Wednesday, December 7, 2016 by Syeda Hasan

The Grove at Shoal Creek moves closer to final Council OK

After months of discussion and more after-hours debate and testimony at City Hall last night, City Council is moving forward with plans for a controversial development known as the Grove at Shoal Creek.

As with most discussions on the case, it lasted well into the evening with hours of testimony from both sides. It’s been a nearly two-year battle over the 75-acre development in North Central Austin. The Grove developer, ARG Bull Creek Ltd., wants to build housing and commercial space on a tract of land located between 45th Street and Bull Creek and Shoal Creek roads. That could mean big changes for the residential neighborhoods that surround the site.

But a resolution on some of those concerns came Monday, when the neighborhoods and developer announced a compromise. Attorney Jeff Howard, who represents ARG, told Council members that the mediated plan reduces the amount of commercial space at the Grove, which would lead to about 1,000 fewer car trips on surrounding roads.

“We agreed to some additional sidewalk and traffic-calming improvements in the neighborhood, and the idea would be that the city would study the feasibility of and scope of those improvements, and ARG would agree to build those improvements at its cost, which could be potentially less than the city’s,” Howard said.

The plan also calls for noise reduction at the Grove’s commercial spaces and public parks, though there are still questions about how that would be enforced. ARG has also agreed to include about 140 units of affordable housing.

Though the two parties have settled on an agreement, Council Member Sheri Gallo noted that the vetting process has been fraught with hostility. She represents District 10, which includes the Grove.

“All the negative conversations that were going on as a result of the zoning case, pitting friends against friends and neighbors against neighbors, and all of the comments that were being made on social media – that’s just absolutely not a place we want to be in our community,” Gallo said. “It’s not healthy for the community and it’s not healthy for the people that live in those neighborhoods.”

Healthy or not, the Grove agreement is likely to set a precedent for future large-scale zoning cases. Council Member Leslie Pool represents District 7, which borders the Grove site. She spoke about the need to improve the city’s approval process for such complex, mixed-use developments.

“I recognize that many of our communities may not have the same flexibility, and I would like to look at ways to even the playing field for all our communities in all our districts,” Pool said.

The case still needs one last vote of approval from Council before it’s final. ARG co-owner Garrett Martin has said he expects construction to begin in about eight months.

Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUT News. This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT.

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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.

Planned Unit Development: A zoning classification designated by the city to allow greater flexibility for projects within its boundaries.

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