Grove at Shoal Creek Punted Again
Council wants to consider the project when it's "not competing" for airtime
City Council was already exhausted last Thursday, Sept. 22, having spent the week before churning out the FY 2017 budget and most of that morning working their way through an extensive list of agenda items. It would be a good time, then, to break for dinner and then attempt to tackle three zoning cases. Right?
No, it became clear very quickly that the combination of the Cactus Rose Mobile Home Park (Lenox Oaks, on the agenda), St. James Missionary Baptist Church, and Grove at Shoal Creek zoning cases could easily push the meeting until the wee hours of the morning. About 200 people signed up to speak on the Grove planned unit development. The neighborhood activists proposing a scaled-back PUD feared that after a passionate debate on Lenox Oaks (and St. James, to a lesser extent), Council wouldn't have the stamina to fully digest their arguments.
Mayor Steve Adler earned himself a lot of brownie points with the crowd, which was restless and rowdy through a good bit of the proceedings, by finally figuring out the Grove should come before Council at a time "when it's not competing." The meeting still went past midnight, following a staff presentation and several speakers who couldn't commit to returning for another marathon public hearing. They'll bring the case back at the Oct. 20 meeting, and hope to devote serious work session time to it before then.
Council will also need to consider amendments from council members Leslie Pool and Sheri Gallo. Gallo is proposing 10 amendments tweaking building guidelines and addressing drainage and traffic concerns. She's also working on a resolution that would create a Local Traffic Mitigation Fund, which would take the Grove's property taxes and use the money to make infrastructure improvements to relieve traffic.
Grayson Cox, vice president of the Bull Creek Road Coalition, said his first impression of the Gallo amendments is that they "address some of the 'easier' issues that ARG has already agreed to – what we always said were the low-hanging fruit. They do not address the commercial entitlements or the allowable car trip cap, which, together, represent the most effective way to minimize the negative impacts of this development."
Pool, who raised questions Thursday night about both the traffic and affordable housing components of the application, laid out three amendment "packages" that address the housing issue (proposing 162 affordable units, vs. the current plan's 108), along with traffic, parkland, and lowering the caps on office and retail units.
In response to speculation that some of the proposed amendments could drain the developer's profit margin, Pool said: "Time after time, we discuss the need for affordable housing. Now, when a neighborhood is actually requesting more be built, concerns about maximizing the developers' profits arise. Even with additional affordable housing and increased parkland, the developers still stand to make a huge profit, more than most of us will see in a lifetime.
"The developers are requesting entitlements and fee waivers for at least $8 million, but flinch at providing additional affordable housing or increased parkland," Pool continued. "There is even a proposal for the city to pick up part of the tab for traffic improvements that will be needed as a result of this project. It's time we stop looking at maximizing the developers' profits and start maximizing the public good."