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South Shore zoning approved, affordable housing fee still in question
Monday, October 26, 2009 by Kimberly Reeves
A split City Council approved zoning for the South Shore Planned Unit Development (PUD) on second reading last week, but questions about how much the developer Grayco should pay into the city’s affordable-housing fund — and whether the city should take on-site apartment units instead of just a cash payment — still linger over the project.
The issues of the project’s height and its relationship within the waterfront overlay were dealt with during first reading on Sept. 24. Mayor Lee Leffingwell and Council Member Laura Morrison indicated that they could not support the zoning at that time, and no one expected those votes to change on second reading. However, the other five members were expected to land on an affordable housing option on second reading on Thursday. That did not happen and Council Members seemed to be headed in different directions on that question.
Grayco owns the 20-acre South Shore PUD triangle and the site next door that is closer to the proposed
According to the proposal, Grayco would provide $1,620,000 to the Austin Housing Finance Corporation’s housing assistance fund, plus 60 on-site apartments affordable to a family living on 80 percent median family income over the next four decades. Alternatively, Grayco offered to pay $2,625,600 to AHFC with no on-site units.
Either way, the developer also agreed to cover the cost of an on-site police substation for 25 years and contribute $225,000 for additional trail facilities, plus $800,000 in required fees. Grayco also offered funding to help relocate displaced residents.
That was one end of the spectrum. On the other were affordable housing advocates such as Karen Paup and Cathy Echols, who want to see as many displaced residents remain in the community as possible.
During first reading, when more local residents were present, speakers who live in the neighborhood referred to themselves as the “
According to her reading of the PUD ordinance, Echols calculates a payment of somewhere between $7 and $8 million, which would require a contribution for every square foot of land. That is not outrageous, Echols said, given the critical need to create on-site affordable housing.
“That’s a very desirable area; because of its close proximity to downtown and other parts of
The city’s Housing and Community Development staff landed in the middle of the spectrum, suggesting a package of $3.76 million, which would include the $800,000 police substation, plus $90,000 for resident relocation services. That amounts to about $2.87 million for the fee-in-lieu, still more than the Grayco plan.
Drenner expressed his doubts about such a substantial package.
A height variance on
“I would just tell you, from a reality standpoint, like all developments, there is a tipping point where it doesn’t make sense to go further,” Drenner said, adding that capital goes where there is a potential for return. “We would love to have more of that available for affordable housing, but I will tell you in all honesty we have reached that tipping point.”
Housing advocates want to get replacement housing as close to the South Shore PUD development as possible, even if it means fewer units would be built there than in the suburbs. Council Member Sheryl Cole pressed Paup on the issue of geographic dispersal – the same amount of money would put more units in outlying areas – but Paup was fairly clear on the need to remain in the neighborhood.
Council Member Chris Riley expressed his desire to see more on-site options explored, especially given the site’s promixity to a transit stop. As Paup pointed out,
Mayor Pro Tem Mike
“The applicant has voluntarily agreed to apply the new PUD standards,”
At the end of the discussion, Cole moved for the staff recommendation, as well as to limit cocktail lounge space to one-third of any commercial space. Initially, that total was 20,000 square feet out of a potential 30,000 square feet of commercial space, but under questioning from Spelman, Drenner agreed to the lower percentage. He said the amount of commercial development would depend on market variables.
The door was left open on the affordable housing issue, with third reading expected on Nov. 5. Asked on Sunday whether he expects the five Council members in the majority to arrive at the same number by final reading of the ordinance, Spelman said, “I’m almost certain of it.”
The final vote on the motion was 5-2, with Leffingwell and Morrison voting no, as before.
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