Public Notice: A Tale of Two PUDs
Austin Oaks, Grove at Shoal Creek cast long shadows
It's a good thing City Council got some time off in July, because they're really putting in overtime this month. Along with multiple budget work sessions and public hearings, and following last week's marathon Planning and Neighborhoods Committee meeting (see "STR Debate Unresolved," Aug. 28), Council has no less than five Council Committee meetings this week, some of them taking up weighty issues.
On Wednesday alone, Audit and Finance started down the road of revising the city's lobbying rules, Housing and Community Development discussed code compliance and affordable housing, and Open Space, Environment, and Sustainability discussed CodeNEXT and the recommendations of the Green Infrastructure Working Group, whose bullet points include:
• Creating functional pervious areas
• Preserving and protecting open space, key natural assets
• Protecting and restoring trees, soil, vegetation, natural function
• Creating publicly accessible open space (open space and green connections are vital)
• Integrating nature into the city
• Integrating landscaping into all contexts
• Landscaping in right-of-way and site setbacks
• Providing for shade trees
• Using stormwater beneficially
• Having on-site infiltration/retention
• Redeveloping to help mitigate flooding
To be sure, it's going to be a long road to getting those principles embedded into our land development code, but I thought it worth enumerating some of them here, because those are values that figure heavily in discussions that will be happening in another branch of our city government this week. The Environmental Commission, meeting at 6pm Wednesday, Sept. 2, is scheduled to take a look at two highly controversial Planned Unit Development proposals, both in the recently flooded Shoal Creek watershed, one actually on Shoal Creek itself.
The Austin Oaks PUD proposal by Dallas-based Spire Realty Group would put some 1.6 million square feet of high-rise development on the Southwest corner of MoPac and Spicewood Springs, which detractors say is incompatible with the neighborhood, and inconsistent with Imagine Austin. It would also increase traffic five-fold, and involve cutting down a number of the heritage trees for which it is presumably named, along with scores of other protected trees, plus reducing the setback from a sensitive geological feature.
Drainage, impervious cover, and increased runoff are a concern as well – but not nearly as much as they are for the other PUD on the agenda: the Grove at Shoal Creek, planned for the 75-acre tract of former state land south of 45th Street, backing up directly to Shoal Creek (see "Frenemies of the Grove," Aug. 21). Opponents here have been hammering on the traffic issue as well – there's no outlet except onto two-lane Bull Creek Road – but surely for the Enviro Commission, the impervious cover and loss of natural vegetation must be bigger issues. Look at the planning priorities listed above – they're almost the same as the list of issues the neighbors and developers have been disputing: open space, green connections, setbacks, flood mitigation. Those are long-range goals, but it's not too early to aim for them.
The South Central Waterfront Initiative is hosting two pairs of events in the next seven days, to gather public input and let people see its plans for "a connected network of tree-lined streets, urban trails, parks, and open spaces." There are Walk & Draw "walkshops" starting under the Congress Avenue Bridge, at 6:30pm Thursday and 10am Saturday, and design workshops at the Texas School for the Deaf, 1102 S. Congress, Tuesday, Sept. 1, and Thursday, Sept. 3, both 6:30-8:30pm. See "Walk and Draw Along the Lake," Aug. 26.
HAAM Benefit Day: Health Alliance for Austin Musicians provides affordable health care for Austin's low-income, uninsured working musicians, with a focus on prevention and wellness. On Tuesday, Sept. 1, Austin businesses host musical performances all day. View the lineup in the center of this issue, or at benefitday.myhaam.org/lineup.
Austin's Historic Railroad Depots: At 10am Friday, Aug. 28, the Austin Steam Train Association and the Travis County Historical Commission will celebrate the installation of a new historical marker at the southwest corner of Third and Congress, site of the International & Great Northern Railroad depot built in 1888. With the Houston & Texas Central Railroad depot on the opposite corner, this intersection became the center of transportation in and out of Austin for decades.
The New Urbanism Film Festival, partnering with the Central Texas chapter of the Congress for New Urbanism, hosts a screening of short films on architecture and urban design, 7pm Monday, Aug. 31, at Alamo South Lamar, 1120 S. Lamar. www.newurbanismfilmfestival.com.
Austin Public Library's Free Summer Concerts wrap up this week with DBUK in Concert at Willie Mae Kirk Branch, 3101 Oak Springs Dr., 3pm Sat., Aug. 29.
Play groups for shelter dogs: Get a peek at the Austin Animal Center's new enrichment program during the initial training program for staff, volunteers and stakeholders – from 8am-noon daily through Sunday Aug. 30, in the play yards next to the Austin Animal Center, 7201 Levander Loop. During this training phase, adoption fees are waived for these dogs.
The Seaholm Intake facility, once the pump house for the Seaholm Power Plant, is an iconic art deco design. The City's Parks and Recreation Department has announced the top two design proposals for its redevelopment, and wants your input, through Sunday, Sept. 13, at www.surveymonkey.com/r/seaholmintake. More info at www.austintexas.gov/department/seaholm-intake.
Austin's Development Services and Transportation Departments are implementing Rough Proportionality as the state-mandated way to verify that transportation improvements required of developers during the application process are appropriate and fair. Monday, Aug. 31, 11:30am-1pm. One Texas Center, 505 Barton Springs Rd. #500. www.austintexas.gov/roughproportionality.
Clear out your kitchen drawer: What to do with those old dead batteries? Take them to any of APL's 21 locations, which are competing to collect the most batteries for recycling in the 2015 Austin Recharge Challenge. The winning APL location will get a $1,000 donation from Call2Recycle, Inc. to help fund a sustainable project, such as a bike rack or outdoor bench. Deadline is Sept. 18. A list of drop-off locations is at www.austintexas.gov/page/battery-drop-locations.