It was an emotional but mostly positive agenda item regarding an at-times intensely divisive mixed-use development called The Backyard, and for the most part Bee Cave officials, residents and staff displayed a unified front in moving forward with the project that has been in the works for years.
During its March 26 meeting, Bee Cave City Council voted to repeal and replace an ordinance regarding zoning and development standards related to the controversial development project.
The decision comes more than a year after the developer of The Backyard filed a lawsuit against the city of Bee Cave and three of its officials. City leaders and the developer took steps in January to end the litigation process through approval of an infrastructure-centered site plan.
“It is with great pleasure that the city of Bee Cave and The Backyard management team jointly announce the resolution of our differences and the end of a lawsuit that has lingered far too long and brought consternation to far too many,” Mayor Monty Parker said in a statement issued immediately after council’s vote. “We believe the Backyard development plan is exceptional and represents a major improvement in so many ways over its previous version. We believe it will be better, both for the City and the Backyard ownership.”
In retrospect, the lawsuit played several important roles, Parker said, adding not only did it provide time to get the right players in place, but it also allowed for direct and collaborative conversations to re-evaluate and rework a plan that would not have been as productive or successful had it gone forward in its previous iterations.
“Where we are tonight is the result of lots and lots of conversation,” Council Member Jon Cobb said during an emotional speech from the dais, adding he is extremely proud of council members and city staff for weathering the long-lasting litigation to come to the new agreement with Backyard developers.
City documents state The Backyard’s developer requested to amend its planned development district ordinance to allow the project’s music venue to open to a capacity of 2,000 attendees prior to requiring a connection to Hwy. 71, and for non-venue uses and buildings within the development to receive a certificate of occupancy irrespective of a connection to Hwy. 71.
“This is a net positive for the city,” said Lindsey Oskoui, Bee Cave director of Planning and Development, adding the new agreement is improved on many fronts. “Time has brought wisdom and benefit to the project.”
Bee Cave resident Carrell Killebrew disagreed, stating during public comment the new agreement is bad for many reasons, including that it does not bring in substantial tax revenue for the city and does not meet many requirements initially required by prior ordinances.
The new proposal agreement shifts the city’s most recent agreement with the developer, which was a Jan. 22 decision approving a site-development plan for The Backyard that was strictly infrastructure-based.
Parker said during that meeting the developer could not get a certificate of occupancy for the project until it had a connecting road from the development to Hwy. 71, which is an infrastructure hurdle that is still not resolved.
Council’s approval of the amended planned development district carries with it several changes from the prior agreement. Beyond the reduction in capacity for the music venue from 3,410 to 2,000, other changes include the removal of three planned data centers and a distributed energy center, and they will be replaced with office, restaurant, brewery and distillery uses.
Changes have also been made in terms of vehicular and pedestrian circulation. One of the biggest changes is Willie Way, one of the main roads within the Backyard, will be straightened, and there will no longer be a roundabout.
The agreement also calls for an updated traffic impact analysis from the most recent 2014 study.
Many of the amenities and features of the most recent development district remain, including a hilltop garden with trails and seating areas; a hotel and annex with supporting services, such as meeting and event spaces; and four stand-alone office buildings.
The development is planned to be located roughly 1,000 feet west of the intersection of Bee Cave Parkway and RM 620 and adjacent to Bee Cave Central Park.