Friday, August 1, 2014 by Elizabeth Pagano

Developers vow to pay affordable housing fees despite changes to PUD

Changes to Austin’s Hyatt Regency on Barton Springs Road are on the way.

The Hyatt is part of a 9.56-acre Planned Unit Development that was approved by City Council in 2007. As part of that original agreement, developers promised to donate a sum of money toward affordable housing based on how many residential units were built. With those units now potentially scrapped, developers are promising that they will still pay up.

Graves Dougherty Hearon & Moody attorney Michael Whellan, who was representing Tantallon Austin LLC., explained that the original agreement arose after “intense” negotiations with the city and neighborhood. Preserved in a restrictive covenant, developers agreed that when they built planned multifamily residences, they would also pay a fee, per dwelling unit, toward affordable housing.

With a shift in market demands, developers are now asking the city to amend the original PUD agreement and allow them to build hotel, motel, and administrative office uses on the 3.7-acre parcel that was once going to be developed as residences.

Whellan said that, after meeting with Bouldin Creek Neighborhood Association, his clients realized the requested change in use would eliminate the affordable housing payment. Whellan said that the developers had proposed to amend the restrictive covenant so that payment, which they anticipated would be about $50,000, would still take place.

Though the details of the affordable housing contribution were still being hashed out, he promised it would be finalized before third reading at City Council.

Bouldin Creek Neighborhood Association vice-president Cory Walton, who was part of the original agreement, said the neighborhood was not opposed to the change in use, but wanted to ensure that the affordable housing contribution was agreed upon before that use was changed.

The Planning Commission unanimously recommended a change of that condition to allow hotel/motel accessory uses and administrative and business offices on that parcel as well. Commissioners approved the PUD Amendment in a vote of 5-0, with Chair Danette Chimenti and Commissioners Brian Roark, Alfonso Hernandez and Richard Hatfield absent. Commissioners asked that the private restrictive covenant, which details the affordable housing contribution, be executed before the amendment goes to City Council.

An amendment to the hotel’s Planned Unit Development agreement, if approved by City Council, will allow developers to change a condition of zoning on about 3.7 acres of the Hyatt at 208 Barton Springs Road. Previously, that area of the PUD would have allowed two 200-foot tall mixed-use buildings. The development restrictions will remain in place. Only the allowed uses will change.

At the Planning Commission, only one person spoke against the PUD amendment. Zilker Neighborhood Association’s David King, who said he had concerns with PUDs in general, and particularly PUDs along Lady Bird Lake.

“I’m here to ask that you don’t grant any additional entitlements to the setbacks or the height or anything that would further block the view of Lady Bird Lake or any more impervious cover or any floodplain variances,” said King.

King also asked for a fair, truthful and transparent valuation for any increased entitlements and what the community was getting in return.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

Bouldin Creek Neighborhood Association: Covers the area, roughly, south of Lady Bird Lake, north of Oltorf Street, west of South Congress Avenue and east of South Lamar Boulevard.

City of Austin Planning Commission: This commission addresses issues of land use as assigned to it by Austin's City Code. These include the abilities "[t]o make and amend a master plan, recommend approval or disapproval of proposed zoning changes and control land subdivision within neighborhood planning areas and submit, annually, a list of recommended capital improvements." It has sovereign authority, or the right to make final decisions on certain cases.

Graves Dougherty Hearon & Moody: Local law firm with practice areas that include Real Estate issues. GDHM is a donor to the parent organization of the Austin Monitor.

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