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Cascades MUD project finally headed for City Council action

Friday, February 7, 2014 by Elizabeth Pagano

The 10th time proved the charm for the Cascades Municipal Utility District No. 1. The project won the support of the Planning Commission at its last meeting, and has moved on to the City Council.


The Planning Commission voted 8-0 to approve the Onion Creek area project, despite objections from the Planning and Development Review Department. Commissioner James Nortey was absent.


Commissioner Stephen Oliver said the case showed a need for implementation of the Imagine Austin plan.


“Right now we don’t have a good plan of action for how we deal with MUDs at the perimeter that are at our growth nodes,” said Oliver. “We can’t wait any longer – because the growth in those areas is here. It’s been here; it’s going to stay here and get worse. Because, obviously, we’ve got a concentration downtown that we can’t accommodate.”


Unlike most MUDs, the Cascades MUD is going through the process without a recommendation from city staff. Some departments see value in the project that exceeds what could be built under the original plat. However, the Planning and Development Review Department has steadfastly opposed the creation of a district so close to the city limits, and has pushed for annexation instead.


“If a MUD is created here, then what is to stop the next person in line from coming in and creating a MUD?” asked City Planner Virginia Collier. “Our city would be hemmed in and ringed by MUDs, similar to what we tried to undo in 1997, when we annexed several big MUDs.”


Ambrust and Brown attorney Richard Suttle told the commission that a memo from Collier about the project wasn’t fair.


“If this were a baseball game, the score would be 13-1 in favor of the MUD… You have 13 departments who have all written and said that there is enough in this that they could recommend the MUD. You have one (against) – and it’s a very vocal one. It’s one that has frankly made me very angry,” said Suttle.


“This is supposed to be ‘no staff recommendation,’ and yet Virginia (Collier) gets to control all the flow of information to you. She feels very strongly that this ought to be annexed,” said Suttle.


Suttle pointed out that, if annexed, they would proceed with a grandfathered plan, end of story. That original plan is a single-family subdivision, explained Suttle, as opposed to the MUD, which would contain a mix of uses.


What that mix exactly will be has yet to be determined. The Planning Commission asked that the Planned Unit Development zoning process return to the commission, should the MUD be created.


If created, developers Onion Associates, Ltd. are proposing to build 370 single-family units, more than 1,000 condominiums or townhomes, 63,555 square feet of retail space, and 62,000 square feet of (non-retail) commercial space. The MUD is located on about 223 acres along the south side of Onion Creek, east of I-35.


After a postponement last week, City Council is slated to weigh in on the MUD at its Feb. 13 meeting.

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