUTH: Although any of us can be "concerned" about anything, with or without justification, the City of Garland has noise ordinances that put firm limits on decibels and acceptable hours of noise. See http://z2.franklinlegal.net/franklin/Z2Browser2.html…. As for "jet engines", which sounds hair-raising, upon inquiry I learned this referred to a small "pulse-jet" propulsion tube (sheet metal tube with cones at either side) that runs on propane, something built as a science experiment in many high schools. A pulse-jet was made by Dallas MakerSpace members as a prop and fired up 2 - 3 times in short bursts early this year. As for "testing out newly built race engines", this again appears to refer to a one-time incident at the Dallas MakerSpace 3 years ago, where a Tesla Meetup Group (only one of whom was a MakerSpace member) raced in the industrial area parking lot behind the MakerSpace. Makerspace addressed it. It hasn't happened since.   


6. "There's also concern over the recent revelations that homeless people were using the Carrollton location as a place to sleep."   


FALSE. The Dallas MakerSpace had an incident several years ago where several paid members--not the homeless--were discovered sleeping overnight in the facility's recliners. MakerSpace removed the recliners and made a rule against sleeping there overnight. There have been no incidents since.  


7. "The $2 million dollar number that keeps getting thrown around was for developing the piece of land just East of the Milano Hat Company, not for building at Central."   


FALSE. The $2 million figure is from the $1.1 million bond issue passed for the skate park in 2004, and the $1 million CIP fund for the dog park. Relocating to Central Park has not reduced those figures, but HAS caused the loss of a valuable ($700,000 min) building along with the added demolition costs.   


8. "The $12 million valuation is in question, especially since no one has offered to purchase the property."   


HALF-TRUTH: The valuation IS in question since the City Council has never had the building formally appraised by an independent commercial real estate appraiser--something that can, and I believe should, be done before even entertaining the thought of demolition. [NOTE: I understand that the Council voted in work session NOT to pay approximately $2500 to have a professional appraisal made of the Armory.... but had no problem approving $47,000 to do a partial demolition of the buildings.] We should know what we're losing BEFORE we lose it. As for no one offering to purchase the property, the property has never been put on the market for sale, so that's a misleading statement. The building is certainly not valueless, and demolishing it will not only bring loss of its intrinsic value, but also cost tens of thousands of dollars in addition.   


9. "....I have said before MakerSpace is an incredible concept and Garland would be well served by finding a suitable place. But the Armory location with it's proximity to the neighborhoods to the North and East as well as being right on top of Central Park is not that place."   


OPINION, NOT FACT: This is for citizens of Garland to determine, not a few individuals. Hundreds of Garland citizens asked the Council to slow down and study all options in order to determine the best use, if any, of the Armory.


10. "Public parks are for kids, and families. Park space needs to be kept park space. "   


HALF-TRUTH: The National Guard Armory has never been a public park or "park space". It has never been part of Central Park. It was a military installation closed to the public, which I understand included storage of at least some munitions and artillery. Although it came into the hands of the Parks Department, supposedly to be beautified and used as for Parks Department offices and equipment storage, it has never been used as "park space."   


11. "MakerSpace needs to be in an industrial park. A simple Google Search will show you that when placed adjacent to a neighborhood the end result is a headache for all involved."   


OPINION AND HALF-TRUTH: Upon careful review and examination, it may be that a Garland MakerSpace could be advantageously sited in a different location. A thorough evaluation would have settled that. As for the Google search statement, presumably referencing the Kansas City MakerSpace that was a bad neighbor, this is another overstatement. The MakerSpace concept is relatively new, and few if any are directly affiliated with each other. MakerSpace isn't a franchise or a trademarked concept. As a result, they vary widely. Some are in public libraries! One advantage to the interest the Dallas MakerSpace has (so far) shown in Garland is that it WOULD be affiliated with the Dallas MakerSpace, which now has 7 years of experience under its belt and an eyes-open understanding of the kinds of things that can go wrong. Instead of starting from scratch, as the random MakerSpaces across the country are doing, we would be starting with some seasoned leadership.