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Zoning changes approved for E. 12th St. area

Monday, April 11, 2005 by

Parking, height limits, setbacks relaxed

The City Council has approved a series of zoning changes for the Urban Renewal Plan area on East 11th and East 12th streets, the third time the plan has been modified in the last six years.

Paul Hilgers of the Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Department called the East Austin plan a “living, breathing document.” Austin Revitalization Authority Executive Director Byron Marshall labeled the process highly successful.

Modifications included community parking along the two streets, as well as changes to permitted uses, building height modifications and new parking requirements, and added setback requirements along the East 12th Street corridor. Marshall called it a 15-month collaborative process between the ARA and local stakeholders.

“We have a special specific process, and we’ve spent the last 15 months going through that process,” Marshall said. “The goals of that process included reducing the encroaching traffic, noise and trash into abutting neighborhoods.”

For the first time, the neighborhood has agreed to increased height, reduced compatibility requirements, increased impervious cover and decreased setbacks. In return for those concessions, neighbors agreed to additional concessions for property along East 11th and 12th streets. New concessions included publicly funded community parking lots in specific areas. Parking garages over two stories on 12th Street would be required to meet design criteria.

Additional height requirements on East 12th Street would provide three levels: 60-foot height requirements on the north side from I-35 to Olander Street (Subdistrict 1); 50-foot height requirements from Olander to Branch (Subdistrict 2); and 35-foot height requirement between Branch and Comal (Subdistrict 3). Original requirements split height between 35 and 50 feet.

Existing project controls were deleted for 12th Street. Instead, the plan would rely on the existing city Land Development Code requirements under the Central Urban Redevelopment Combining District. All floor-to-area ratios would be waived.

Setbacks were not addressed in the original plan. Given the waiver of compatibility regulations, rear and side setbacks were set for the various subdistricts. In Subdistricts 1 and 2 closest to the freeway, rear setbacks were set at 10 feet. In Subdistrict 3, furthest from the freeway, the setbacks were 15 feet on the front, 10 feet on street yard and 5 feet on interior side yard and rear of each yard.

Impervious cover is not addressed in the plan. Under the new plan, impervious cover would be set for 90 percent in Subdistricts 1 and 2.

Lighting, building façade and landscape design were set for East 12th Street. Design compatibility was not addressed in the original plan.

Under the existing plan, all buildings would have to comply with mixed-use definitions. Personal services were excluded from the list of eligible/allowable businesses. Small buildings—those of a single-story or less than 2000 square feet on East 12th Street and single-story buildings on East 11th Street—would not be required to provide a combination of uses, as long as the use is retail, office or residential. Personal services would be allowed.

Hilgers said the concepts had been tested with the community. Everyone is supporting the concepts under the recommended ordinance, he said. Council Member Brewster McCracken called it a “great urban planning model that everyone can learn from.” The changes to the plan for the area passed, 7-0.

Neighbors praise negotiated plan

South Congress development goes before BOA tonight

Members of the Bouldin Creek Neighborhood Association have been working with the new owners of 1400 South Congress to modify their plans for a condominium and mixed-use project slated for the current site of Capitol Car Credit. Rob Lippincott, owner of Guero's restaurant, along with developers Abe Zimmerman and Stan Biderman, purchased the block with the goal of redeveloping it with a mixture of residential and retail uses.

But the original plans put forth by the group did not meet with unanimous approval from the neighborhood. That could have been a problem, since those plans would require several Land Development Code variances from the Board of Adjustment.

The biggest issue, said Bouldin Creek Neighborhood Association President Cory Walton, was the position of the project's parking garage. "It really kind of conflicted with our neighborhood plan and didn't integrate well with single-family homes," he said. "It was going to funnel traffic right out onto a residential street (Eva Street). It was also a lot larger…it was going to be four stories high, which was two to three times as tall as the nearest homes. People would have been looking out of their windows into this massive wall of cars and concrete." The new plans call for part of the parking structure to be below ground, with the majority of the traffic directed back towards South Congress instead of Eva Street.

