Rezoning process for future Rosedale School property rankles some Allandale residents, city council members

The Rosedale School is currently located on 49th Street and is scheduled to move to a brand new building in the Allandale neighborhood in 2021.

The Rosedale School is currently located on 49th Street and is scheduled to move to a brand new building in the Allandale neighborhood in 2021.

Update: Austin City Council voted on June 20 to approve the rezoning for the forthcoming Rosedale School and medical clinic on Richcreek Road at the site of the former Lucy Read Pre-Kindergarten school.

Austin ISD is in the process of building a new $40 million campus for the Rosedale School, which offers educational opportunities for students who have severe special needs.

The Rosedale School—currently located at 2117 W. 49th St.—is scheduled to move in 2021 to a brand new building at the former site of the Lucy Read Pre-K facility at 2608 Richcreek Road in the North Central Austin neighborhood of Allandale.

As part of the project, AISD is in the process of working with an unnamed partner to construct a medical clinic on site at the new school to provide holistic care to both Rosedale School students as well as other severely medically disabled children from the surrounding area.

Elizabeth Dickey, principal at the Rosedale School, told a group of Allandale residents in a public meeting on June 10 at the Lucy Read campus that many students would not be in school if they were not at Rosedale due to their medical needs, and the in-house expertise in medicine, counseling and family issues will hugely benefit Rosedale students.

“I can’t state enough what a difference this would make in the quality of life for our students and for our kids,” Dickey said. “I’m just amazed this has come together and we have this possibility before us.”

In order to allow the medical clinic to be located at the school, AISD must receive a zoning change from the city of Austin. On June 20, Austin City Council will consider changing the zoning of the 9.3-acre property from a single-family lot to general office with a conditional overlay that will restrict certain uses of the property.

That conditional overlay means AISD would limit the square footage of the medical clinic to 20,000 square feet and prohibit all uses for the building besides a school, a medical facility and certain uses required by federal law.

Neighborhood concerns

Allandale resident Joe Parsons, who attended the June 10 meeting, said the neighbors support the vision for the Rosedale School and the medical clinic, but after the zoning change, they are concerned about what could happen if AISD were to turn around and sell the property in the future.

“It seems like rezoning it this way was the fastest way to get it done, not the best way to get it done,” Parsons said.

Drew Johnson, AISD’s director of bond planning and controls, said the concern from neighbors is fair and the district is sensitive to the issues that residents have brought up. It is not unheard of for the district to sell property––in 2017, AISD sold the Baker Center in the Hyde Park neighborhood to Alamo Drafthouse.

Still, Johnson said with so many resources being poured into the Rosedale School through the bond program, imminent resale is unlikely.

“I would imagine it to be very challenging to foresee the district wanting to sell (the property) anytime in the near future. It's a really special campus we're going to build just for these students with complex medical needs,” Johnson said.

In hopes of addressing neighbors’ concerns, AISD is working on adding additional protections on the property to reinforce restrictions in what Leah Bojo of the Drenner Group––the consulting firm working with the district on bond projects––called a “belt and suspenders” approach.

The AISD board of trustees discussed a restrictive covenant that would mirror the conditional overlay zoning request filed with the city. Approval of that document may come in front of board members in August.

Additionally, Mathias Segura, AISD’s chief operations officer, wrote in a memo to city council that the AISD board “expressed general support” at its June 17 meeting for a memorandum that would make a commitment to flip the site back to its current single-family zoning should the district ever decide to sell the property in the future.

“I think we're trying to do what we can to address (concerns) and still be able to see the project move forward,” Johnson said.

Improving the process

At Austin City Council’s June 18 work session, District 6 Council Member Jimmy Flannigan said he would not slow down the project’s timeline, but expressed some concerns with the complexity of the zoning process. The public zoning district, or “P” zoning, Flannigan argued, should allow the city’s partners to do the work they intend without the need to create complicated solutions.

According to the district, the P zoning process is time-intensive and involves more uncertainty than the track AISD is on now. In a memo to the Allandale Neighborhood Association, Segura said “the process of rezoning to P and then proceeding through the conditional use permit process would likely take a year or so in the best case.”

“This timeline relies on the school district beginning design before even the zoning is in place,” Segura wrote.

Jerry Rusthoven, assistant director of planning and development for the city, told council on June 18 that the general office-conditional overlay zoning made AISD and its consultants comfortable that the use of the facility would be permitted and would not be challenged.

“That’s not satisfying to me. We don’t do zoning because AISD asked for it a certain way, we do zoning as a matter of public policy,” Flannigan said. “It’s not really anybody’s fault, but for this to show up on the worst agenda probably of the year (before council’s July break) in a way that is forcing us to do it quickly––I’m uncomfortable with the whole thing.”

