Monday, June 10, 2019 by Ryan Thornton

Council zones McKalla Place for end-of-summer groundbreaking

City Council unanimously approved a rezoning of the city-owned McKalla Place property on Thursday, granting Precourt Sports Ventures the entitlements needed to move forward with its proposed site plan.

The vote redesignates the property at 10414 McKalla Place and 10617½ Burnet Road from limited industrial services (LI-NP) zoning to limited industrial services-planned development area (LI-PDA-NP) zoning.

The requested planned development area designation will accommodate the professional soccer stadium as designed, permitting multifamily residential, outdoor entertainment, a cocktail lounge, a transportation terminal, and club or lounge uses.

The 24-acre property will be subject to the city’s limited industrial zoning restrictions but with greater liberties regarding interior setbacks, height limits, impervious cover, building coverage, and floor area ratio.

Concerned residents speaking before the vote said some of those site privileges are contextually inappropriate and potentially hazardous.

Françoise Luca, president of the Gracywoods Neighborhood Association, said the height of 130 feet is “way too tall” for the area and would tower over the adjacent apartment buildings at four times their height.

The base limited industrial zoning district clips height at 60 feet by default, but Richard Suttle, the attorney representing PSV, told the Planning Commission when it considered the case in May that 130 feet is still below the limit imposed by the North Burnet/Gateway neighborhood plan surrounding the property.

More critically, Luca said the proposed 85 percent impervious cover could be an issue considering the area’s existing flooding problems.

Suttle has previously acknowledged that the site poses a number of structural challenges. As he explained last month, besides the unique challenges posed by a sports stadium of this scale, the property is “bounded by a railroad line on one side which also has utility transmission lines, which raises a whole bunch of questions, especially when that’s on the low end of the site and that’s where the water wants to go.”

To mitigate those issues, Suttle told Council Thursday that the design takes into account the increased regional rainfall intensity averages as updated last year by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Atlas 14 study. “We won’t be affecting drainage downstream and putting anybody in harm’s way,” he said.

The city’s interactive flood plain map does not show any changes specific to the McKalla Place property based on the Atlas 14 findings.

Suttle assured Council as well as North Austin residents that his clients are committed to conducting a thorough traffic analysis and working with neighbors toward a plan that works for the community.

“We are committed to continue to work with the neighborhood on all things: traffic, operations of this facility,” he said. “They know better how their neighborhood and their traffic works than anybody else and we look forward to getting their input and continuing to work with them.”

Since the stadium will only draw traffic during major events, the Planning and Zoning Department has given the soccer franchise the responsibility of conducting a traffic impact analysis prior to substantial completion of the property development.

While Luca said it would be “irresponsible to proceed” without that study, Council Member Leslie Pool said her “understanding is that Austin FC’s traffic engineers have performed quite a bit of that traffic analysis and they are currently working on that aspect with our transportation staff.”

The stadium is expected to break ground later this year and be ready for business by the start of the 2021 Major League Soccer season.

Rendering courtesy Precourt Sports Ventures.

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