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Council OKs Pilot Knob on second reading

Friday, November 20, 2015 by Jo Clifton

City Council took the next-to-last step in approving Planned Unit Development zoning for the 2,200-acre Pilot Knob project in Southeast Austin last night.

The project sits in the district of Council Member Delia Garza, who last week expressed concerns that there was not sufficient affordable housing in the project. However, on Thursday night she made the motion for second-round approval, saying, “We’ve made some progress in the negotiation.”

Last week, Richard Suttle, attorney for developer Brookfield Residential, said his client had committed to providing 10 percent of owner-occupied units at 80 percent of median family income when they are initially offered for sale. He estimated that would amount to a total of 600 to 1,000 houses. Suttle told Council that his client had made all the concessions possible without fee waivers.

When she made a motion to approve the project Thursday night, Garza said, “There’s been a lot of talk about SMART (Safe, Mixed-Use, Accessible, Reasonably Priced, Transit-Oriented) Housing because of some talks with Cap Metro, and that included some fee waivers that are involved in the SMART Housing program. But we’re still negotiating how deep in affordability we’re going and exactly what the SMART Housing fee waivers would include.”

Betsy Spencer, director of Neighborhood Housing and Community Development, told Council that her department has been in “constant conversation with the attorney and the developer.” She added, “I think that we’ve come a long way. I think we have a little bit of negotiation left, but I think that they’ve been acting in good faith and that we should be able to come to an agreement shortly.”

Suttle said after the vote, “I’m happy with the way the talks are going, and I’m happy with where we’re getting on affordable housing. And the ability to do SMART Housing out here is going to open up some doors we didn’t have available to us three years ago,” which is when the city first made the agreement with Brookfield to do the PUD. “So I think it’s all going in the right direction,” he said.

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