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Developer tries new tactic to deal with impervious cover rules

Friday, February 8, 2008 by Mark Richardson

Years ago, just before new development regulations were put into effect, in the Bull Creek and Panther Hollow watersheds, developers scrambled to submit their site plans to the city so that, under state law (Local Government Code Chapter 245), they could avoid more stringent development regulations. Now one developer says he may be willing to give up a  grandfathered site plan for a variance to exceed the impervious cover limit on a new development.

 

Members of the Environmental Board were split over approving the request for the River Place Center at RM 2222 and River Place Boulevard.  The developer, Jim Schissler, is proposing developing the new site plan, which has a much smaller footprint than what is on the current site plan, under current development regulations.

 

His attorney, Richard Suttle, said while Schissler does not really want to build out the original site plan – which he inherited after purchasing the land from another developer – he might be forced to use it if he cannot get a variance on his new plan.

 

“We looked at trying to make changes to the old plan, but they turned out to be more than we could do and keep the project grandfathered,” Suttle said. “So we redesigned the project under current regulations and if we can get them approved, we will delete the earlier site plan.”

 

Betty Lambright with Watershed Protection and Development Review explained that the property straddles two watersheds, Bull Creek and Panther Hollow, with each having different regulations on impervious cover. Under the old plan, the developer was allowed to build up to 57 percent impervious cover. In the new site plan, the portion in the Bull Creek watershed can be built to 40 percent impervious cover, and the Panther Hollow section at 20 percent impervious cover.

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In the new site plan put forward, the developer is seeking 40 percent on the Bull Creek side and 31 percent on the Panther hollow side, thus the request for a variance. The combined impervious cover on the entire site plan works out to 36 percent, according to Schissler.

 

The new development will include an office complex, a medical complex, a hotel and a restaurant. All of the areas with impervious cover and other areas on the Panther Hollow side would drain into two water treatment ponds on the east side of the property. Water on the undeveloped areas on the Bull Creek side would drain naturally into the creek’s watershed.

 

Board Member Jon Beall was not entirely satisfied with the environmental protections the developer was offering in exchange for a variance on the impervious cover.

 

“What measures have you taken to ensure water quality?” he asked. “Could you build the water quality ponds larger? Are you offering anything extra over city code?”

 

Schissler said he was building the ponds sufficiently large to handle the 36 percent impervious cover plus a 10 percent conservation buffer. He said the ponds would be built to handle a two-year storm event, which is what the code requires.

 

“This is another case of a developer asking us to make an exception to the code and do them a favor,” Beall said. “I think we should be seeing something in exchange for a variance on the impervious cover.”

 

Beall moved to approve the variance, with the condition that the developer meet with staff and develop a set of low impact building procedures to be used at the site. The motion passed on a 4-2 vote with Board Member Phil Moncada and Chair Dave Anderson voting no.

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