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Commission grants 10-year extension for St. Andrew’s site plan

Thursday, March 12, 2009 by Austin Monitor

On Tuesday, the Planning Commission agreed to a 10-year extension to the site plan at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in order to complete the full campus plan, a decision that would give the school a full 25 years to complete its goals for the campus.


The original site plan for the central city campus was approved in 1993. Case Manager Nikki Hoelter had a bit of discomfort with a10-year extension, noting that a 25-year site plan was unprecedented, given her review of the records. Hoelter suggested a five-year extension, with a possible one- or two-year option on the St. Andrew’s property, which is 7.5 acres located at 1112 W. 31st Street.


Typically, the city had recommended no more than 15-year site plans for schools, churches or hospitals, Hoelter said. While 20 years for a site plan was possible, 25 years was a stretch, she told the commission. Hoelter said she saw five years as a reasonable time frame for two small buildings and a 24-car parking lot on a campus that was almost fully built out.


The St. Andrew’s case had been postponed multiple times, either by applicant or neighborhood. Attorney Richard Suttle, who appears to be agent of choice for church schools, represented St. Andrew’s. He also has children at the school, he noted. Suttle saids the campus is close to fully built out but that the construction project – another two buildings, plus a parking lot – would require a full capital campaign. Five years would seem unrealistic under those circumstances, Suttle said.


Commissioner Jay Reddy, who made the motion for a 10-year extension, probed about whether the extension would mean a significant exemption to newer site plan regulations or design standards. They would not, Hoelter said, noting that the only difference would probably be additional fees for a new engineering study and site plan if the plan needed to be re-filed with the city.


Commissioner Clint Small also had questions about impervious cover on the property. Detention ponds on the property had been waived because the school campus buildings had replaced a once dilapidated apartment complex. Engineer Paul Bury, whose children attend the school, noted that the majority of the original property is a ball field, making it highly unlikely impervious cover would be similar.


Reddy, who made the motion, said he recognized some of Hoelter’s discomfort with the precedent. St. Andrew’s, however, was not going anywhere and was a part of the community. Mandy Dealey, who seconded the motion, noted that her son had graduated from St. Andrew’s 20 years ago, then added that a full capital campaign of this magnitude would be difficult to accomplish in a five-year time frame, given the current economic conditions.


The commission voted unanimously, 9-0, in favor of the 10-year extension. Chair Dave Sullivan noted that the size of the campus property – the development of 7.5 acres versus, say, 3 acres for another inner-city church school – might be another consideration for the commission in granting a site plan extension.

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