First Project Under New Ordinance Gets Nod

Project in Barton Springs Zone wins unanimous council approval

First Project Under New Ordinance Gets Nod

City Council last week unanimously approved the first big construction job affected by a 2007 redevelopment ordinance that establishes rules for old or abandoned building sites in the Barton Springs Zone. In this case, Cypress Real Estate Advis­ors will tackle a vacant Cinemark Theatre on a sprawling parking lot in the sensitive recharge zone of the Edwards Aquifer, which feeds the springs. The planned multi-use project, Tarlton 360 Townhomes, is at Loop 360 and Walsh Tarlton Lane, just west of Barton Creek Square mall.

It's rare for the council to wholly unite behind a major development project that is strongly opposed by a neighborhood association. But after extensive questioning of staff members and Cypress representatives, including attorney/lobbyist David Armbrust, council members expressed satisfaction that the project met the environmental standards under the ordinance. The South Beecave Woods Neighborhood Association charged that a flawed process – including a missed deadline by the developer, a faulty traffic impact study, and the Zoning and Platting Commission's questionable reversal of a vote on the matter – all warranted delaying the project for reconsideration. In June, the zoning commission had initially denied the requested development waivers, then changed its vote to approve them after a short recess (see "Neighborhood Wins, Then Loses at ZAP," June 3). The switch came after Cypress agreed to remove one of the project's buildings from a natural slope.

But the zoning commission should not have considered the site plan at all because of a missed deadline, said Lynne Harrison-David, president of the South Beecave Woods Neighborhood Association. "Now, if we miss a deadline, we're done," Harrison-David said. "But it seems to me that this is a moving target when it is a question of neighborhoods against large developers."

Nevertheless, after hearing assurances from city attorneys, council moved the project forward, with Mayor Pro-Tem Sheryl Cole making the motion to approve. Council's two major neighborhood supporters – Laura Morrison and Kathie Tovo – joined in giving the deal their blessing while acknowledging that things could have been handled better during zoning and platting. Besides the waivers, council also gave Cypress 10 years – instead of the five recommended by the zoning commission – to build out the project, given market uncertainty. As Tovo explained before her vote, "While we have an option of sending it back to [ZAP], it seems to me that one of the parties could appeal and we would be back at the same decision point again. I'm not sure there's a lot to be gained from going back through that process."

Mayor Lee Leffingwell, credited with spearheading the redevelopment ordinance as a companion to the Save Our Springs Ordinance, lauded the project for improving water quality standards at the site and the developer's agreement to kick in more than $1 million in mitigation fees, including $400,000 for open space in the Barton Springs Zone. "This project does exactly what was intended by the redevelopment ordinance," he said. "It improves water quality."

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READ MORE
More Tarlton 360 Townhomes
Neighborhood Wins, Then Loses at ZAP
Neighborhood Wins, Then Loses at ZAP

Amy Smith, June 3, 2011

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Tarlton 360 Townhomes, Cypress Real Estate Advisors, South Bee Cave Woods Neighborhood Association

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