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Elizabeth Pagano is the editor of the Austin Monitor.
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ZAP backs high-density zoning for Burnet Road apartment project
Tuesday, March 13, 2012 by Elizabeth Pagano
The Zoning and Platting Commission has approved rezoning at 8100 Burnet Road which would allow developers to construct a 300-unit apartment building.
Commissioner Gabriel Rojas called the decision to recommend the shift from CS to MF-6 a hard one, noting “MF-6 hasn’t gone this far outside of downtown yet.”
“It pains me to vote for MF-6 in this area, but I think that it is the lesser of two evils,” said Vice Chair Patricia Seeger. “The existing zoning is CS. If they kept the existing zoning, razed or tore down the building, they could cover that property at 95 percent impervious cover. There wouldn’t be trees. There wouldn’t be a 3,000 square-foot park. It would just be building and impervious cover.”
The Zoning and Platting Commission voted 5-1 to approve the rezoning, with Commissioner Jason Meeker voting in opposition and Chair Betty Baker absent.
Currently, the site is home to a Ross Dress for Less store and an abandoned Chuck-E-Cheese. Alliance Realty Partners, LLC plan to construct upscale apartments on the lot, as well as a parking garage. Part of the tract will remain CS and host a yet-undetermined retail business.
Developers offered a conditional overlay that limits construction to 60 feet and 300 units. Additionally, they crafted an extensive agreement with the neighborhood that includes provisions for restrictions on the retail space and a prohibition on short-term rentals on the property.
The covenant agreement with the neighborhood also includes allowances for pedestrian and bike-friendly development, construction of unobtrusive lights, $50,000 to support “traffic calming efforts” on Ashdale, 3,000 square feet of open space, a contribution to the Anderson Urban Trail, and a 20 percent contribution towards the installation of a traffic light at Burnet Road and Teakwood.
“This won’t create the precedence I think they are worrying about, because there are so many conditions, and we’ve set the bar so high,” said Attorney Michael Whellan.
However, following the drafting of the agreement, some neighbors balked at the development.
Despite its location, representatives from the Allandale Neighborhood Association also showed up to fight the proposed construction. They cited a new 170-unit apartment building at 5350 Burnet Road as an example of what will happen should the 8100 property be built.
“We are really concerned about safety, and we are really concerned about what this increase in traffic is going to do to both the North Shoal Creek neighborhood, where this is located, and the Allandale neighborhood,” said Brian Glass of the Allandale Neighborhood Association.
“This is exactly the densification that city staff is calling for in Imagine Austin, and it’s going to kill Burnet Road. We won’t be able to use Burnet Road,” said Allandale resident David Orshalick.
“From my perspective, our job as a commission is to find ways to say yes to things that are compatible, and do not set bad precedents. Our job is not to make sure that the applicants are as financially successful as possible,” said Meeker. “Our city infrastructure is stressed to levels that make it very hard to say yes to things that may be great for this neighborhood, that may be good developments.”
Rojas argued that an increase in density might help urge along infrastructure, leading to a bit of chicken-versus-egg philosophizing from the dais.
“Traffic is increasing everywhere in Austin… But the thing is, if you allow more development on the outskirts, that filters in, so you have to kind of get to a certain point of density before the transit will work. And with that, with traffic, I understand that there is some pain there between the times that that happens,” said Rojas.
Rojas continued, “Density is a good thing in some areas, and by increasing the housing in those areas, it’s almost a way of allowing the people there to continue. Because if you limit housing, that’s going to push prices up to the point where families can’t even afford to live there anymore.”
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