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1,200 housing units planned near Lakeline, pending zoning change

Thursday, June 1, 2023 by Jonathan Lee

The Planning Commission on May 23 recommended allowing up to 1,200 housing units on the last 30 acres of undeveloped land in the 446-acre Leander Rehabilitation planned unit development, instead of office and commercial space as had previously been planned.

The request would increase the total number of housing units allowed in the whole development from 3,500 to 4,700. It would also increase the height limit for residential buildings from six to eight stories.

The development is near the Lakeline Metro Rail station at 13430 1/2 through 13450 1/2 Lyndhurst St. 

While no one opposed the idea of allowing more housing instead of offices, a disagreement between the city and the developer around water quality rules has stalled the project for 18 months, according to land use consultant Leah Bojo, who is representing the developer.

Staffers with Austin Water assert that new water reuse rules as part of the Water Forward plan should apply to the PUD. 

While the new rules do not take effect until Dec. 1, staffers argued that it is reasonable to make the applicant comply with the new rules ahead of time. For one, City Council initially passed the rules in 2021, giving the developer ample time to anticipate how they might affect the project. A PUD is also supposed to provide so-called “superiority elements” that go above and beyond what is typically required. 

Bojo argued that current rules should apply until 2025 to make up for the 18 months lost in negotiations with Austin Water. She said the developer has committed to water reuse in ground-floor commercial spaces in the new buildings, but not for the residences. 

If the city forces the developer to comply with the new rules, Bojo said that could mean that no housing gets built at all. 

“We could submit a site development permit tomorrow that would not have any housing units in it and would also not have any water reuse requirements,” Bojo said. 

After some discussion, the commission voted unanimously to give the developer until May 1, 2025, to submit a building application under the current water quality rules. 

Commissioner João Paulo Connolly suggested staffers might be trying to delay the project so it complies with the more stringent rules. 

“If we accidentally created a sort of perverse incentive for staff to slow-roll certain projects so that they would eventually be included, then I think we need to correct for that here by allowing this PUD to move forward,” he said. 

Connolly argued that Council purposely delayed the rollout of Water Forward so that developments in progress would not have to rework their plans. 

“The idea was that the ordinance would not create a block in the pipeline of housing, which our community so desperately needs,” Connolly said.

Council will have the final say on the PUD amendment.

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