After several weeks of negotiations, the two sides are on the verge of an agreement. The various stakeholders met last week to go over the new plans for the project, and representatives of the BNCA will likely be at tonight's Board of Adjustment meeting to express their support for requested variances regarding set-back requirements. "It's turned out to be a model of early and continued interaction between residents and developers," said Walton, "and we're hoping that it becomes a model for further development throughout Austin."

Notes from the campaign trail

Stanley ensures Dunkerley endorsement by West Austin group

The West Austin Democrats last week endorsed Lee Leffingwell, Margot Clarke and Betty Dunkerley in their respective Austin City Council races ( http://www.westaustindemocrats.org). The group also went on record in support of the proposed smoking ordinance on the May 7 ballot and the proposal to expand the boundaries of the Austin Community College District.

Place 1 Candidates Andrew Bucknall and Leffingwell gave brief speeches to the group. Bucknall used the opportunity to tell members about his concerns regarding police-community relations. "I want to work to get Stan Knee and Mike Sheffield to come together and get some concise and clear standard operating procedures for the police, and have some consequences when they are broken," he said. Leffingwell told the group about his background and experience, reminding the group of his service on the Environmental Board and the long list of endorsements he had already received.

The group did not have a full question-and-answer session for the Place 1 candidates, but chose to have members who had been to endorsement meetings of other Democratic clubs make a report regarding the candidates' policies and qualifications. During the discussion before the endorsement vote, members were enthusiastic about Bucknall's progressive politics and experience as a Democratic precinct chair. But a majority felt that Leffingwell's experience, including his first-hand knowledge of the workings of city government, made him a better choice.

Candidates in Place 3 were given substantially more time to outline their positions and take questions from the audience. Clarke reminded the group of her previous run for Council and her work for environmental organizations and the Democratic Party. "I've been a member of this club for several years, in addition to being a member of several other clubs because I live in an area that's overlapped by several of our Democratic clubs," she said. "I've worked very hard in this community, both politically and professionally, and I want to have your endorsement and support."

Clarke was asked about some specific issues pertaining to West Austin, such as the recent modifications to Shoal Creek Boulevard "You're not the first person to ask me about that," she said. "From what I've read, it was an ongoing decision that was reached with the neighborhoods in order to try to figure out the best ways to deal with the parking issues, bicycle issues, traffic calming issues, and that was a compromise decision. From what I heard and what I read, the way the decision was reached was with public input and cooperation with the neighborhoods, the developers, and the city. So I very strongly believe in public participation in those decisions."

Of the Place 4 Candidates, only Jennifer Gale attended the meeting to make a brief presentation. The group did not specifically request a presentation from the candidates in that race, but instead relied upon reports from members who had monitored other candidate forums over the previous weeks. There was some discussion over whether the group should choose not to offer an endorsement in that place because of concerns about the record of incumbent Council Member Betty Dunkerley. "This is a placed that many clubs have ended up not endorsing," acknowledged Hunter Ellinger, who chaired the meeting. "I feel people are probably pretty clear about Betty Dunkerley. It is only in the context of Austin that she would be considered conservative…but in that context it's not a hard case to make."

But Democratic strategist Alfred Stanley reminded the group that Dunkerley had played a key role in a battle of great significance to Democrats. "When I asked the City Council to intervene in the lawsuit on redistricting, Betty gave a great speech in the affirmative (See In Fact Daily, November 7, 2003). I think her support was crucial. The issue the case was tried upon…was the issue brought up by Renea Hicks. Hicks is the attorney hired by the City of Austin and Travis County," he said. "I think she's been there on a number of crucial votes and she makes for a stronger Council, in my opinion," he concluded. The group eventually voted to endorse Dunkerley by a substantial margin.

