Council says no to public funding for Grove traffic mitigation
City Council on Thursday shot down a plan to explore using public money to mitigate any neighborhood traffic impacts from the Grove at Shoal Creek, a bitterly divisive planned unit development proposed for West 45th Street and Bull Creek Road.
Council Member Sheri Gallo’s resolution would have directed city staff to look into the creation of a Bull Creek Road Local Traffic Impact Fund to pay for infrastructure beyond the boundaries of the proposed PUD.
The resolution identified a number of potential sources of money for the fund, including existing bond money, certificates of obligation and the increased tax revenue generated by the development.
“We fund our transportation department less and less as a percentage of the budget each year,” Gallo, whose District 10 includes the site of the Grove, told her colleagues. “So the money is really hard to find to do this.”
Gallo stressed that the fund would be deployed in addition to money pledged by the developer, ARG Bull Creek Ltd., for traffic mitigation projects. Its scope would have also been much larger, expanding beyond the boundaries of the 75-acre field formerly owned by the state of Texas. The area of study would have included everything roughly surrounded by MoPac Expressway, Hancock Drive, Burnet Road and West 35th Street.
In some respects, Gallo’s proposal was similar to the Austin Transportation Department’s local area traffic management programs. However, those initiatives are not created by Council but rather doled out by the Transportation Department to neighborhoods whose residents request them. The department then goes through a lengthy approval process that includes community meetings and initial studies.
Council Member Ann Kitchen seconded Gallo’s resolution, pointing to its potential as an innovative approach. “I just want to go through this exercise because it’s really important to try to think about all the tools that might be available to us to address traffic impacts,” said Kitchen.
However, Council Member Leslie Pool, who has been a vociferous opponent of ARG Bull Creek’s proposal since before she ran for office, cited the local area traffic management program process and said Gallo’s proposal was “redundant.”
Pool also disputed Gallo’s claim that the proposal was drafted in response to a similar request made in June by the Bull Creek Road Coalition, the group founded by Pool prior to her elevation to City Council to oppose ARG Bull Creek’s plans for the Grove.
Pool explained that she had spoken to BCRC’s president earlier in the week and learned that the group had not taken a position on Gallo’s proposal. Furthermore, Pool said BCRC had originally proposed that revenues from sales or alcohol taxes be used to fund traffic impact mitigation efforts, not property taxes.
The District 7 representative also warned that Council’s dedication of money to traffic projects in a specific area in order to mitigate the impacts of development would set a precedent that could lead to future balkanization of transportation spending.
“Once we do it once, we have to do it elsewhere,” Pool predicted.
Ultimately Council rejected the proposal on a 7-3 vote, with only Gallo, Kitchen and Council Member Don Zimmerman voting for the proposal.
The Austin Monitor’s work is made possible by donations from the community. Though our reporting covers donors from time to time, we are careful to keep business and editorial efforts separate while maintaining transparency. A complete list of donors is available here, and our code of ethics is explained here.
Do you like this story?
There are so many important stories we don't get to write. As a nonprofit journalism source, every contributed dollar helps us provide you more coverage. Do your part by joining our subscribers in supporting our reporters' work.
Key Players & Topics In This Article
Austin City Council: The Austin City Council is the body with legislative purview over the City of Austin. It offers policy direction, while the office of the City Manager implements administrative actions based on those policies. Until 2012, the body contained seven members, including the city's Mayor, all elected at-large. In 2012, City of Austin residents voted to change that system and now 10 members of the Council are elected based on geographic districts. The Mayor continues to be elected at-large.
Sheri Gallo: Austin City Council member who represents District 10