Tuesday, April 23, 2019 by Elizabeth Pagano

In line with state law, D6 project moves forward without traffic analysis

The Zoning and Platting Commission threw its full support behind development plans for about 100 acres near Highway 183 North and Ranch Road 620 at its most recent meeting. But an unusual state law – that could soon change – ties the city’s hands when it comes to traffic mitigation on the tracts.

Alice Glasco, who is representing developer JCR Residential LLC, explained that the site at 9500 North Lake Creek Parkway and zoned interim rural residential is currently owned by the state of Texas, but about 97.2 acres is under contract with the state for purchase and development. Of that, developers propose to rezone 58 acres to multifamily (MF-4) with the aim of putting 1,200 units on that tract. Developers are asking that the second tract, the remainder of the acreage, be zoned commercial mixed use (CS-MU).

Zoning and Platting commissioners unanimously supported the recommendation of city staff that will allow construction of a 1,200-unit apartment complex on the first tract and an undetermined commercial use on the second.

Chris Zagorski, speaking on behalf of the adjacent Avery Ranch neighborhood, expressed concern about the increased density that multifamily housing would introduce to the area and the impact that increased population would have on schools.

However, he said the main concern was the anticipated change in traffic patterns. Specifically, he wanted to ensure that the culs-de-sac remain in their current state and “not become a major thoroughfare.”

“Children are riding their bikes and there are a lot of concerns around safety. Furthermore, a lot of those neighbors pay premiums for cul-de-sac lots,” he said.

Glasco said there were no immediate plans to connect the new development to the existing one. Though developers would be reserving a right-of-way that could allow for future connectivity, that would require neighborhood consent (or an unlikely act of city condemnation), as an easement owned by the HOA was on the other side of the right-of-way.

“Fifty years from now, you never know,” she said.

Though that concern is clear-cut enough, and will be further interrogated when the development’s site plan returns to the Zoning and Platting Commission for review, the location of the proposed development presents another unusual wrinkle where traffic is concerned.

State law passed in 1995 explicitly prohibits the city from charging transportation impact fees for development on this parcel or the area around Highway 183 North and Ranch Road 620. That could change under the recently introduced House Bill 1272, which would repeal the existing prohibition. In March, City Council approved a resolution supporting the bill, and Zoning and Platting Commissioner David King signaled that support at the meeting.

“No doubt, there will be traffic impact from this. No one questions that there will be some impact, and that impact should be mitigated,” King said. “I’m assuming, since the developer doesn’t have to pay for it, we the people will have to pay for it.”

Typically, that impact would be evaluated through a Transportation Impact Analysis, but such an analysis is prohibited under state law.

According to the City Council resolution, which was sponsored by Council Member Jimmy Flannigan, “more than 124 individual site plans have been filed for this area within the city of Austin, representing 124 missed opportunities to require proportional traffic mitigation from developments that have an impact on our communities’ infrastructure.”

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