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Planning Commission recommends Council negotiate MUD consent agreement

Thursday, January 26, 2017 by Joseph Caterine

At its last meeting, the Planning Commission voted to approve a staff recommendation on the second part of a request to amend the consent agreement for Moore’s Crossing, a municipal utility district east of Austin proper, in order to clarify the developer’s transportation infrastructure obligations.

The commission went further than the staff recommendation on the first part of the request, however, recommending that City Council negotiate new benefits and amenities in exchange for the increased reimbursements.

A municipal utility district, or MUD, is a special district that functions as an independent, limited government, providing developers an alternative way to finance infrastructure and utilities within its jurisdiction.

Moore’s Crossing was created in 1986 under the consent of the city of Austin, and in 1998 the consent agreement was amended to reduce reimbursements to 70 percent. Staff recommended not increasing reimbursements, in anticipation of the MUD’s eventual annexation by the city, in which case the city would absorb all outstanding debt.

Moore’s Crossing is not currently scheduled for annexation, but as Austin continues to grow, annexation is likely only a matter of time.

John Joseph, the agent representing applicants SR Development Inc. and MC Joint Venture, said that the MUD’s history of providing affordable housing should qualify it for increased reimbursements.

“We are being placed at a significant market disadvantage,” he said. “The obligation that was created originally to provide affordable lots in this particular development has been satisfied by twice the number.

“This developer would like to continue to provide affordable housing and affordable lots in this area,” Joseph said. “But they need the assistance of the additional financing mechanism of obtaining reimbursement for the improvements (to infrastructure).”

“I think it’s unconscionable that the staff is not recommending the approval on a subdivision that has produced and delivered 955 (affordable) houses and committed to doing another 1,000,” said Bill Gurasich, president of SR Development.

Some commissioners expressed wariness around making a judgment on a matter with which many of them were unfamiliar.

“I don’t feel like I can sit up here and negotiate for the city when I have no idea what we should be asking for,” said Commissioner Jeffrey Thompson.

Thompson made a motion to postpone, but case manager Virginia Collier clarified that postponement was no longer possible. “This will be the last (Planning Commission) meeting before it is scheduled for Council,” she said.

“Would it be possible for us to send this forward with no recommendation?” Commissioner Patricia Seeger asked.

“I think the best way to deal with this is simply make a recommendation to Council for these two amendments,” Commissioner Tom Nuckols said, adding, “but on the reimbursement amendment (we should) recommend to Council that in exchange for increasing the reimbursement to 100 percent, they have some sort of permanent affordable housing.”

Commissioner Trinity White made a motion to approve the second part of the request with staff recommendation and the first part of the request with the recommendation to negotiate additional benefits, seconded by Commissioner James Schissler.

White split the motion in two in order to accommodate Nuckols, who had to abstain on the second part of the request due to his position as an attorney for Travis County. Nuckols also made a friendly amendment to include “permanent affordable housing” as one of the possible community benefits that could be negotiated.

The motions both passed unanimously, with the exception of Commissioner Nuckols’ abstention. Vice Chair Fayez Kazi and Commissioner Chito Vela were absent.

Photo by Entre75.

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