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Planning Commission postpones long-dormant Nuckols Crossing case

Thursday, July 16, 2020 by Nina Hernandez

On Tuesday night the Planning Commission yet again postponed consideration of a rezoning at 4500 Nuckols Crossing against the wishes of the applicants and their representatives.

The applicants’ agent, Victoria Haase, told the commissioners that the applicants urged them to hear the case that evening.

“The professionals have weighed in that these are safe solutions for the concerns at hand, so we request that the case be able to move forward tonight,” Haase said. “They are up against a significant deadline that will kill this project if we can’t go forward.”

The plan is to develop City Heights, a 179-unit, multifamily development in Southeast Austin at St. Elmo and Nuckols Crossing that is within half a mile from a public transit route. The 9.97-acre tract is currently zoned Single-Family Residence – Standard Lot (SF-2) and the applicant is requesting Multifamily Residence – Moderate-High Density (MF-4).

Ron Thrower, another agent for the applicants, said the safety issues concerning Nuckols Crossing – which has kept the project on ice since 2018 – have been resolved.

“(The Austin Transportation Department) has looked at the driveway issue and determined that the property does have safe access,” he said. “We’ve got it. The safe access is there. It’s a design that everyone has signed off on.”

He said the project will be a 100 percent affordable housing project for seniors, and echoed Haase that any delay could cause the project to lose money and possibly not go forward. When pressed, however, Haase couldn’t tell Chair Conor Kenny how the postponement would materially damage the applicant’s chances for the tax credit.

Ana Aguirre, the representative for the Southeast Combined Neighborhood Plan Contact Team, said they have more questions for the applicant on the traffic problems in the area. The contact team wanted another two weeks to resolve any lingering public safety questions before the commission signed off.

“Nuckols Crossing is a substandard road,” said Aguirre, who previously said walking down that road would be “suicidal.”

“It has no shoulders, no sidewalks. Our concern is that. We’re respectfully requesting a postponement.”

The contact team would like the Planning Commission and City Council to get a realistic view of the road before making a decision. With that perspective, Aguirre said, the commission and Council will surely determine “that this development would not be a benefit to the neighborhood but instead create a major traffic hazard and clash with the existing aesthetics.”

Aguirre also said the contact team would like the Transportation Department to provide a model of what might happen to pedestrians and cyclists with the addition of new traffic to the area.

A neighborhood traffic analysis done in June, which acknowledged that the development will create around 980 additional trips per day, found that “Nuckols Crossing Road is currently operating at an undesirable level and will continue to do so with the addition of site traffic.”

The analysis recommends there be additional infrastructure improvements in the area, particularly a curb and gutter, bike facilities, and sidewalks. ATD will require a dedicated right-turn and left-turn lanes into the site.

The Planning Commission will take up the case again on July 28.

Map courtesy of Google Maps.

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