The Austin Chronicle

The PUD-a-WOO Solution

By Katherine Gregor, May 18, 2009, 9:26am, Newsdesk

Those upset that planned unit development rezonings could trump the protections of the revised waterfront overlay ordinance - which comes back for city council action on Thursday - might push for PUD-a-WOO's to have required urban design plans.

"I'd be thrilled," said Danette Chimenti, a Waterfront Overlay Task Force member, if in addition to requiring a supermajority vote for a PUD-a-WOO rezoning, council would ensure a higher standard by requiring PUD applicants to submit a detailed urban design plan for the large, complex projects.

The long fight over the East Avenue PUD (for the redevelopment of the Concordia University campus, recently rechristened University Park) was only resolved when a vague “bubble diagram” plan was replaced with a detailed urban design framework plan. (See “Up From The Muck at Concordia,” March 30, 2007.)

The “SuperPUD ordinance” passed last year, and intended to prevent such fights in the future, requires a higher level of community benefits – but not a detailed urban design plan.

Incorporating that requirement into the PUD ordinance was recommended by Jana McCann of ROMA Austin, who led the Concordia solution. (See “What's Wrong With the Super PUD,” June 6, 2008.)

The fact that most Waterfront Overlay Task Force members oppose PUDs within the WOO indicates that last year’s revisions weren’t enough to earn community trust in PUDs as a tool for superior projects.

Jim Adams of ROMA says he has seen similar zoning work well without controversy in other cities, such as San Jose, California, where applicants must submit “an urban design scheme, at a sophisticated level of detail” that communicates clearly what the project will be like.

If a requirement for an overall urban design plan were added – to either the PUD ordinance or the WOO ordinance – it could prevent headaches and delays for all concerned on future PUD proposals.

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