Battle Lines on Town Lake
By Katherine Gregor,
8:30AM, Tue. Jan. 30, 2007
SaveTownLake.org has retained heavy hitter law firm Brown McCarroll, to ensure that the City of Austin takes its concerns seriously. On Monday the advocacy group — recently formed to oppose waterfront development on protected land along the Town Lake Corridor — hand-delivered to City Manager Toby Futrell a letter prepared by attorney Nikelle Meade.
The letter addresses a project that the nonprofit regards as a critical test case: Proposed condo towers by California developer CWS Apartment Homes at 222 and 300 E. Riverside Drive. The developer is seeking to build 200’ towers just 80 feet from the shoreline; the city’s Waterfront Overlay District ordinance requires a 200-foot setback on the sites. If the request is granted, it would be the first such setback variance approved on Town Lake. Attorney Richard Suttle represents CWS; SaveTownLake.org has expressed concerns that Suttle may be using unethical tactics, disinformation, and/or undue influence with the city.
“A few well-heeled developers and high-priced lawyers should not be able to set aside the established intention of the community, that was reflected through the carefully considered and thoughtful Waterfront Overlay Ordinance,” said SaveTownLake.org’s Scott Hendler. “We call upon Toby Futrell and city staff to ensure that the integrity of the review process by carefully evaluating the developer’s compliance with all procedures and regulations.”
The letter (available at www.SaveTownLake.org) details objections to both the developer’s conduct and the city’s process in reviewing the project and holding the developer accountable. It formally requests responses in writing (and the legal basis for city decisions) on specific issues with the submitted site plans. They include: 1) parkland dedication on the site, 2) an expedited review process, promised in exchange for affordable housing and green building concessions (which the nonprofit believes are inadequate), 3) noncompliance with neighborhood compatibility requirements, and 4) claims by the developer that it can “reconstruct” existing buildings sited too close to the water, and replicate code violations.
SaveTownLake.org claims more than 1000 supporters. The group states of the 222/300 E. Riverside project: “This is the first of some 20 similar projects being advanced by developers who are anxiously watching the precedent-setting actions of the City of Austin in this case.” The letter was CC’d to the mayor, council, planning commission and PARD; it requests a response by Feb. 2.