Supermajority Rules

Planning Commission sends PUD tweak to Council sans blessing

ARG co-owner Garrett Martin
ARG co-owner Garrett Martin (Photo by Nina Hernandez)

Though at various points in the Jan. 12 Planning Commission meeting it was pointed out that the proposed changes to planned unit development rules were about more than just a single project, neighborhood activists and the representative for the proposed Grove at Shoal Creek couldn't resist bringing the development to the forefront over and over again. Under the proposal, PUDs on unzoned land that do not secure approval from the Planning Commission will require a supermajority of City Council to pass.

There's already a similar code on the books, but it refers instead to land that is being rezoned. Neighbor­hood groups like the Bull Creek Road Coali­tion support the change because they're already skeptical of the Grove PUD, which lies on unzoned, formerly state-owned land. While the Grove developers, ARG Bull Creek, Ltd., have said they have designed a proposal that should have no problem clearing the superiority hurdle, their lawyer used his airtime last Tuesday to complain not only that was it bad policy, but also that it was aimed directly at his client.

Ultimately, the Planning Commission decided to move the proposed code change forward to the full council without a recommendation either way. Some commissioners appeared moved by the Texas General Land Office's last-minute letter to Zoning and Platting expressing opposition to the change on the grounds that it will make selling state-owned land (unzoned, like the 75-acre Grove property) more difficult.

Once a PUD fails to clear the supermajority, the developers cannot, according to Jerry Rusthoven of the Planning and Zoning Department, file another PUD application for 18 months. There was some misunderstanding on the dais about whether this meant the developer would have zero options during that time. In reality, they can have the land traditionally zoned – without the higher PUD hurdles.

When the Chronicle asked ARG co-owner Garrett Martin about that dynamic at a Grove event last month, he answered very carefully. "We always have the option to change to a traditional zoning," he allowed. "At this stage, we're committed to trying to find a middle ground with everybody."

Editor's note: A previous version of this story referred to the Zoning and Platting Commission as the land-use commission in charge of recommending PUDs to Council, when it is actually the Planning Commission. We regret the error.

Got something to say? The Chronicle welcomes opinion pieces on any topic from the community. Submit yours now at

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More by Nina Hernandez
Indoor Skydiving Lets You Train Your Dragon in Virtual Reality
Indoor Skydiving Lets You Train Your Dragon in Virtual Reality
Taking to the skies with iFly's latest immersive VR

March 27, 2019

New Study Changes City Council's View of Flood Risk
New Study Changes City Council's View of Flood Risk
Puzzling over a variance on Avenue D, and spending the first of the 2018 bond funds

March 15, 2019


ARG Bull CreekLtd., Bull Creek Road Coalition, Planning Commission, Zoning and Platting, the Grove at Shoal Creek

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle