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Waterfront board chair warns members of hard work ahead

Tuesday, June 22, 2010 by Kimberly Reeves

Waterfront Planning Advisory Board Chair Jim Knight warned his colleagues last week that their days of brief meetings would soon be over.


The board, created by Council, has two simultaneous tasks: First, it advises the two existing land use commissions on the value of waterfront overlay projects currently in the pipeline, such as the Zach Scott Theater and Riverside boardwalk projects.


Second, Council has charged the commission to make recommendations for potential height bonuses/density provisions and design regulations for property along the shores of Lady Bird Lake.


Knight, who is with Bury+Partners, warned his colleagues on the new commission that the process, once launched, would not be without its ups and downs.


“We going to enter into the realm of distrust,” Knight said. “The environmentalists and the developers are not going to trust. The neighborhoods are definitely not going to trust us. Let’s just understand that.”

Regardless of the outcome, the committee needs to keep its goal firmly set: to make sure development along Town Lake is unique and sustainable.

“We may be taking some head shots and arrows, but we need to keep working through it,” Knight warned his colleagues on the committee.


Members of the committee – those who are likely to share those slings and arrows — include Dean Almy, Brooke Bailey, Roy Mann, Robert Pilgrim, and Daniel Woodroffe. Robin Rather was also just appointed to take the place of Mary Arnold.


The board’s charge, in essence, is to create a subset of recommendations for the waterfront that appears to parallel a similar process within the downtown plan. Yes, Knight admitted, the efforts on items such as a density bonus might appear similar to downtown planning efforts, but these waterfront suggestions are intended to be tailored to “different parameters.”


“It’s similar but different,” Knight said.


Two committees from within the board will be created to deal with waterfront property height and density issues, Knight said. One committee will deal with the qualitative details, such as what might be required of property owners to attain certain height and density requirements.


A second committee will deal with the specific suggested height limits for property owners along the lakeside corridor.


It’s early, but the board appears to have settled on breaking the lakefront into three zones: west of MoPac, between MoPac and I-35, and east of I-35. While the north and south shores are often different, the committee wants to pair the two shores. They also won’t hesitate to drill down within those zones to address different sub-districts along the lake.


Even as the new standards are being discussed, current projects in the pipeline will be reviewed and held to current standards. Knight said current ordinance simply suggests that projects “meet community standards,” which will certainly present a challenge to the board until that term is more firmly defined.


Nor do the committee members intend to remain passive. At this week’s meeting, members expressed an interest in the city’s Request For Proposal on Holly Shores and wanted to meet with county officials on plans to expand the county-subsidized RBJ Residential Tower along the shores east of I-35.


Knight enters the process with some trepidation but also certainty.


“Buckle your seatbelts,” Knight told his colleagues. “We’re getting ready for a lot of meetings. Incredibly, we will get this taken care of.”

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