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Environmental Commission unanimously votes to advance Goodnight Ranch zoning change

Tuesday, January 26, 2021 by Sean Saldaña

A proposal to amend zoning requirements for a South Austin residential development was discussed and subsequently approved by the Environmental Commission at its Jan. 20 meeting.

Goodnight Ranch is a master planned unit development that covers 695 acres encompassing the area on the east side of Old Lockhart Road between Nuckols Crossing Road and Capitol View Drive.

The PUD amendment would add more than six acres of land on the south side of Slaughter Lane already owned by Goodnight Ranch to the development. It would also increase the number of residential units from 3,533 to 6,308; allow for up to 635,000 square feet of commercial, retail and office uses; and allocate another 64 acres of land intended for a new AISD high school.

In a letter to Commission Chair Linda Guerrero in November, Goodnight Ranch representatives said, “The proposed changes are designed to diversify and create close access to employment opportunities by increasing the commercial, retail, employment and civic space.”

Goodnight Ranch substantiated its case by comparing its request to the Mueller Development, which is also about 700 acres in size and has a residential allowance of 6,500 homes.

Goodnight Ranch representative Myra Goepp told the commissioners that the development was trying to provide “reasonably priced housing and affordably priced housing in a variety of forms that is completely supported with education options, parks, open space, neighborhood services, retail, and employment opportunities.” She added that they aimed to put those resources within walking distance.

Goodnight Ranch has been approved to participate in the city’s SMART Housing expedited review program. In city documents, case manager Wendy Rhoades noted that the proposed PUD amendment “supports affordable housing initiatives by introducing new housing product types and revised site development standards.”

City staffers recommended approving the amendment change with only a handful of conditions. Going into the meeting, staffers wanted the PUD to provide a minimum of 129 acres of open space; cap impervious cover on the portion south of Slaughter Lane at 67 percent gross site area; reconstruct a critical water quality zone; and restore a creek and wetland buffers in the development.

When it came time for the commissioners to weigh in, the only major point of concern was voiced by Guerrero, who discussed the possibility of increased lighting requirements to protect wildlife. She emphasized the importance of dark skies and how light pollution can have a significant negative impact on nocturnal animals.

City staffers assured her that while any development would be subject to existing exterior lighting rules, the commission was welcome to vote on language that would raise the standards.

The commission then moved to unanimously vote in favor of the amendment. City Council action is tentatively planned for Feb. 18.

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