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ZAP postpones action on subdivision near planned F1 facility

Monday, September 12, 2011 by Elizabeth Pagano

Anticipating many similar cases on the horizon, the Zoning and Platting Commission was reluctant to approve a proposed subdivision near the site of the Circuit of the Americas Formula One track in southeastern Travis County.


There are currently no land controls that the city can impose on the property, as it is not yet annexed.


Assistant City Attorney Clark Cornwell told commissioners that it was not appropriate for them to delay approval while the city contemplated annexation. However, a short-handed commission, with Commissioner Sandra Baldridge absent and one seat vacant, did not garner enough votes to approve the subdivision either.


A 3-2 vote, with Commissioners Seeger and Rojas voting against, means that the case will continue action to ZAP’s next meeting on Sept. 20.


At that time the ZAP will vote again on the preliminary plan of the Maha Loop subdivision, named “Green Crossing,” which proposes 216 lots on 93.9 acres. The development will include commercial, family, multi-family and retail structures.


Chair Betty Baker originally suggested that they move to postpone the case “indefinitely.”


“Commissioners, I’m going to make a suggestion. This is the first of many, because of Formula One. I’d like to continue the case and ask the staff to explore annexation,” said Baker. “The area is going to redevelop, but I hate to see it redevelop in little bites.”


The idea was shelved after Assistant City Attorney Clark Cornwell explained that the Commission most likely did not have the discretion to consider annexation in this case.


Following the vote, Baker said that “a friendly idea to present to the Planning Commission would be the annexation of this area.”


She pointed to a map of the area that was included in the backup, noting all of the lots that had appeared recently.


“I just don’t want to have 17 more of these in about three months. I’m looking to see that we do planning on a broader scale… If we can’t, we can’t,” said Baker.


Even the agent for the applicant seemed to confirm that this would not be an isolated case. “Looking at the broader picture, Austin is still gaining 50,000 residents a year, and housing is going to be needed. I think that we can all remember 10 years ago, that there wasn’t anything close to here,” said Ted McConaghy with ATX Planning.


“It is two miles away from Formula One, so I think this land is inevitably going to move from farmland into some sort of residential and/or commercial development. It’s been happening all along the 130 corridor and – right or wrong – it’s just a logical place to develop land,” said McConaghy.


For their part, neighbors who spoke against the subdivision were primarily concerned with flooding and associated water quality issues in Maha Creek, and the impact such a large development will have on the area. The land is currently surrounded by farms.


The Burklund family, who has owned farmland in the area for about 75 years, also expressed reservations about how local roads would handle increased traffic and the safety of residents in the event of a flood.


“I’m not trying to tell anybody what to do. But, this is not the place,” said Earl Burklund. “When the creek is up, that’s going to be a problem… If you have a bunch of people living over there, they aren’t going to be able to get home, or they aren’t going to be able to leave the house. It’s just the lay of the land. Where it is, and the creek situation and the road situation… It’s just something that’s not going to work.”


McConaghy disagreed with the claims, and claimed that the development would be safe and would not negatively impact water quality.

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