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Elizabeth Pagano is the editor of the Austin Monitor.
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Council gives blessing to Oak Creek Village but talks continue
Tuesday, June 11, 2013 by Elizabeth Pagano
Though City Council voted unanimously to approve rezoning on first reading, it was obvious that negotiations have a bit further to go for the Oak Creek Village project.
If built, the project will preserve the only federal Housing and Urban Development -backed housing in the Bouldin Creek neighborhood, while simultaneously constructing market-rate housing. Last month, the Planning Commission endorsed the rezoning unanimously, and expressed a hope that it could serve as a model for future affordable housing development in the city.
Though the HUD contract that mandates affordability is set to expire, the owner of the property, 2007 Travis Heights LP, has agreed to retain all 173 affordable units, and will limit the total number of units to 486. They are seeking a zoning change from MF-3 to MF-6.
City Council voted 7-0 to approve the zoning on first reading, giving more time for developers to finalize private restrictive covenants with the neighborhood and tenants.
“We are continuing to work out the specifics,” said Winstead PC attorney John Donisi. “We ask you not to grade our paper already.”
Cyndi Collen, who is president of the Bouldin Creek Neighborhood Association, said that after about six months of work with the developer, she was “very hopeful” that work on a conditional overlay and public and private restrictive covenants would be complete by the next reading at Council.
“We’re pretty much there,” said Collen. “We would imagine they would be done, hopefully, by June 20.”
Colleen asked that the public hearing remain open for the second and third readings of the zoning case so that Council can remain apprised of the negotiations.
This was similar to the stance taken by the recently-formed Oak Creek Tenants’ Association, which is led by Koreena Malone. Though the association had previously supported the project, at the first reading they remained neutral, and explained that a few details in their negotiations with developers needed to be worked out.
Malone said that details of two primary issues- security for the complex and on-site youth and senior programs – were still being hashed out.
“Without proper protection for the tenants and members of the broader community, this project will not be a model for excellent redevelopment, but a liability for schools, Bouldin Creek residents, and an ongoing problem for the city,” said Malone. “If an agreement is not reached with the tenant’s association and Austin Interfaith, we will no longer support the redevelopment and zoning entitlements for this owner.”
“We strongly believe that our elected officials should not provide increased benefits to a non-Austin owner who is not willing to provide protection to the Austin residents,” said Malone.
Under the terms of a private covenant with the current tenants, the developer will also commit to relocating tenants while construction takes place (if necessary) and agree to retain the affordable units for the next 35 years. The remainder of the units, Phase II of the plan, will be market-rate condominiums.
Additionally, developers have agreed to limit the height to 60 feet, impervious cover to 70 percent and restrict vehicle access to West Oltorf and South First streets.
In March, Council unanimously voted to approve contingent funding for the project in the amount of $2 million. That money is dependent on the project receiving tax credits from the state. That process is underway, though zoning for the project must be in place by an August deadline.
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