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Environmental Board fails to

Friday, November 16, 2001 by

Recommend Bear Lake PUD

Bluffstone PUD wins support; Wildhorse vote postponed

The Environmental Board sat through presentations on three Planned Unit Developments (PUD) Wednesday night, voting to recommend one and postpone another. On the final presentation, a proposed development by Stratus Properties, the Board voted on two separate motions, but after voting to extend the meeting beyond the usual four-hour time frame, eventually failed to agree on any recommendation.

Chair Lee Leffingwell relinquished charge of the meeting to Vice-Chair Tim Jones so he could make his motion: a detailed, seven-point proposal outlining conditions to accompany a Board recommendation. But Jones, came in with his own substitute motion, which failed. The Board then voted on Leffingwell’s motion which would have recommended the PUD, albeit with strict water quality conditions. (Leffingwell later told In Fact Daily that his motion was not a recommendation for the PUD, but merely a list of conditions that the project should meet.) The vote was 2-2-1, with Leffingwell and Secretary Karin Ascot in favor, Board Members Debra Williams and Phil Moncada against, and Jones abstaining. Board Members Connie Seibert, Matt Watson and Ramon Alvarez were absent.

Stratus’ Bear Lake PUD straddles the Travis and Hays County line at the intersection of SH 45 and FM 1826. It consists of 536.7 acres, all within Austin city limits and the Barton Springs Zone, and thus subject to the SOS ordinance. Three-fifths of the tract’s net site area is in the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone and two-fifths is in the Contributing Zone.

According to Steve Drenner, an attorney for Stratus Properties, the development will have no more than 800 housing units, both single-family and multi-family homes. This works out to be approximately 1.5 units per acre, he said. The proposed development is SOS compliant, or as Drenner put it, “SOS plus.”

He said the tract was originally platted in 1984 for a three million square foot research and development facility proposed by Motorola. With this PUD, Stratus gives up all grandfathering rights, Drenner said.

“This is a project that’s not very dense,” Drenner said. “It’s a terrific step towards protection of the environment, especially when you consider what could be done out here,” he noted.

Jones was interested in more stringent measures to protect the environment. “What we’re striving for is non-degradation,” he said. “SOS is not a non-degradation ordinance . . . what are we going to do? Barton Springs is now polluted to a point of finding hydrocarbons.”

When asked if SOS were not strict enough, Jones replied, “The intent of SOS was to pass something that would pass . . . something better than the CWO,” he said.

The Board voted unanimously to recommend the Bluffstone PUD in the Bull Creek Watershed. This 3.7-acre PUD near the intersection of Loop 360 and Spicewood Springs Road, at 5401 Bluffstone Dr., would replace an existing site plan from 1986 that would allow much denser development. The old site plan, which is still valid, was approved for a service station, restaurant and other retail. Pat Murphy, with the Watershed Protection and Development Review Department, said old site plans never expire. “(Those) things don’t die, they live forever,” he noted.

Drenner, representing the applicant, Jomar Joseph Partners, LTD, said the PUD would eliminate the previously approved site plan, no longer allowing a service station, restaurant or other retail, so that medical offices could be built. “I think that’s one of the primary reasons the neighborhood group and the Bull Creek Foundation supports it,” he said. “It’s a good plan in its own right, and when you couple that with the fact that it’s killing off the immortal site plan,” that makes it even better, he said.

Before the vote, Leffingwell added some friendly amendments for tree replacement to Moncada’s motion for recommendation. This PUD “is far superior to the existing plan,” he said, because it fits into the surroundings better and it has enthusiastic support from The Bull Creek Foundation and the Great Hills Homeowners Association.

The Wildhorse Ranch PUD, an 1899-acre site located on the edges of the City of Manor, just off of US 290 East, is in the Desired Development Zone (DDZ). Pete Dwyer, of Dwyer Realty, representing Wildhorse Holdings, said part of the PUD is actually in Manor.

“The concept of Wildhorse is to develop in the core of the DDZ a mixed-use development where you can live and work and play,” he said. “Every house that we build out here in the DDZ is, obviously, one less house built in the Drinking Water Protection Zone.”

Murphy said this proposed development was a little more than two years in the making and came on the scene when the Smart housing initiative was at its peak.

Dwyer said there will be 45,000 to 50,000 jobs within a 10-mile radius of the development and the intention of this project is to build housing that’s affordable for teachers and firefighters and people who can’t afford to buy a home in West Austin.

Leffingwell said he supported the PUD in concept but the Board didn’t yet have enough documentation to support the presentation. He suggested postponing a recommendation until the December 5 meeting, by which time the Board could review additional information. For a development of this magnitude, proper scrutiny would be wise and consistent with past Board action, he noted. The vote was 5-0 to postpone until Dec. 5..

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