Q: How does the BCRC get feedback about the concerns and priorities of the neighborhoods?
A: The BCRC Board is comprised of neighborhood liaisons to each coalition neighborhood and two standing committee chairpersons for 45th and Idlewild residents adjacent to the site. Neighborhood liaisons receive feedback directly from residents in their neighborhoods, neighborhood association (NA) meetings, NA email groups and websites, and participation of residents at BCRC meetings. The BCRC also conducted a survey of all coalition neighborhoods prior to the land being sold. The BCRC continues to receive feedback from residents now that the land is sold and the developer has made public their plan to develop the site.
Q: What were the results of the BCRC neighborhood survey?
A: The BCRC surveyed residents in all seven neighborhoods surrounding the site prior to the State selling the land in 2014. A total of 700 people responded to the survey. In general, the survey results revealed:
- Over 92% of respondents prefer a development of low to medium density that includes mostly housing, small apartments, and small retail and offices.
- Over 92% of respondents indicated that traffic generated by development of the site would affect them.
- As it relates to traffic generated by commercial uses, nearly 85% of respondents preferred small businesses such as bakeries, restaurants, coffee shops, and a small grocery store (such as Russell’s Bakery or Wheatsville Co-op).
- Nearly 95% of respondents prefer that 30 or more acres should be included as greenspace in the development.
Q: What is a PUD?
The type of zoning that the developer wants for the site is called a Planned Unit Development, or PUD. The City of Austin has a good explanation of what a PUD is, which can be found here.
Q: What is the developer proposing for the site?
A: MileStone is proposing a mixed-use urban infill development for the site. As of now, we don’t know for sure what exactly will be built on the site, but we have three primary sources of information: the PUD zoning application, the Traffic Impact Analysis, and the conceptual master plan – all prepared by MileStone.
The PUD application includes a land use plan with 7 tracts of varying allowable uses and maximum building heights. The largest tract, B, calls for building heights up to 65 feet with some allowed up to 75 feet (6 or 7 stories tall). Allowable uses – over 65 in tract B – include uses like multi-family residential, automotive sales, trade school, food sales, hotel-motel, theater, hospital services, and congregate living.
The PUD application requests up to 1,515 residential units (not including affordable units), 225,000 square feet of office space (approximately 40% as much office space as the downtown Frost Tower), and 150,000 square feet of retail (shopping center). The PUD land use plan does not include any tracts dedicated to parkland but shows an “approximate” location for open space. The PUD application indicates 17 acres of open space, but “open space” is broadly defined to include uses such as private park, drainage, detention, and water quality facilities.
The traffic impact analysis (TIA) prepared by MileStone anticipates traffic generation from the site to be 17,000 to 24,000 trips per day. The lower figure includes reduction estimates for “internal capture” and transit users. For reference, the existing traffic on Bull Creek Road is currently about 7,500 trips per day. The TIA also proposes some improvements to surrounding intersections to be completed in 2020 and 2024.
MileStone has presented two conceptual master plans, the most recent of which was released on July 9th. The conceptual master plan does not indicate heights of buildings or number of units. Based on “best fit” scaling of the conceptual master plan, it is difficult to determine if the picture matches the figures in the PUD application.
The BCRC, City staff, and Council have all requested additional information from MileStone to have a clear idea of what they plan to build.
Q: Why are people saying they are being denied due process and valid petition rights by the City?
A: State law provides for property owners within 200 feet of a proposed zoning change to petition the change in zoning. If enough signatures are collected, the petition is considered “valid” and requires a super-majority vote in Council to approve the zoning change. MileStone is requesting a change in zoning for this property from “un-zoned” to “planned unit development (PUD).” The State law allowing the petitioning of changes in zoning was intended to provide protections to property owners and a process to encourage developers and neighbors to work together to find mutually agreeable solutions to zoning and development disputes.
Due to the language used in the City Code governing the petitioning rights for changes in zoning, the City has taken the position that property owners within 200 feet of MileStone’s property cannot petition the PUD zoning application. Many of these neighbors feel that this interpretation by the City is unjust and a denial of due process and that it diminishes the voice and influence of those most impacted by the proposed zoning change.
The denial of valid petition rights by the City is a subject that all Austinites care about since there are many parcels of “un-zoned” State land throughout the City. The City takes the position that neighbors within 200 feet of all these “un-zoned” tracts do not have valid petition rights. Since other pieces of State land are likely to be sold for private development within the next few years, the MileStone PUD zoning case will set an important precedent for how the City deals with these issues throughout Austin moving forward.
The BCRC has consulted with attorneys on the subject of valid petition rights and continues to explore all options as we try to convince our elected officials to enable these rights for our neighbors. If you have expertise in this subject or think you can help, please contact us!