Tuesday, December 11, 2018 by Alyx Wilson

New multifamily slated for Old Bee Caves Road

The owners of an 18-acre plot at 6901 Old Bee Caves Road earned a recommendation from the Planning Commission at its Nov. 27 meeting for a change that would add mixed-use zoning to the tract.

The developer hopes to build 315 multifamily units on the property and dedicate 6.3 acres of parkland to the city. Representatives from both the Oak Hill and Aviara neighborhood associations came in support of the development, which would create residential use over industrial use.

The rezoning, from CS-NP to CS-MU-NP, will allow the developer to construct residential multifamily units on the property. The commission also approved an amendment to the 1987 restrictive covenant on the land. The amendment would allow for a height of 60 feet and an increase in floor-to-area ratio from 0.25-to-1 up to 0.5-to-1.

The developer worked with the Texas Department of Transportation and the city of Austin on traffic analysis before agreeing to design, fund and construct a new signal at the intersection of Old Bee Caves Road and Highway 71 as part of the development.

“With 300 additional people on that highway, right now that new signal isn’t going to do very much,” said Carri Leal, one of three citizens who came to share their concerns. These neighbors, who live off of Bee Caves Road before the entrance to the Aviara and Oak Hill neighborhoods, said they didn’t necessarily come in opposition, but felt unprepared, as they were not informed of the plans until earlier that day.

The neighbors listed concerns regarding the number of trees the developer would remove, the amount of light pollution that would be added and the traffic concerns with Bee Caves Road.

Amanda Swor, representing the applicant, explained that in addition to the cluster of heritage oak trees that would be preserved, only 151 out of over 2,500 caliber inches of trees would be removed. She also confirmed that the additional lighting would comply with Austin’s Dark Skies initiative.

Swor expressed regret about the initial contact issues with the neighbors, and was glad that the issue was resolved so they could continue to work together.

“We understand this signal isn’t going to fix 290, but it’ll increase safety and allow residents to be able to pull out without having to guess if there is a car coming,” said Swor. The developer also planned to put in a single overhead light at the curve on Old Bee Caves Road for safety reasons.

Commissioner Conor Kenny urged concerned neighbors to follow along with the traffic developments going on in the city with the Strategic Mobility Plan and Project Connect.

“In terms of traffic, unfortunately we can’t just build our way out of this mess,” said Kenny, “as long as everyone is driving one car per person to work, that area down there is just always going to be a disaster.”

Commissioner Karen McGraw pushed back on the proposed 35 percent impervious cover – hardscape that does not absorb rainfall – saying that current code only allows for 25 percent impervious cover on such a development.

Environmental Officer Chris Herrington explained that under the 1987 restrictive covenant, and with the dedication of parkland to the city, the applicant would actually be allowed up to 65 percent impervious cover, but chose to cut that down to 35 percent.

Herrington noted that the project complies with the Save Our Springs Ordinance in water quality treatment and was approved unanimously by the Environmental Commission before coming to the Planning Commission.

Commissioner Patricia Seeger made a motion to approve staff recommendations, and was seconded by Commissioner Todd Shaw. The motion passed 10-0-1 with McGraw abstaining and commissioners James Schissler and Fayez Kazi recusing. Commissioner Greg Anderson was absent.

Map courtesy of the city of Austin.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

City of Austin Planning Commission: This commission addresses issues of land use as assigned to it by Austin's City Code. These include the abilities "[t]o make and amend a master plan, recommend approval or disapproval of proposed zoning changes and control land subdivision within neighborhood planning areas and submit, annually, a list of recommended capital improvements." It has sovereign authority, or the right to make final decisions on certain cases.

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