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As city overhauls development code, Central Austin neighborhood works on its first plan

Monday, October 3, 2016 by Syeda Hasan

The city of Austin is working with people who live in the North Shoal Creek area to develop their first-ever neighborhood plan. The effort could help determine the future of that part of Austin and the rest of the city.

Zora Mae Hise has been living in the North Shoal Creek neighborhood for about 50 years, and she’s seen a lot of changes.

“We bought our house for $26,000, and now it’s (valued at) $396,000,” Hise said.

Hise was one of about 50 residents who turned out for a neighborhood meeting this weekend at Pillow Elementary School. They sat around cafeteria tables brainstorming and jotting down notes on giant poster boards. The residents’ input will help shape the very first neighborhood plan for North Shoal Creek.

Hise wanted to weigh in because with property values on the rise, she wonders how her home will fit in with the surrounding neighborhood.

Her house “hasn’t changed,” she said. “In fact, since my husband has Alzheimer’s, I’ve neglected it, and so we may soon become an eyesore if I don’t do something about it, and that concerns me.”

The neighborhood houses about 3,700 residents and covers approximately 1 square mile – it is bordered by Burnet Road, Anderson Lane, MoPac Expressway and U.S. 183. The goal of this planning process is to help create what’s called a Complete Community, one with jobs, recreation, youth and senior services, and other amenities accessible by multiple modes of transportation.

Amelia Cobb is president of the North Shoal Creek Neighborhood Association. She thinks the area is well on its way to achieving that goal.

“We’ve got a lot of multifamily residences here,” Cobb said. “We’ve got a mix of single-family. We’ve got duplexes. We’ve got walkability to restaurants and recreation and jobs.”

Ultimately, the plan that is developed here will help guide future development in the neighborhood. Greg Guernsey, director of the city’s Planning and Zoning Department, said the effort fits into a larger vision for the city.

“Neighborhood plans are part of Imagine Austin, which is our comprehensive plan, and Imagine Austin may be looking down at 30,000 feet,” Guernsey said. “This may be at 5,000 or 7,000 feet looking down.”

Right now, city staff are in the process, known as CodeNEXT, of rewriting the entire Land Development Code, which will govern how land can be used. It may bring zoning changes to some areas, and Guernsey said neighborhood plans help inform those decisions.

“We’ll get input from the citizens about areas that they may object to growth coming, but they would say, ‘This is a good area, and appropriate area for growth. This is an area that would be less so,’” he said.

There will be more chances for residents to weigh in before the final plan is adopted. The next meeting is set for Nov. 12.

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT. Photo: Zora Mae Hise talks with other residents at the North Shoal Creek neighborhood plan meeting at Pillow Elementary School. Photo by Syeda Hasan/KUT News.

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