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Waterfront Overlay Task Force to present recommendations

Thursday, December 18, 2008 by Kimberly Reeves

Chair Mandy Dealey will present the final report from the Waterfront Overlay Task Force at Council on Thursday and the bottom line is this: Every project that has been built or has site plans to be built on the waterfront of Lady Bird Lake confirms to the city’s current waterfront overlay ordinance.


The one exception would be the Hyatt Regency Austin on Barton Springs Road, which spawned the original waterfront overlay ordinance. The 15-member task force, formed eight months ago, was intended to reconcile the Town Lake Corridor Study of 1985 and 1986 Waterfront Overlay ordinance with the 1999 re-codification of the ordinance.


In a warm-up for today’s presentation, Dealey outlined the task force recommendations — which include appointing a new Waterfront Planning Advisory Board – to the Downtown Commission Wednesday night. Instead of sending the plans of a project, piecemeal, through the commission process, the advisory board would understand the minutiae of the waterfront overlay, including how it interrelated to the standards of other commissions, such as the Parks Board, Downtown Commission and Design Commission. Only the Waterfront Planning Advisory Board would be given the power to grant variances.


Among the other recommendations:


  • City Council should re-instate the goal and policies of the Town Lake Corridor Study into the waterfront overlay.

  • The sub-district maximum heights should reinstated to the waterfront overlay ordinance, and they should supersede any other provisions of the Land Development Code. The CBD, in ordinance, has no height limit.

  • A method for awarding, implementing and reviewing the bonus provisions to achieve community benefits outlined in the 1986 code should be developed. The bonus provisions should be available, with a clear method increasing entitlements commensurate with the community benefits provided by the project. This Task Force recommends that City Council reinstate the bonus provisions previously outlined in the 1986 ordinance.

  • The unique nature of the waterfront requires special consideration, and the Waterfront Overlay District ordinance should supersede the Commercial Design Standards and any other citywide design policy to the extent that they conflict with the Overlay District regulations.   

The original 1986 ordinance included 16 different sub-districts, with various concerns and recommendations. The report that Dealey will present to Council also will outline where the language had diverged from the original ordinance to current regulations. The report also outlines those community benefits that were considered substantive enough to offer bonuses on floor-to-area ratio.


The Task Force’s final vote for the report was 10-2-2, with two members voting against it and two members abstaining. In a concurring recommendation in support of the final task force report, members Michael Casias, Jay Reddy and Dale Glover offered additional clarification of what they read in the ordinance in terms of how to protect and enhance the waterfront; reinstate 1986 ordinance provisions; improve bonus provision methodology; and provide for future planning.

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