Grove Parks Not (Yet) Superior

Developer has more work to do if it wants staff's blessing

Vandals defaced a sign saying the Grove will improve traffic at the intersection of 45th and Bull Creek. (Photo by Nina Hernandez)

Last week, the Parks and Recreation Board met and, after hours of testimony and discussion, affirmed city staff's finding that the Grove at Shoal Creek planned unit development application (submitted last March by developer ARG Bull Creek, Ltd.) is not superior when it comes to parks. PARD Direc­tor Sara Hensley expressed hope that the city, developer, and neighborhood groups could make their way to an agreement that will "work for everyone," but admitted: "I don't think everyone's going to be happy, though."

The situation is more tense than ever as the project makes its way to City Council. It took months for board member Alison Alter, who was appointed last year by CM Sheri Gallo, to get the item before the Parks board in the first place. Board Chair Jane Rivera said that they had also been asked "multiple times, in multiple ways" by CM Leslie Pool to take up the matter.

When it finally did make it on the agenda on May 24, it resulted in nearly three hours of discussion, between questions from the board, the findings from Parks staff, and testimony from the developer and neighborhood groups. As it stands now, at least the parks element of the PUD application does not, according to the city's criteria, exceed the minimum requirements laid out in the 2007 Parkland Dedication Ordinance – which they must in order to qualify for PUD zoning.

Staff could only analyze 16.63 of the 18 acres ARG has proposed, because two acres are considered "flex space" and ARG hasn't made the final call on where those two acres will be, though ideally, for the city at least, it would be included in (what is now planned as) the 14-acre signature park. Additionally, portions of the land that are designed to be open space cannot be credited toward the parkland because they're within the 100-year floodplain (from the 2007 ordinance) or a critical environmental feature (such as the water quality pond).

ARG takes issue with that calculation by PARD, saying in a statement that those areas "absolutely will be enjoyed by people living and visiting the Grove as much as the active play areas." They blame PARD for not giving them enough guidance on how they could achieve superiority, although an entire slide in the staff's presentation detailed how they might get there. They would need to: 1) place the two acres of flex space in the signature park, 2) add three acres to the signature park, 3) install a trail connecting the property to the Shoal Creek Greenbelt, and 4) make the current park areas more accessible to the public.

"When the developers bid on this property, they took a business risk and they paid more than $40 million for a property that was unzoned," said Alter, "and the neighborhood shouldn't pay because they took a business risk and perhaps didn't factor in everything that should've been factored in, that many other developers did factor in. And Austin shouldn't pay because ARG/MileStone took a business risk that may or may not pay off."

As we go to press on Wednesday, June 1, the Grove is in the process of going before the Environmental Commission. All the attention focused on the Parks board has been redirected there. The Bull Creek Road Coalition has been asking residents opposed to the current Grove proposal to call and email the commissioners in advance of the meeting. The developer has raised eyebrows by sending a flier to the residents at the West­min­ster senior living community near the Grove, promising them a limo bus ride and barbecue dinner in exchange for their testimony.

For people whose lives can be sometimes be routine, that's an attractive offer. But at least one resident reported being unwelcome because of their opinion. In an email forwarded to the Chronicle, ARG's consultant Jason Meeker told the resident he would find it "hard to provide transportation back to West­minster from City Hall for those who do not support my client."

"I was clearly joking," Meeker later explained. "Of course our bus is round trip."

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 The Grove at Shoal Creek
Interpretations of Grove Mediations
Interpretations of Grove Mediations
How is everybody feeling after the Grove goes through second reading?

Nina Hernandez, Dec. 9, 2016

Grove at Shoal Creek Punted Again
Grove at Shoal Creek Punted Again
Council wants to consider the project when it's "not competing" for airtime

Nina Hernandez, Sept. 30, 2016

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


The Grove at Shoal Creek, Jason Meeker, Bull Creek Road Coalition, Alison Alter, Parks and Recreation Board, Environmental Commission

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

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