Austin Oaks hearing postponed again

A public hearing on the Austin Oaks redevelopment project was indefinitely postponed March 15.

A public hearing on the Austin Oaks redevelopment project was indefinitely postponed March 15.

A public hearing on the Austin Oaks redevelopment project was indefinitely postponed at a March 15 Zoning and Platting Commission meeting.

City staffers requested the indefinite postponement, which means no future date was set to hear the case. If the case is not placed on an agenda within six months, it will expire.

Commissioner Sunil Lavani made the motion to approve the postponement, which passed 7-0. Commissioners Dustin Breithaupt, Ann Denkler, Betsy Greenberg and Jolene Kiolbassa were absent.

The commission previously postponed the case indefinitely at its Sept. 15 meeting, during which representatives of Austin Oaks developer Spire Realty said they had agreed to a charrette, or a collaborative design process, with nearby residents with the aim of creating a plan for the property that residents would favor.

The week-long charrette took place in January and ended with a plan that would require planned unit development, or PUD, zoning for the property, which would allow the developer to go above existing height and density limits in exchange for certain amenities.

The charrette design includes seven office buildings, a hotel, a multifamily residential building, retail and restaurant space, and two parks, with a total footprint of 1.2 million square feet. The Austin Oaks property currently houses 12 office buildings.

According to a March 15 memo from Austin Planning and Zoning Department staffer Victoria Haase, the developer is still preparing a land-use plan and a traffic impact analysis based on the charrette design. After the developer submits those documents, city staff will need time to review them, Haase said.

“It is uncertain how much time will be needed for staff review,"Haase wrote. "Subsequently, it is uncertain when this case will be ready for discussion by the Zoning and Platting Commission."

Prior to the meeting, resident Brad Parsons, who has long been vocal in his opposition to a PUD on the Austin Oaks site, wrote a March 14 letter telling the commission that the Sept. 15 indefinite postponement expired on March 14.

“If the Zoning and Platting Commission improperly votes on the case tomorrow, Mar. 15, it will be voting on a case that should have legally already expired,” Parsons wrote.

Parsons also noted that several members of a working group for the redevelopment issued a Feb. 20 letter of no confidence in the charrette design and process. The working group, made up of surrounding neighborhood leaders and Spire Realty representatives, was formed to serve as a project management team for the Austin Oaks charrette.

Members of the Balcones Civic Association, Allandale Neighborhood Association, North Shoal Creek Neighborhood Association, Northwest Austin Neighbors and Williamsburg-Charleston Place Homeowners Association signed the letter, which said the charrette design did not adequately limit building heights or minimize traffic or incorporate mass transit.

Parsons said the working group met with the developer on March 1 to request changes to the charrette design, and the developer refused.

Not every neighborhood group is opposed to the project. The Northwest Austin Civic Association passed a Feb. 10 resolution endorsing the charrette process and supporting the final design. According to the resolution, 79 percent of residents who participated in the charrette live within NWACA’s boundaries.

Ben Luckens, volunteer project manager for the charrette and member of NWACA, wrote a letter to the commission in support of the postponement.

“This process takes time, and I ask that you grant an extension to the pending zoning case so the designers and engineers have time to complete their task and for city staff to review the new submittal materials,” Luckens wrote.


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