More than 300 people attended the Community Meeting about the Austin Oaks PUD on Tuesday, August 19, and most were very actively engaged. Neighbors provided a clear message to the City staff and the developer’s staff that those present oppose the plans for the PUD they have outlined. The feedback forms gathered at the meeting show that 93% oppose, 4% are neutral, and 3% favor the planned PUD. That input, along with feedback through email comments and an upcoming neighborhood-wide survey will be used with City Staff and City Council, as we advocate for the neighborhood’s interest.
For those who couldn’t attend the Community Meeting, here’s a brief summary of points made by presenters from the City and the developer, as well as highlights from the many questions that were posed and answered. Talk with your neighbors who attended, to get their impressions as well; I’m sure that together we remember many more things that this!
Austin Planning and Development Review Department Presentation
- A PUD is essentially a blank piece of paper; the City has a set of rules for developing them, but each crafts its own unique rules for the development of the property, including modifications (variances) to the City land development code, including flexibility over conventional zoning relating to height, density, building coverage, and impervious cover.
- The PUD designation and its rules apply in perpetuity.
- Gaining approval of a PUD requires that the applicant demonstrate the “superiority” of its planned approach over conventional zoning.
- In the process of determining the superiority of the PUD (over conventional zoning), the City can ask for things in exchange that don’t otherwise apply. City Staff needs to feel that they’re getting a good exchange of value for granting the PUD zoning.
- Among the superiority areas the City looks for is a contribution to affordable housing (either on site or fee in lieu)
[Please note: the latest draft of the Superiority Chart is in Archive set for the Austin Oaks PUD.]
Drenner Group (Presenting for the Owner/Developer, Spire Realty)
- All of the Austin Oaks property is covered by the PUD application; the property is a total of 31.37 acres. (There was some misinformation about 38 acres published previously.
- The current uses of the property are 2 and 3-story office buildings, with paved parking. All of the space is leased now, and it’s expected that re-development would not begin until about 2020.
- Buildings in the current PUD site plan range in height from 5 stories on the western edge (near Hart Lane) to the taller ones at the eastern edge near Mopac. The tall ones are 17.5 stories, one with 10 levels of office and 7.5 levels of parking structure and another with 11 levels of office and 6.5 levels of parking.
- The PUD plan incorporates aspects of Imagine Austin, the City’s comprehensive plan that was adopted in June of 2012. It has characteristics of a Neighborhood Center (see note below), situated across Mopac from a projected transit center intended for light rail.
- Most people had comments and questions about the density impact of planned residential use as well as office use: traffic, overcrowding of schools, height of buildings that were incompatible with the existing neighborhood, and anticipated higher taxes.
- Suggested alternatives that were reinforced by several questions included parks or playgrounds, housing for retirees, bike lanes, and hiking trails.
- Several questioners asked for additional research – such as meeting with AISD representatives, expanding the traffic analysis, getting more community input from working sessions with the developer
At several points in the meeting, neighbors were encouraged to provide their comments about the plans and their concerns to the City’s zoning case manager for this project: [email protected] and to the City Council members individually or collectively at http://austintexas.gov/mail/all-council-members When you do so, please ask them to include your comments in the backup provided to the Zoning and Platting Commission and to City Council. Please also copy [email protected] so we can track the volume of mail going to these parties.
Planning of NWACA’s next steps is underway, and we will keep you updated via the newsletter, email, and our web site. We are creating a PUD-focused Ad Hoc Committee, including members of NWACA and of our collaborating neighborhoods: Allandale Neighborhood Association, Balcones Civic Association, and North Shoal Creek Neighborhood Association. The NWACA Board will take a position on this issue as soon as we complete a survey of the entire neighborhood, to ensure we are representing all of NWACA. Please watch for more information via our email list and web site.
Note: Imagine Austin definition of Neighborhood Center – “The smallest and least intense of the three types of activity centers outlined in the Growth Concept Map. Of the three, these will have a more local focus. Businesses and services – doctors and dentists, shops, branch libraries, dry cleaners, hair salons, coffee shops, restaurants, and other small and local businesses – will generally serve the center and surrounding neighborhoods.”