Despite road safety concerns, ZAP approves final plat for Oaks at Slaughter development
Despite some residents’ concerns about road safety, on Sept. 3 the Zoning and Platting Commission approved the preliminary plan and final plat for the nearly 19-acre Oaks of Slaughter mixed-use development, which will house an HEB and retail shopping next to Interstate 35 between William Cannon Drive and Slaughter Lane in South Austin.
While three residents who spoke at the public hearing said they supported almost all of the plan, they were concerned about the additional traffic that would flow through Ralph Ablanedo Drive if it was lengthened to cut through the development to provide connectivity between the I-35 South frontage road and South Congress Avenue.
Austin City Code 25-4-151 requires that streets of a new subdivision must connect to existing streets on the adjoining property unless topography or traffic circulation needs dictate otherwise.
“The city of Austin would not have approved the project without the extension of Ralph Ablanedo Drive,” said Richard Suttle, an Austin real estate attorney representing the applicant, listed as SOCO 35 Retail, Ltd. (C. Patrick Oles). Oles is the president and CEO of Barshop and Oles, a Texas commercial real estate development firm.
Lynn Rudloff, who lives just off Ralph Ablanedo Drive, said she doesn’t object to the shopping center, but she does object to the interpretation of the city’s requirement that a connecting street should be created whenever possible. Rudloff requested that an exception be made here, as she said additional traffic from connecting to the I-35 frontage road will exacerbate a problem: The two-lane Ralph Ablanedo Drive, flanked by a curb and a drainage ditch, is too narrow to safely pull over to yield right of way to emergency vehicles from the police and fire stations on the street.
Susan Hambright’s backyard abuts Ralph Ablanedo Drive, and she also stated that the lack of shoulders on the narrow road was a safety issue. In her testimony, Hambright noted that a school bus picks up and drops off students on the street, who must be able to navigate the road safely, and a home for the disabled is also located on the road.
In response, Suttle noted that several measures were being taken to improve road safety, including the addition of sidewalks to Ralph Ablanedo (funded by a $165,000 contribution from HEB), as well as the installation of a traffic light at the planned intersection of Ralph Ablanedo and South Congress.
Commissioner David King empathized with the neighbors’ concerns that additional traffic could overburden Ralph Ablanedo and asked how the city planned to prioritize safety improvements on the existing section of the road.
Upal Barua, a manager with the Austin Transportation Department, testified that a recent transportation study had resulted in reducing the speed limit on Ralph Ablanedo from 40 to 30 mph to improve safety. Barua agreed that Ralph Ablanedo was “substandard,” and said “we are trying everything we can, depending on the funding that we have available.” Barua said that Austin Transportation would continue to monitor how the Oaks at Slaughter development impacts the road and will make any future improvements as needed.
Commissioner Jolene Kiolbassa said that she had driven Ralph Ablanedo Drive and found it a “pathetic excuse for a road.” While she sympathized with the neighbors, she said she was hopeful there would be improvements to the road, and Commissioner Ann Denkler said she would like to see these substandard roads added to Austin’s next transportation bond.
Before making a motion to approve the Oaks at Slaughter final plat, Commissioner Hank Smith lauded the Austin Transportation Department for the recent safety improvements it had made to the road, and encouraged the department to incorporate additional safety features into the design of the new connector road.
Prior to seconding Smith’s motion to approve, Commissioner Eric Goff stated that he supported the connecting road, since if it was not built, people would cut through the shopping center parking lot anyway, creating danger for pedestrians.
After a 43-minute debate, the preliminary plan and final plat were unanimously approved.
A subdivision construction plan for the property is still under review, said Sylvia Limon, senior planner in the Development Services Department, in an email response to the Austin Monitor. The HEB in the Oaks at Slaughter development will open in late 2019, while retail construction is expected to start in 2019.
Map by Barshop & Oles.
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City of Austin Zoning and Platting Commission: The City of Austin's Zoning and Platting Commission addresses issues of land use as assigned to it by Austin's City Code. It has sovereign authority, or the right to make final decisions on certain cases.