Under the cut is both the Statesman piece on the latest on the Austin Oak PUD, as well as Brad Parson's letter, about the "10 million dollars" that will magically appear.
I would like to propose that we take a portion of that $10 million and feed the herd of unicorns currently living on the Simon-Endeavor Existential Park at the Domain. You know, the wonderful, much needed park space that Endeavor promised the City as part of the Domain deal, way back in 2004.
All joking aside, though, can we talk about the real problem with the Austin Oak PUD? It's distracting us from havin a much needed conversation about using the PUD ordinance to deal with our biggest challenge--the huge disparities in some City Council Districts.
Instead of continuing to waive Title 1 and Title 2 requirements in the vain hope we may get some more park space for our unicorns in twenty years (or a magical and mythical 10 million dollars to feed them in 17 years) why not add another section to the PUD ordinance?
What if we took a percentage of the revenues collected from businesses in a PUD, and put them into a specific fund earmarked for the immediate area? This would give neighborhoods with big needs--like traffic, infrastructure, and park and rec space--a new tool and some money to address these issues.
In the meantime, I propose we call the new baby unicorn that was just born at the Domain's park "Drenner".
editor, Love North Austin
Austin Oaks redo wins no applause
Neighbors still firmly opposed to massive mixed-use project.
By Lilly Rockwell firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s impossible to miss the signs.
Driving through a collection of neighborhoods in hilly Northwest Austin, yards are filled with signs that read “Stop the PUD” or “No More PUDs,” as well as “500 percent more traffic here?”
They represent the battle over Austin Oaks, a fight that has been brewing since last summer over a proposed mixed-use development at MoPac Boulevard and Spice-wood Springs Road. In May, developer Spire Realty Group unveiled a downsized proposal and $10 million for traffic improvements that were intended to appease neighbors — but so far, neighborhood groups say they remain staunchly opposed.
The original development plan called for two office buildings of 17 stories each, or about 225 feet tall, as well as 610 apartments and town homes in three- to five-story buildings, plus retail and restaurant space. That’s a substantial height increase from the mix of zoning currently on the site, which allows for buildings of a maximum height between 40 and 60 feet.
The new proposal by Dallas-based Spire Realty involves three office buildings of up to 10 stories, or 120 feet tall, and an apartment complex of 277 units. The total square footage would be 1.28 million square feet, with 70,000 square feet for retail and 50,000 square feet for restaurants. By comparison, that’s slightly less total square footage than Barton Creek Square.
Austin Oaks’ 31-acre tract currently has a dozen two- to three-story office buildings that would be demolished.
Spire will eventually need the Austin City Council’s approval because it is asking for a “Planned Unit Development,” essentially a negotiated zoning change that typically involves developers offering various benefits, such as a park or reduced environmental impact, in exchange for greater height, density or a different zoning classification.
Neighbors also say they are fed up with the plodding pace of development review, which has stretched on for more than a year. On Tuesday evening, the city’s Zoning and Platting Commission voted to postpone a first hearing on this development until Sept. 15. City staff wanted more time to consider whether to give this project a thumbs-up. And the Environmental Board is supposed to hear this proposal first. (No city board or commission has considered the PUD request yet.)
“It seems to be typical to me that when the developer has a large stake in a piece of property and they want to make substantial changes to what they are allowed to do under existing zoning, that all they have to do is buy time,” said Northwest Austin resident Tim Hill. He said he was worried that in the busier fall season, it would be challenging to galvanize people to attend meetings.
Development lobbyist Steve Drenner, who is representing Spire, told the American-Statesman on Tuesday that he expects the council to consider Austin Oaks by the end of the year.
Neighborhood groups say they are against any zoning change that would bring more traffic and more students into overcrowded schools.
“The concern is that this will make it impossible to get through the intersections around that development,” said Joyce Statz, president of the Northwest Austin Civic Association, a group that represents a dozen neighborhoods in Northwest Hills, which are most immediately adjacent to Austin Oaks.
A traffic impact analysis submitted in May on behalf of the developer says the 4,118 daily car trips at the site would increase to about 19,819 under the proposed development — an increase of 381 percent.
Drenner said the developer would put $10 million toward various intersection improvements, including adding a traffic signal and a roundabout. Statz said those are only minimal changes that won’t do much to accommodate the additional traffic.
Northwest Hills residents also argue that Austin Oaks doesn’t fit with the city’s master plan for development, called “Imagine Austin.”
In that plan, this area is identified as a “neighborhood center,” which allows for dense, mixed-use housing. But a neighborhood center is also described as containing small and local businesses, such as a doctor’s office or dry cleaning shop. Drenner countered that the project is compatible with Austin’s master plan because it fits with the projections for the number of people and jobs allowed in a neighborhood center.
Council Member Sheri Gallo, whose District 10 includes the area, said she opposes the plan because so many neighbors object to it. She said she would support redevelopment at Austin Oaks only if the neighborhood groups and developers can reach a compromise.
“PUDs are supposed to be a superior product to what you can do in current zoning,” Gallo said, adding that for most people that means significant benefits to the community. “I’m hopeful the neighborhoods and developer will work together to figure out” an acceptable benefit, she said.
Contact Lilly Rockwell at 512-445-3632.
A correction on the article. Spire and Drenner have NOT formally offered,
"$10 million for traffic improvements that were intended to appease neighbors."
They have proposed about a million in traffic improvements and a
$9 million dollar fund accumulated over 17 years to 2032; that $9 million
of which they originally said could be used on Doss school. After their
surveying, they realized that the neighborhood is more concerned about
the unmitigated impacts on traffic, so they now say that fund accumulated
over 17 years could be used for traffic mitigation. Now implies no enrollment
mitigation for the schools. The $9 million won't be soon enough over 17 years.
For example, I am attaching Drenner's own costing of adding 2 lanes over
Spicewood Springs-Anderson Lane overpass of MoPac. This costing is
only internal on their part and has not been offered to the neighborhoods,
City, nor TXDOT. In fact, Spire and Drenner have not offered any money
for transportation mitigation to TXDOT, and that is where it would become
effective in this type of case. Further, that fund accumulated over 17 years
that I mentioned up above, Drenner proposes it as a trust managed with
the neighborhood, but neighborhood civic associations with limited
resources might have to sue to enforce it later, so it is not even likely
enforceable, and we have been told the City does not look well upon
the idea of a $9 million, 17 year trust fund as adequate, and that they, the
City, will not be party to such a 17 year trust fund.
The developer should be willing to offer the mitigation funds up front when
they are actually needed. So, Spire and Drenner have not actually formally
offered $10 million for traffic improvements, because they have not offered
that money to either the City nor TXDOT where it actually counts. Spire
and Drenner have been holding out the fund for different purposes and
multiple "site plans," to the neighborhoods, the "site plans" of which will
not actually be approved by Council or the Commissions when the PUD
is considered. This is exactly the type of representations from the
developer's rep that the neighborhoods have been dealing with for a
year now on this case.
I would appreciate it if the paper would consider correcting or clarifying
that "$10 million" figure.