After hours of testimony over two (and a half) meetings, the Zoning and Platting Commission last week approved – with conditions – the Grove at Shoal Creek planned unit development. This is a major hurdle cleared for the Grove as it now makes its way to the full City Council next month.
The response to the commission's vote (6-4) was predictably mixed. ARG Bull Creek, Ltd., the company that owns the 75 acres, touted the decision in a three-page press release that highlights the additional 250,000 square feet of residential units and mostly ignores the other 10 conditions (which include a bike lane on Bull Creek Road, a trail connection to Jefferson Street, and other tweaks). "We've worked very, very hard to maximize the public benefits and environmental protections in our project while finding a way to achieve a majority of the community's requested benefits," ARG's Garrett Martin said in the release.
The Bull Creek Road Coalition, the neighborhood group fighting to improve the PUD, submitted its own list of proposed improvements to the commission last month. The coalition's vice president, Grayson Cox, said that while ZAP's recommendations raised many of the same issues, they were "unfortunately ... weakened as [ZAP] tried to get the developer's blessing and, we believe, incomplete in addressing all of the PUD's significant issues."
Another issue is the right-of-way proposed for 45th Street and Jackson Avenue. ARG bought a home on the street last year with the hopes that creating a public right of way through that lot will mitigate some of the development's traffic. Ryder Jeanes, who owns one of the homes adjacent to that lot, told the commission he and his family are concerned about losing property value if the plan goes ahead. Of the commission's decision to recommend the project, he said, "It seemed like minds were already made up."
Jeanes worries the developer's plan to put a street through the lot next door will lower his family's quality of life while at the same time restricting what they're able to do with their property. There's a deed restriction on their home (which doesn't apply to the right of way, which is sanctioned by the city). "By passing the Grove PUD you're drastically changing what we can realistically do with our properties," he said. "By not providing any solutions – either with more intensive zoning or alternative access – [the city is] abandoning us on an island of SF-2-zoned [single-family] homes."
Friends of the Grove activist and newly announced District 7 City Council candidate Natalie Gauldin praised the commission's recommendation, especially the increased residential units recommended by staff. "I'm very optimistic about the Grove going to City Council," Gauldin said. "I believe Council will see this as an opportunity to approve a project that is perfectly in line with the goals of Imagine Austin. I'll be there proudly supporting a compact and connected vision for Austin's future."
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