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Parks board recommends moving forward with COTA development

Thursday, June 4, 2020 by Jessi Devenyns

The motor racing track Circuit of the Americas has long been known for big-name concerts and Formula 1 races. In the future, however, the development may become better known for its water park, parkland and residential uses.

With 1,037 acres of developable land located east of State Highway 130 and north of Farm to Market 812, the property owners are looking to rezone the parcel from an interim rural residence (IRR) to a planned unit development (PUD) in order to construct a water park, 852 acres of commercial space and 186 acres of mixed-use space. In order to create a desirable design for future residents and the city, the developers are looking to designate 248 acres of open space across the development. A total of 11.3 of those parkland acres will be dedicated to two soccer fields on the north side of the PUD.

Based on the superior plans presented for the development’s parks, the Parks and Recreation Board recommended at its May 27 meeting that City Council approve the rezoning of the property.

“There is a lot of residential coming to this area, and this is a parkland-deficient area,” said Scott Grantham, a planner with the parks department.

To increase the amount of parkland available to nearby residents, Circuit of the Americas is augmenting its contribution to the parkland requirements for its first stage of development. Under non-PUD zonings, the developer is required to donate 7.8 acres and $224,000 in development fees. However, to prove superiority and earn a PUD zoning, the developer is committed to giving 11.38 acres of parkland and $1.99 million in development fees to fund the construction of two soccer fields, a parking lot with 50 spaces, the irrigation for the fields and a stormwater detention pond. The city will be responsible for the ongoing maintenance of the fields.

The proposed soccer fields are intended for youth leagues and recreational play with the surrounding acreage designed as a neighborhood park, according to Parks and Recreation Director Kimberly McNeeley.

Though the fields are not intended to attract large numbers of players, Board Member Laura Cottam Sajbel expressed concern that the major events hosted at the COTA amphitheater and racetrack could inhibit people from accessing the parkland. However, Michele Lynch with Metcalfe Wolff Stuart & Williams, who was representing the applicant on the project, told the board that major events take place a “handful” of times throughout the year and COTA is committed to coordinating with nearby schools, sports leagues and affected parties to keep traffic from grinding to a halt.

Grantham noted that since the fields will be on the north side of the PUD and the large-scale events are on the south side, those looking to use the park amenities will be able to take alternate routes that are not hampered by event traffic. Additionally, Lynch said that the development of the land will necessitate roadway improvements, including wider roads and signs that will improve traffic flow in the area.

If the surrounding neighborhoods continue growing and the soccer fields become so popular that they are causing traffic woes, Grantham said the parks department will work out a programming schedule.

The parkland dedication calculations for this portion of the development are based on the current plan to construct a hotel with 508 units as well as 30 condos. Soccer fields were expressly chosen to be added to the park because the parks department’s long-range plan identifies these amenities as essential in Austin’s southeastern corner.

After weighing the development proposal and its accompanying parkland plan for superiority as compared to traditional development entitlements, the board voted 8-0-1 to recommend the superiority of the plan. Board Member Sarah Faust abstained from the vote and Board members Romteen Farasat, Anna DiCarlo and Kim Taylor were absent.

Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.

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