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Council gives final OK on tank farm site rezoning

Friday, June 18, 2021 by Jo Clifton

City Council voted 10-0 last week to grant planned unit development zoning on the former site of the East Austin tank farm at 1011 and 1017 Springdale Road. Council Member Pio Renteria made the motion to approve rezoning for the site, which sits in his district. Council Member Mackenzie Kelly was off the virtual dais.

With Council’s action, developer Jay Paul Company now faces the challenge of turning the property, used for decades to store tanks filled with toxic chemicals, into an office complex, and at the same time provide $8 million worth of community benefits.

After the vote, the company praised Council’s action in a news release. COO Janette D’Elia said, “This site has had a challenging history – but it is a challenge we are ready to take on. We’re proud of all the work that everyone has put in to help move the Springdale Green vision forward, including the neighbors, city staff, the Environmental Commission, the Planning Commission, and especially, City Council. By approving this rezoning, Council has led the way on charting a new future for this site. I appreciate the vote of confidence, and look forward to bringing the Springdale Green vision to life.”

With its history of storing toxic chemicals, the site has been deemed unsuitable for residential or agricultural uses. But it is still an appropriate place for the planned office tower. Attorney Michael Whellan, who represents the developer, has explained that the 93-foot height will allow the company to reduce the site’s impervious cover from what would have been allowed under the previous zoning category, GR.

Whellan told Council, “at its core (the case) boils down to a single policy question: Whether to leverage an increase in height in return for better outcomes on environmental restoration, sustainability and housing and neighborhood benefits. Or in other words, whether to leverage the ability to do two additional stories – that’s a 15 percent increase in square footage, that’s all we’re asking for in order to obtain an $8 million value in benefits, every dollar of which is above and beyond what would be required under the current zoning GR.”

While the PUD plan had its detractors because of the height, neighbors living next to the site on Saucedo Street were anxious to see the project approved. In a letter to Council, 12 neighbors said they supported the rezoning, including the 93-foot height, because of the benefits the developer was offering. They said the developer would address the flooding they face on a regular basis.

“The applicant has committed to seeking an interbasin transfer and coordinating with Springdale General (a nearby development) to allow Springdale Green’s detention facility to receive stormwater from north of their site. This would help directly address our flooding issues.” In addition, they wrote that the applicant had agreed not to use Saucedo Street as an entrance to Springdale Green once the project is complete.

Overall, the developer has promised to spend $8 million on community benefits, which includes a $700,000 payment to the city for affordable housing under the density bonus program. As part of their vote on the PUD zoning, Council members approved spending that money in District 3. Jerry Rusthoven with the Housing and Planning Department told Council that the money would be restricted to District 3 for seven years, but whatever has not been spent at the end of that time would revert back to the city’s general housing trust fund.

The company has also made a commitment to contribute $475,000 to the Guadalupe Neighborhood Development Corporation so it can build “four homes that are within a 15-minute walk of the site. All of those are ownership opportunities,” Whellan said. Two of the homes will be on Tillery Street and two will be on Father Joe Znotas Street.

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