The House on 45th Street
Neighborhood groups raise the alarm about the Grove at Shoal Creek
The email Chris Allen sent to the Rosedale Neighborhood Association and local media was meant to raise hell. In it, the architect and RNA steering committee member warned that the developer of the proposed Grove PUD, ARG Bull Creek, Ltd., had sent its attorney to meet with "senior management from the city's Development Services and Planning Departments" to discuss the Grove at Shoal Creek "behind closed doors," with no Transportation staff present. "The result? The transportation review has been abruptly aborted and all of the traffic concerns have been magically resolved," he wrote sarcastically.
Allen also raised concerns over a house on 45th Street that ARG purchased. The developer has plans to demolish that house and create another entry point to the tract. The Bull Creek Road Coalition is monumentally opposed to the idea, its president Sara Speights envisioning a rash of "trucks and moving vans" navigating roads she says the neighbors already have trouble backing in and out of, and where "children walk to school."
ARG expressed surprise of its own that there was any outcry at all, pointing out that the review process has gone on for a year. "Our TIA has gone through an unprecedented, thorough and very conservative review," it said in a statement. "Last week our team of traffic engineers and consultants met with City engineers and staff to walk through the City's final few remaining technical review comments. The City explained what changes they wanted us to make and we accepted those changes."
Natalie Gauldin asked the Friends of the Grove Facebook group to table the heated debate until the city releases more information. She pointed out that the BCRC has been complaining about Bull Creek being the only access point to the property. From her perspective, this plan would fix that. "I'm pretty sure [ARG] always intended to tear down the house," she said. "This isn't a secret project. It was drawn out with the design last year. It's all over the place. That design has this exit point drawn into it. ... I don't really think they're shocked." She said Allen and his wife Gina Allen, who is also a committee member, have "spread untruths" about the development, and she also pointed to District 7 Council Member Leslie Pool's appearance at last week's RNA meeting, where the CM tried to alleviate some community concerns, as an example of how rumors have been spread.
Pool told the Chronicle she is going to "get to the bottom" of the issues. As for the RNA meeting: "I told the neighbors that the staff members are not at fault and should be supported in their attempts to get this project done right. I told them I was eager to know what had happened and that I hoped no one loses their job for bringing to light what some staff felt was a forced closure of the iterative development review process." At press time, the Planning Department had not responded to multiple requests for comment from the Chronicle.
The RNA intends to continue the fight. "We're selling out every day," said Allen, "and part of our problem, part of the reason we're struggling with infill development like this is that the same people who have created Austin's affordability crisis – the development community, who've made Austin expensive and made Austin grow explosively – those same folks are now pressuring all the city departments and City Council to approve everything as fast as possible with no scrutiny because it will help affordability. That's an urban myth, literally."