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Panel rejects waiver of compatibility standards for DMU-CURE
Friday, June 27, 2008 by Kimberly Reeves
After months of delay in considering the matter, the Planning Commission on Tuesday rejected a proposal to allow waiver of compatibility standards on DMU-CURE (Downtown Mixed Use Central Urban Redevelopment) zoning—a move sought last fall by developers who want to put a 25-story tower at
Fortis Development’s plan for a 200-unit high rise on
For many who live in the Old West Austin Neighborhood, even a proposal to put residential units at the front of the lot and the tower closer to Shoal Creek was too much to imagine.
Local residents and interested parties offered testimony. Some in the neighborhood thought they already had given too many homes over to offices and were losing the historic flavor of their neighborhood.
Former Planning Commissioner Chris Riley, who originally supported the tower, addressed the commission in the “neutral” category on the project, noting that the place for the discussion of the overlay was probably the Downtown Plan process. The neighborhood, however, had not developed the kind of relationship with outside consultant ROMA to begin the discussion on the CURE overlay.
“For the right kind of development, we’re going to have to articulate what we want to see, and if we do see that kind of development, we need to say, ‘Compatibility standards don’t apply with you,’”
According to the City Code, a CURE combining district may be used:
- for sustainable redevelopment of homes, multifamily housing, and small businesses;
- to accommodate high priority projects that enhance the stability of urban neighborhoods including the development of affordable housing and small businesses along principal transportation routes that serve a neighborhood;
- to improve the natural environment; and
- to encourage high quality development with architectural design and proportion compatible with the neighborhood.
At the least, neighbors could probably agree to some type of mid-rise residential projects that did not disrupt the character of the street,
Vaccaro did not need to worry. Commissioners were not inclined to ditch the compatibility requirements on DMU-CURE. Waiving compatibility standards on the CURE overlay currently requires a variance before the Board of Adjustment and proof of a hardship. It is hard to argue a hardship when almost any large project would be considered profitable, said Chair Dave Sullivan.
“Right now, if you have DMU zoning, and you apply and get CURE added, you can specify you would like to adjust setbacks, or set out allowable uses, what your height is going to be and what your FAR is going to be,” Heil said. “It’s built into the zoning of the property, so you can say, ‘I want DMU-CURE zoning with a maximum height of 200 feet.’”
Kirk was not enthusiastic about the idea of waiving compatibility standards.
“If this is moving in this direction, there needs to be some damage control,” Kirk said. “With that, I offer a solid Planning Commission denial on this.”
“I think this is a terrible idea that could have incredibly bad unintended consequences,” Dealey said. “I understand the goal, but there are so many wonderful historic properties in the northwestern part of downtown that I think we ought to do whatever we can to stop this. In no way am I comfortable with this.”
If CURE did go forward,
Commissioners did not approve
After the vote, Ewen said he did not want his vote to be construed as being in favor of CURE. Instead, he was simply saying the current language was not well-crafted. Ewen noted that he had opposed the Fortis project on
“I just think something like this needs to be more systemic,” Ewen said. “That’s what I would have wanted, something more systemic in nature.”
The Fortis zoning case and the amendment are scheduled to go back to Council at its next meeting on July 24.
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