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City Council OKs parking garage in floodplain

Tuesday, October 7, 2014 by Elizabeth Pagano

Despite concerns from staff, City Council unanimously approved a variance last week that will allow a downtown developer to build condominiums with parking in the floodplain.

Mayor Lee Leffingwell said the key point for him was that there was egress from 1010 West 10th St. to land not in the floodplain, for every unit. He also noted that the lot was “undevelopable without this variance.”

“I’m not overly concerned about the cars being in the floodplain. Cars are replaceable,” said Leffingwell, though he was glad to hear cars would not be swept downstream in a flood.

Husch Blackwell attorney Nikelle Meade spoke on behalf of the developers. She said the site was currently a “bit of an eyesore” and it was time for something to happen on it. Meade said the need to put parking below street level was driven by a wish to comply with the neighborhood plan, which limits height.

Currently, there are no buildings on the lot, and the building proposed is three stories and about 33,000 square feet. Developers plan to build office space and 14 three-bedroom condo units.

Meade said the developers agreed to all of the conditions proposed by staff. She also pointed out that existing nearby buildings would minimize the impact of potential floods.

“The risk is to our own residents, and we have agreed to put measures into place to make that risk minimal,” said Meade.

Meade also pointed out that the land is currently home to a parking garage that would send cars floating through the city in the event of a flood, unlike the parking they have proposed, which will be contained.

Though the building proposed will be out of the floodplain and elevated more than 7 feet above it, 29 parking spaces will be underneath the building and partially in the 25-year and 100-year floodplain of Shoal Creek.

Watershed Protection Department floodplain administrator Kevin Shunk warned against the danger of having cars parked in a floodplain and recommended against the variance.

“The issue at hand here is really the parking,” said Shunk, who explained that floodplain depths reached between 3 and 6 feet in the proposed parking area.

“It’s a significant amount of water, and certainly what we are worried about is that at the time of flood, the residents of the building … would want to go get their cars, maybe, and get them out of the floodplain,” said Shunk. “Because of the flashy nature of Shoal Creek, and Flash Flood Alley here, floods happen fast. That would certainly not be a safe process.”

Shunk said that he was comfortable with the design of the building itself and that the parking garage would not allow cars “to float off” in a flood.

Council approved the variance on a 7-0 vote.

The variance was approved with a condition that parking be reserved parking, and that there are signs to remind drivers that they are in the floodplain and some type of notification for those purchasing a condo that they were buying a parking area that had flood risks associated with it. Shunk explained that the condition would allow buyers to “know what they are getting into.”


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