©2005 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

CAMPO meeting tonight . . . At least two Council members— Daryl Slusher and Brewster McCracken—are expected to request that the policy group not act as planned on the proposed 2030 Mobility Plan. Slusher has found numerous faults with the plan and has urged the group not to rush into adopting it. McCracken also wants to find out exactly what TxDOT’s plans are for Oak Hill’s planned US290/SH71 interchange, a.k.a., the “ Y.” TxDOT spokesman John Hurt has said the design is set—barring a huge public outcry. McCracken says that flies in the face of the “context sensitive design” CAMPO promised to the pubic last summer when they approved the toll road plan. He told In Fact Daily, “One of the reasons why we ordered the context sensitive design amendment was we looked at the economic data for properties around Austin in the 1990s and the only red zones—areas where property values declined—was around elevated highways. So, if TxDOT wants to ruin property values and undermine the quality of life, they will proceed down their current course”. . . Also meeting . . . The Board of Adjustment will begin its meeting at 5:30pm in the Council chambers at City Hall . . . Adding and subtracting . . . The Austin City Council held the first of two public hearings on Thursday night – one for annexation and another for disannexation. The area being annexed was 108 acres near the intersection of City Park Road and Pearce Road. It is the site of a proposed 95-lot residential subdivision. The area to be de-annexed was 6.4 acres on Jet Lane off State Highway 71. Neighborhood Planning and Zoning Department Assistant Director Greg Guernsey said the Jet Lane property was to be disannexed because the city could not provide municipal services . . . Affordable housing plan . . . The Council last week held the first of a number of hearings to draft the city’s annual Action Plan for Fiscal Year 2005-2006 to allocate the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s grant funds for the city. Jennifer McVale of ADAPT urged the city to consider housing for the extremely poor, given the limits of support provided to the disabled. Additional hearings are scheduled for April 12 and May 10, with the intention to make recommendations to Council on June 14. The draft plan will be available May 2 . . . No Crocker, no hearing . . . When real estate lobbyist Sarah Crocker left town last month, she left a few cases behind. A zoning change from I-RR to commercial (GR) at 11410 Manchaca Drive in the Slaughter Creek watershed was expected to win approval on the City Council consent agenda last week, but it did not. Council Member Daryl Slusher wanted to hear all about it. But without Crocker, the case was postponed for one week . . . Performers to headline fundraiser for school music education . . . The Finn & Porter Restaurant located downtown in the Hilton Austin will celebrate Texas music tonight with a star-studded fundraiser for The Texas Music Project, a non-profit organization that helps fund music education programs in Texas public schools. Performers include Patricia Vonne, Shelley King, and Damian Green, Austin’s 14-year old fiddling sensation, with special surprise guests promised. For tickets or information call 301-4864 or visit the website http://texasmusicproject.org . . . Early voting starts soon . . . Early voting for Austin and Round Rock city election begins on April 20. Contested races in Round Rock include mayor and council members for Place 1 and Place 4. Visit http://www.ci.round-rock.tx.us/news/voting_locations.html for information . . . Crime victims’ dedication . . . This is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. Williamson County will dedicate a Tree of Hope on Monday morning at Williamson County Justice Center, 405 Martin Luther King, in Georgetown. The time is 9:30am . . . Earth Day coming . . . Round Rock will celebrate Earth Day on Saturday, April 23, at the Recycling Center, 310 Deepwood Dr., from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The day’s sessions will include recycling, water conservation, xeriscaping and composting. The Humane Society also will be hosting a pet adoption day and pet food donation drive. . . Making the rounds . . . Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman has begun a “ Goodbye Tour” of sorts, vowing to address all of the city’s various volunteer boards and commissions before her term is up this summer. Goodman spoke to the Environmental Board last week, thanking them for their hard work and long hours, and reminding them how important they are to the city. “As I leave, I want to remind everyone of your protocols, your reasons for being,” she said. “You need to stay together and be advisers to the City Council. You are the keepers of the faith, and without you being there, I would worry about the future of Austin.” Goodman is retiring from the Council after 12 years, having served on several of the city’s boards and commissions prior to her election in 1993.

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