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After two years, ZAP approves North Austin Medical Center PUD

Thursday, April 1, 2010 by Kimberly Reeves

The Zoning and Platting Commission has finally approved a planned unit development to provide a significant expansion to St. David’s North Austin Medical Center.


The North Austin Medical Center PUD had been scheduled before ZAP five times over the last two years. The facility is located just outside the North Burnet Gateway neighborhood, which is intended to be “Austin’s second downtown.”


The agreement negotiated between St. David’s and city staff, however, limited height on the two halves of the property to 120 feet. St. David’s originally proposed a height, based on surrounding properties such as The Domain, at 175 feet. Planner Joi Harden, however, suggested that the concessions and amenities proposed on the property were equivalent to a doubling of height, since the original zoning category limited the two halves of the property to no more than 60 feet.


The passage of the PUD occurred with a surprising lack of discussion, less than 20 minutes. Attorney Dowe Gullatt was ready with a PowerPoint presentation on the PUD, but commissioners declined and focused on the height.


St. David’s requested a number of variances beyond the additional height: the two tracts on the site should be considered as one, even though the tracts are separated by a public street; the base height should be increased on the tracts; and the property would be developed under CS development regulations, although the uses would be limited to hospital, medical and medical accessory uses.


The St. David’s PUD, located on MoPac Boulevard at Braker Lane, is across two tracts. The PUD would include an additional 468,475 square feet of hospital and 200,775 medical office space on the north tract, where the current hospital sits.


On the undeveloped south tract, St. David’s wants to locate a 640,500 square foot hospital and 274,500 square feet in medical office.


The PUD was filed under the original, and not revised, PUD ordinance. The advantages of the PUD, as proposed by St. David’s, included a superior wet pond, which would handle twice the required amount of water required under current code, according to Harden.


St. David’s also agreed to two-star green building standards, improvements to the existing Walnut Creek bike trail that included additional parking spaces and a space on-site for an air ambulance. Chair Betty Baker, who was absent from the meeting, wanted to see water service extended to the trail head of the bike trail.


“Just in case they want to put a water fountain at the trail head,” Commissioner Gregory Burgeois asked, on behalf of the absent Baker.


Gullatt agreed the developer would make every attempt to try to extend water service to the Walnut Creek trailhead, located on the undeveloped parcel.


The decrease in height would force St. David’s to build structured parking. Gullatt noted that the developer had agreed to the height limitations but still preferred the increased height because of the height limits of surrounding buildings.


Burgeois made an initial motion to allow 175 feet on the undeveloped south tract. That failed on a vote of 3-2. The final motion, to approve the staff-recommended limits, passed ZAP on a unanimous vote with Baker and Commissioner Donna Tiemann absent.

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