District 9 Council Member Kathie Tovo agreed with Flannigan that the city should work to be consistent with its zoning processes for every applicant and take a look at the public zoning district–even before the city potentially adopts the wholesale changes to its land development code that are currently in the works.

Pending the city’s approval of the zoning change and the district’s approval of the restrictive covenants this summer, construction is set to start on the new Rosedale School in May of 2020 to prepare for an opening date of August 2021. Meanwhile, according to Johnson, negotiations are still ongoing with the partner who would occupy the on site clinic.

“I would suspect that certainly before we start construction, we’ll know whether this partner is going to be participating with us,” he said.

In the meantime, some reshuffling will occur among schools in North Central Austin. Students from Doss Elementary School are temporarily at the Lucy Read campus as their own school is rebuilt. Doss is set to open in August 2020, clearing the way for construction at the new Rosedale School in Allandale.

As those chess pieces move around the board on the district’s tight timeline for modernization products funded through the 2017 bond, Parsons said Allandale residents will continue to advocate for their neighborhood and voice concerns he says come from legitimate worries about the long-term, precedent-setting effects of rezoning.

“It’s easy to dismiss the group of neighbors, the voices of homeowners in a neighborhood as just a bunch of NIMBYs. To that I would say we welcome the change,” Parsons said. “We voted for this (in the 2017 AISD bond). Build the school, build the clinic. Do all of it. Just don’t change the zoning, because of that lasting impact.”


Austin bars scrap for survival during monthslong shutdown

Bars are fighting through red tape to reclassify as restaurants, offering takeout orders and finding new uses for their spaces. Local business owners said they are finding every avenue possible to survive.

According to the report, 380,174 total COVID-19 cases have been reported in children nationwide as of Aug. 6, which accounts for approximately 9.1% of all confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
REPORT: COVID-19 cases in children increase by 90% nationwide in 1 month

As school district officials across the U.S. prepare for the start of the 2020-21 school year, 179,990 new COVID-19 cases were reported in children nationwide between July 9 and Aug. 6—an increase of 90%, according to a report compiled by The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association.

Burnet Road and Braker Lane
City pushing to finish Burnet Road improvements before Austin FC stadium opener

Austin construction crews will work to finish improvements at the intersection of Burnet Road and Braker Lane in North Austin before Major League Soccer franchise Austin FC plays its first game in the upcoming stadium at McKalla Place.

Austin City Council is considering moving the forensics lab services and internal affairs department out from under the Austin Police Department and into civilian roles. (John Cox/Community Impact Newspaper)
Police cuts, community reinvestment, reimagining public safety on table as Austin City Council looks to adopt budget

City Council is considering a cut of more than a $150 million to the police budget.

The University of Texas will host football games at Darrell K. Royal Veterans Memorial Stadium this fall after an announcement from the Big 12 Conference on Aug. 12 that the fall sports season will continue. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
After Big Ten and PAC-12 cancel, Big 12 announces fall sports season will roll on

The conference football season will begin Sept. 26, and fan capacity in stadiums will be up to each of the 10 member universities, according to the Big 12.

Future Austin ISD Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde spoke to trustees at a meeting Aug. 11. (Courtesy Austin ISD)
Austin ISD makes it official, hiring Stephanie Elizalde as next superintendent

Elizalde was serving as Dallas ISD’s chief of school leadership prior to the hire.

A trial related to a speeding ticket in Pflugerville on Aug. 11 was the first-ever binding criminal jury trial to take place via videoconferencing, according to Travis County Justice of the Peace Nicholas Chu. (Courtesy Travis County Justices of the Peace)
‘You’re on mute’: Travis County pilots virtual trial by jury

The low-level misdemeanor trial featured a YouTube user commenting on a juror's cat and one potential juror—who was not selected—whose name appeared on Zoom as "Goth Brooks."

A screen shot of Dr. Mark Escott's face
Travis County health officials turn toward positivity rate to track local coronavirus risk

Recent statistics show the positivity rate for testing could be an early sign of local coronavirus trends to come.

Chief Equity Officer Stephanie Hawley speaks to trustees at a board information session Aug. 10. (Courtesy Austin ISD)
Outside equity assessment at AISD could evaluate hiring practices, past closures

A report could look at the root causes of inequities and offer the district best practices as potential solutions.

Sweetgreen is set to open in South Austin on Aug. 12. (Courtesy Sweetgreen)
Sweetgreen opening first Austin location on South Congress on Aug. 12

The salad and grain bowl chain plans to open another location this fall on The Drag.