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ZAP recommendation moves Estancia Hill Country PUD/PID project forward

Tuesday, April 23, 2013 by Elizabeth Pagano

Plans for the Estancia Hill Country Planned Unit Development/Public Improvement District sailed through yet another commission last week.


The Zoning and Platting Commission recommended the zoning change for the development 7-0, following the lead of the Environmental Board, which approved of the zoning unanimously earlier this month.


Unlike most PUDs, Estancia developers are also planning on creating a Public Improvement District, which will provide a mechanism for financing the infrastructure that will be necessary in building out the 593.6-acre piece of property. When complete, the Estancia Hill Country PUD will be the site of up to 737 single-family units, 1,550 multifamily residential units, 1.65 million square feet of office and commercial space, and 400,000 square feet of retail.


The development will also include over 100 acres of open space and a trail and bike path system, inclusions that sat well with the Zoning and Platting Commission.


The land, which is located near the intersection of I-35 and Onion Creek Parkway, was once home to a dairy farm, and remains what commission Chair Betty Baker noted is “quite a beautiful piece of property.”


Before casting his vote in favor of the rezoning, Commissioner Rahm McDaniel revealed an intimate knowledge of the land that he has lived near for the past 14 years.


“I’ve seen this property from every angle, including those that can only be accessed through trespassing,” said McDaniel. “I have worried for a long time about what the disposition of this property would be. I think it’s commendable that it’s likely to end up with as much open green space as it will have in this plan… It really is a special piece of property.”


In addition to the trails and parks that will be available to the public, 10 percent of the rental units will be available at 60 percent of the Median Family Income, and 10 percent of the units that will be for sale will be at 80 percent of the Median Family Income.


“It’s an interesting juxtaposition – the location of this large tract along sensitive Onion Creek, Historic Old San Antonio road and at the intersection of two regional roadways, and the possible extension of another one,” said commissioner Sean Compton. “I too, have worked as a land planner on a lot of PUDs, and I just want to complement you…. I’ve found that often PUDs are one- or two- dimensional. This seems to have a broad breadth of issues that it addresses.”


Steve Metcalfe, who is a partner at Metcalfe Wolff Stuart & Williams said that he appreciated the complement, and directed some of the praise towards city staff which, he said, has been “putting them through the wringer for the past 14 months.”


“I’ve worked on a number of PUDs and I think that you would be hard-pressed to find a PUD that is doing more items of superiority than what we’re doing, in terms of affordable housing, environmental parks… and the long list of other things we’re doing,” said Metcalfe.


The development is now slated for limited purpose annexation that would put land use regulations in place that would not exist if the property remained in the extra-territorial jurisdiction. This includes structures for affordable housing, green building and parkland dedication.


The PID is a separate, though connected, aspect that will help fund infrastructure for the development. City Council will be asked to approve both aspects of the plan – the PID and the PUD – at once.


Metcalfe told the commission that there was currently an agreement between the developers and the city where if a deal for limited-purpose annexation was not worked out, the city would begin the process of full-purpose annexation. He explained that under those conditions, they would proceed with traditional zoning, though they would not be subject to the heritage tree ordinance because of grandfathering.


If approved, Metcalfe told the commission that they plan to start development of Phase I this year, with single family houses built by the middle of next year, and work on the final phase to be done in the next three to seven years.


“This is not as speculative as some of the other developments out there,” said Metcalf. “Where it is, growth isn’t coming, it’s already there.”

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