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Developer, Barton Hills begin talks on Terrace PUD

Monday, March 10, 2008 by Kimberly Reeves

Negotiations between the developers of the Terrace Planned United Development and the Barton Hills Neighborhood Association began in earnest Thursday night, with the neighborhood association’s leaders putting out a possible compromise that ended up on hold.


Attorney Richard Suttle and the development team, led by Roger Arend, met with about 40 people from the neighborhood association in the Barton Hills Elementary cafeteria. Arend, who is still the key developer on the site, would like to remove a proposed building closest to the neighborhood and add more height on two existing buildings: Building III and Building VIII. Those two buildings could exceed 200 feet in height.


Peter Hess and Nan Clayton have taken the lead on negotiations with Arend and his team. At the meeting, Hess presented a counter-proposal for the neighborhood association to consider: Agree to the deletion of Building VI and limit Building III, at the intersection of Loop 360 and MoPac, to 100 feet in height. The other building, Building VIII, is the one closest to MoPac and would be limited to 125 feet in height.


The neighborhood association also would like to have its name added to the parties able to enforce restrictive covenants on the property so it could have a greater say in future amendments to the Terrace PUD, which the city first approved in 1987.


The downside to the neighborhood compromise is that it would mean moving the parking garage to another portion of the current site, something that was part of the original plan, Hess said. Some considered the preservation of views the most important thing; others were more concerned about reduction of impervious cover.


The group did not coalesce around any particular argument. A dozen people or so expressed a viewpoint. Clayton said her concern was the views.


“Building III would be right there on that hill at the intersection of Loop 360 and MoPac,” Clayton said. “If you’re looking at 200-feet of height, it’s going to be a Pinnacle in Southwest Austin.”


Hess was open to options and alternatives, but he did explain the parking garage choice.


“We gain two acres of impervious cover with our proposal,” Hess said. “If you consider that the lots in Barton Hills are on a quarter-acre, that’s about eight lots.”


In a presentation to the neighborhood association, Hess provided superimposed buildings of the proposed alternative height from various angles.


Opinions at the meeting ranged from one neighbor who asked developers to find in their hearts to create “a feat of humanity to actually do the right thing” to a greater majority that appeared to favor further discussion on either the amendment or the alternative to the amendment being proposed for discussion.


It was the consensus of the group that the Terrace developers would benefit financially from the compromise. Removing Building VII would mean avoiding drilling a three-story underground parking garage, Hess said. That would be replaced with taller buildings and provide a better view for occupants of the PUD.


For some members of the audience that was an issue; for others, it wasn’t a problem.


One homeowner said it was clear that Suttle and Arend would not have been back at the neighborhood association if they could get their building built any other way.


“Why don’t we call their bluff?” he asked the group.


That point was dismissed by a number of others in the group, who said it was clear Arend could make a deal work on the land, regardless of where a compromise might land. Office prices were simply too high in the Southwest corridor.


It might have made more sense – as one homeowner suggested — for Arend to add height to Building I and Building II at the Terrace, which are both close to MoPac. Those buildings, however, have been sold, although Arend still manages them. Arend’s company, W&G Partnership, also has sold land for the apartment complex that was approved with the Terrace PUD’s original site plan in 1987.


Lacking for time – the group could only stay at the elementary school until 9 p.m. – the group agreed to strip the compromise out of the proposed resolution. Now, instead of a compromise, the resolution authorizes a volunteer task force to explore further alternate solutions and present an alternate resolution to the membership at the next regularly scheduled general membership meeting on April 22.


Suttle said his client has only filed a PUD amendment request with the city. It has not been set for hearing before any city board or commission.

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