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Environmental Board OKs variances for Bull Creek PUD

Monday, June 7, 2010 by Mark Richardson

The Bull Creek Planned Unit Development is not your ordinary development. Instead of multiple homes, condos, shopping centers or commercial buildings, this 54-acre, multi-million dollar PUD project on prime property near the mouth of Bull Creek at Lake Austin will have only one home – plus a guest house, recreation building, a pool and cabana, an olive grove and a migratory bird habitat, among other amenities.


The PUD project, owned by hedge fund manager David Booth, passed its first hurdle Wednesday when the Environmental Board approved several exceptions to the Land Development Code sought by the owners.


Plans for the proposed Bull Creek PUD were first presented to Council last year, when attorney David Armbrust of Armbrust & Brown LLP briefed members on the plans. (See In Fact Daily, October 21, 2009). The PUD’s developers have been negotiating with city Planning and Development Review staff for the past several months over proposed variances.


A PUD is a development tool that allows builders to circumvent some of the city’s development regulations, but which renders an overall project that is superior to what could be accomplished through the normal zoning process.


The PUD designation for the land was needed because the owners plan to develop wildlife habitat for golden-cheeked warblers and black-capped vireos. They also plan to put between 200 and 300 olive trees on the property as a buffer to traffic and noise on RM 2222. The property is located about one mile east of Loop 360 on RM 2222, and follows Bull Creek to where it empties into Lake Austin near the Pennybacker Bridge.


Land Development Code variances approved for the PUD by the Environmental Board included:


  • Allowing impervious cover to be calculated over the entire property instead of a lot-by-lot basis;
  • Allow several features in the Critical Water Quality Zone, such as a migratory bird habitat, birdbaths facilities, levees, trails, boardwalks, and other features.
  • Allowing the remodeling of the existing swimming area, boat docks, walkways, and terraces;
  • Allow adjustments to size of buffers around critical environmental features on the property;
  • Other adjustments to regulations regarding building on slopes, cut-and-fill requirements, and clearing of some trees and other vegetation.

The PUD will also include a number water and energy conservation features, including irrigation from Lake Austin, a green roof on the main house, power from photovoltaics, a geothermal heat exchange system, and maximum vegetation to cut the heat island effect.


Carol Torgrimson, vice president of transportation for 2222 CONA (Coalition of Neighborhood Associations) commented on the PUD proposal. The neighborhood activist said she was not opposed to the plan, but did want to make sure that the owners included the setbacks specified in the Hill Country Roadway Ordinance.


Board Member Phil Moncada moved to approve the proposed PUD’s variances. He accepted a friendly amendment from Board Member Mary Ann Neely to specify that the Hill County Roadway rules be included in the PUD’s plans. The board approved the variances on a 5-0 vote, with member Jon Beall absent.


The PUD plan goes before the Platting and Zoning Commission next before being heard again by the City Council.

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