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Advisory panel studies possible changes to Mueller master plan

Tuesday, January 20, 2009 by Kimberly Reeves

Mueller’s advisory committee is faced with some of the first major changes to the 700-acre community’s master plan, choices intended to match market forces and big enough to require a review by the Planning Commission and Council.

The Robert Mueller Municipal Airport Plan Implementation Advisory Committee will take up the plan next month, a task large enough to require a three-hour meeting. ROMA’s Jana McCann walked through the process at Tuesday night’s RMMA meeting, noting that ROMA had seen fairly good turnout at two meetings since last month intended to review some of the new concepts developer Catellus intends to pursue at Mueller.

A handful of local residents attending the meeting expressed concern that the group still has no voice in the planning process.  At some point in the future, Catellus will turn over decision-making control to a homeowners’ association. Until then, though, someone must represent the contact team for the neighborhood association.

Kevin Ludlow suggested that the commission move forward with taking on that responsibility. That would mean that the plan implementation advisory committee would serve as the feedback contact, or liaison, to Council and Catellus.

McCann said the revisions to the Mueller master plan were two years in the making and recently culminated with the two public input meetings. When the process was closing in on completion last fall, it was ROMA’s opinion the plan amendments would have qualified for administrative approval.

As city staff reviewed it, however, it became apparent there would be some compatibility issues with single-family platted lots on the south end of the plan.

McCann did not go into the changes to the plan in detail, but she did remind commissioners of a couple of areas for change: the new lot sizes intended to increase the affordability of housing in the development and reworking some of the medical office space in the northwest quadrant of the plan.

Chair Jim Walker expressed worry about the “creep factor” in allowing medical office buildings to cross Mueller Boulevard. Much of the northwest quadrant is partitioned off into closely situated highly specialized areas.

“We’ve got the medical office buildings up there, plus UT, which is a great for the project as an economic base, and I love the different income levels,” Walker said. “But when it comes to the creep on those kinds of things, we’ve got to be really careful. Once it starts creeping east, it’s going to be difficult to deal with, and it’s going to be hard enough to deal with anyway,” Walker said.

Others had expressed concern about the canyon effect of tall buildings along the boulevard and the need to revisit night-time lighting if those buildings were to be close to residential development.

Walker also noted that it would be interesting to see how nightlife was going to roll out in the Mueller development. Much of the Mueller space is compact one-story commercial buildings, Walker said. It would be interesting to see how a live music venue would work into those existing buildings, especially given the smoking ban.

Catellus also is rolling out some new, smaller housing types to increase affordability, with the goal of meeting a price point between 80 and 120 percent of median family income. The new models, which include courtyard row houses, will only require lots about half the size of the current 1,300 square foot lots.

Reworking the housing types will mean changing the site development standards in the various zoning categories. ROMA also will revisit the various types of permitted uses in the zoning sub-districts in the plan.

The goal is to meet on Feb. 10 to walk through the various changes to the site development plans and zoning districts. Walker suggested that city staff also be on hand to address any potential questions.

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