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Mark Richardson is a multimedia journalist, editor and writer who has worked in digital, print and broadcast media for three decades. He is a nationally recognized editor and reporter who has covered government, politics and the environment. A journalism graduate from the University of Texas at Austin, he was recently awarded a Foundation for Investigative Journalism grant and has three Associated Press Managing Editors awards for excellence in reporting.
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Redesigned Terrace PUD gains neighborhood, environmental support
The Terrace Planned Unit Development, in hibernation for most of the past two decades, is waking up and its developers are planning to complete what they started some 20 years ago. The 109-acre development is on the northeast corner of MoPac Boulevard and Loop 360.
Developers of the PUD, which was originally proposed in 1984 and approved in 1987, have been negotiating with the Barton Hills Neighborhood Association for about a year ago. According to Sue Welch with the Watershed Protection and Development Review Department, PUDs are a form of zoning, and zoning designations do not have an expiration date.
City staff and the developers laid out plans for the updated Terrace PUD last night before the city’s Environmental Board in what was termed a courtesy review. The board was not asked to rule on any variances for the project.
Attorney Richard Suttle said the PUD’s developers plan to add three new office buildings to the PUD, moving them closer to Loop 360 and building them taller than they were in the original site planned filed back in the 1980s. They also plan to donate 39 acres of the site for a conservation easement to be managed by the Hill Country Conservancy.
The development poses a number of environmental and regulatory challenges, some of which did not exist when the original project was developed. The PUD sits in the recharge zone of the Bartons Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer; it sits just to the west of Barton Creek, and is about two miles upstream from Barton Springs.
Suttle said several changes have been made to the PUD site over the years, including the deletion of a planned hotel and a restaurant, cutting the amount of traffic to the site.
“We have been working to get the impervious cover down to SOS Ordinance levels,” said Suttle. “We began discussions with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service in 2000 to protect the Barton Springs and the salamander. We also purchased another tract of land near Bear Creek as mitigation land. With that, we have the impervious cover down the SOS Ordinance’s 15 percent.”
Plans originally called for two buildings to be up to 200 feet tall, Suttle said, but after negotiations with the Barton Hills Neighborhood group, they were reduced to 100 and 120 feet, respectively.
Peter Hess with Barton Hills, said after several months of talks with the developer, the neighborhood was happy with the plans for the PUD, and were waiting for their agreements to be put in writing and signed.
“The protections to Barton Creek are substantial,” Hess said. “If you compare the impervious cover to what was originally planned, it wasn’t hard for the neighborhood to support it.” He said the neighborhood group had consulted with the SOS Alliance and the Save Barton Creek Association, and they were both in support of what had been worked out.
Board Member John Dupnik said it appeared that the developer had worked hard to get it right.
“It seems like every time the developer sharpens his pencil, the project gets better,” he said. “It’s easy to support this, because it could be so much worse. They have done a good job.”
The Environmental Board voted to recommend the project on a 5-0 vote. It goes to the Planning Commission on Dec. 9 and to City Council on Dec 11.
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