Logistical Issue Delays Grove Public Hearing
The Zoning and Platting Commission postpones public hearing on Grove at Shoal Creek to July 5
At the end of a staggering, eight-and-a-half-hour public hearing on Tuesday night, June 21, the Zoning and Platting Commission had little choice but to break off and continue at a later date. Due to a logistical issue, the hearing on the Grove at Shoal Creek planned unit development is now postponed until July 5, when the commissioners plan to push it back even further to July 19 so that all interested parties can be present.
With around two dozen speakers remaining at 1:15am, it became apparent that the commissioners could not realistically listen to all of them and make a coherent recommendation in the same night. They spent a significant amount of time arguing over the date of postponement, mostly because the PUD is supposed to go before the full City Council in August.
Grayson Cox, vice president of the Bull Creek Road Coalition – which opposes the PUD as proposed – did not hold out a lot of hope leading into the meeting, but presented a list of 12 amendments the group would like the commission to consider. These are broken into three categories (land-use, transportation, and parkland and drainage) and include requests for city-approved noise mitigation, $3 million dedicated to traffic mitigation and improvements, and additional park acreage. "These amendments will also increase compatibility with the surrounding neighborhoods, respect the infrastructure limitations of the site, and provide greater compliance with Imagine Austin," the proposal reads.
The trademark contention that has attracted so much attention to this particular PUD was in full force again. Parks and Recreation Board Member Alison Alter reiterated her view – which clashes with that of some commissioners – that the parkland dedication isn't a "gift" from the developer to the city, but rather a requirement in exchange for the benefits a developer gets from doing a PUD.
"It's unfortunate that a number of people have that sort of perception that we have to take what we can get, otherwise we're going to somehow lose out," said Cox. "And that's not the reality of the situation at all, because we know now what the baseline zoning is per staff analysis. And what the developer was asking over baseline was an extra million square feet of development over what they could reasonably expect to get through conventional zoning. A million square feet of buildings is a lot of money. That is major, major money."
On the other side, Friends of the Grove co-founder Natalie Gauldin was one of several speakers pointedly asked where they live in relation to the site. She was also asked about any financial association FotG might have with the developer, to which she replied that FotG "has not received any money from the developer."
"It was unfortunate that I and other citizens in favor of the project were questioned about our residences," said Gauldin. "Honestly, I felt like many of us were being interrogated as if we had done something wrong. We were simply trying to express our opinions on a zoning case."
This comes after the city's June 15 Environmental Commission meeting, where the commission declined to recommend the PUD as environmentally superior. That decision was made after yet another marathon meeting during which the commissioners heard from PARD staffers, discussed the fate of the heritage oaks on the site and their roots, and argued with one another about role and procedure.
After the ruling from Environmental and action by ZAP in July, the PUD will move on to the full Council, where Cox said the real fight will begin.