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Activists upset about Grove transportation review

Tuesday, March 29, 2016 by Jo Clifton

Members of the Bull Creek Road Coalition are expressing alarm about what they consider an abrupt end to the transportation review process for Milestone Community Builder’s planned unit development called the Grove at Shoal Creek.

Architect Chris Allen sent out a lengthy email to the media on Monday saying that members of the city’s transportation review staff had been barred from a meeting last week between the developer’s representatives and high-level transportation managers in the Development Services and Transportation departments.

The result of that meeting, Allen said, was that “the transportation review has been abruptly aborted and all of the traffic concerns have been magically resolved.”

Jeff Howard, the attorney for Milestone, said, “That’s not true. The TIAs (transportation impact analyses) been in process for about a year.” Staff and transportation consultants for the developer have been getting closer to agreement since the beginning of the year, he added.

Howard said he met with Andrew Linseisen of Development Services and Eric Bollich of the Transportation Department. “When we met Tuesday, we went over the few remaining comments that they had,” he said.

A City Hall staffer who wished to remain anonymous confirmed that lower-level transportation engineers were not invited to the meeting and that they continue to have concerns about the project.

Howard said he did not know whether any transportation staff members had been barred from the meeting. However, he said, “It was a totally normal kind of meeting. We’ve had multiple meetings” with transportation staff, he said, “just like the neighborhood.”

In his email, Allen said, “Adding insult to injury, this back-room ‘negotiation’ also resulted in the City agreeing to turn the single family home at 2627 W. 45th St. into a STREET that serves the mega-development.”

According to a memo from Bollich to Linseisen dated last Friday, the TIA “estimates that 14 percent of site generated traffic will use Jackson Avenue, more than doubling the total traffic volume on Jackson Avenue. While no additional analysis of Jackson Avenue is required at this time, based on the information submitted in the TIA and reviewed by staff, when a warrant study is conducted for the signal at Jackson Avenue and Bull Creek Road, the applicant will also study Jackson Avenue south of Bull Creek Road to analyze the proposed mitigation needed to address this increase in traffic.”

A memo from Linseisen to engineers for the developer says that one lot, which currently contains the house on 45th Street, will be dedicated as public right of way, acting as an extension of Jackson Avenue to 45th Street. “Vehicular access at the intersection of 45th Street in Jackson Avenue,” wrote Linseisen, “shall be limited to, ‘right-in, right-out only.'”

Allen said, “This all happened immediately after Rosedale (neighbors) hired a traffic engineer, and at a point where review staff still characterized Milestone’s TIA as ‘incomplete and inaccurate.'”

It is not clear what impact the outrage from the Bull Creek Coalition will have on the project. But for Allen, the people at “Milestone/Topfer and its allies, along with the person(s) at the top of our City Government have declared it all out WAR on our neighborhoods.”

Allen has provided numerous graphics showing the great increase in the impact of traffic that is expected for Bull Creek Road. The current maximum recommended volume is 4,000 trips per day, but the current actual volume is 7,000 trips per day. That is not unusual in Austin, but after the Grove is built, according to the TIA from Milestone, there will be 26,000 trips per day on Bull Creek Road.

In Friday’s memo Linseisen wrote, “Staff reserves the right to conduct further review of the subject application with regard to geometric constraints that may arise due to inadequate or unavailable right-of-way that may affect the operational objectives of the proposed infrastructure improvements. These elements may affect site plan review and approval.”

Residential density in Rosedale is about four units per acre, while at the Mueller development it is about eight units per acre. The Grove is projected to have 30 units per acre.

The Grove is described by the developer as “a 76-acre, mixed-use project near the intersection of 45th Street and Bull Creek Road that is owned by ARG Bull Creek Ltd.” The development, according to a recent press release, “offers Austin an opportunity to add homes, townhomes, condominiums, apartments, neighborhood businesses, independent- and assisted-living for seniors, and unprecedented affordable housing options in its urban core.”

If the Grove “is approved as contemplated, the Grove has agreed to fund the construction of a new bridge that will span 250-300 feet across Shoal Creek and extend a multi-purpose trail east to Shoal Creek Boulevard,” the release says. Both the Friends of the Grove and the Bull Creek Coalition have said they support the addition of the bridge.

By Dcrjsr (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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