Developer agrees to a new design process for Austin Oaks property

Many residents who live near Austin Oaks protest the application for a planned unit development. Many residents who live near Austin Oaks protest the application for a planned unit development.[/caption]

A highly contested planned unit development proposal for a property off MoPac is changing course.


Austin Zoning and Platting Commission met Sept. 15 to discuss Twelve Lakes LLC’s application for a PUD at Austin Oaks, which is currently zoned for limited office and retail use and single-family dwellings.


The commission voted 8-3 to postpone a hearing on the case indefinitely and conduct a briefing on the progress of a charrette, a collaborative design process with residents,  on Nov. 3. Commissioners Jolene Kiolbassa, Jackie Goodman and Ann Denkler cast the dissenting votes.


NWA-2015-09-12-1-02The developer—through the Drenner Group law firm—has debated with the city about the application for more than a year. During that time, nearby residents have rallied against the proposal, saying it would further congest traffic and negatively affect the environment.


PUD zoning allows flexibility in building height and square footage in exchange for amenities which could include affordable housing units, additional environmental protections and funding for traffic improvements.


Jerry Rusthoven, manager of the city’s Planning and Zoning Department, said he was prepared to ask the commission for another postponement to give city staff more time to develop a recommendation on the application. But hours before the meeting began, the developer agreed to a charrette, Rusthoven said.


He asked the commission to postpone hearing the case indefinitely to see if any resolution or a new application came out of the charrette process.


A crowd of neighbors carrying small, yellow signs that read, “Stop the PUD” attended the meeting.


Robert Thomas of the Northwest Austin Civic Association said the group opposed the developer’s PUD application and asked for a charrette in June. He said the group did not want the case postponed indefinitely.


Commission Chairman Gabriel Rojas let one more resident speak before saying, “We don’t need to hear from the neighborhood anymore.”


Resident Brad Parsons took the podium anyway, saying he was not in favor of a charrette. Unless the developer withdrew the PUD application, the charrette would backtrack progress that city staff has already made, he said.


“What we need is the applicant to finish responding to the staff’s comments,” he said.


Parsons also claimed there was a persistent lack of good faith on behalf of the developer.


Attorney Stephen Drenner then addressed the commission.


“You get a sense for our challenge,” he said.


Drenner said the developer has mainly met with NWACA because the Austin Oaks property is located within the association’s jurisdiction. On Aug. 27, he said, the parties discussed a charrette.


Drenner said his client was ready to “take a time out” and see if a better design idea could be generated on which the developer, the city and the neighborhoods could agree.


Drenner said the developer would pay for the charrette process and hire an independent third party to facilitate. He said the developer would not withdraw the PUD application because he does not want to start from scratch if the charrette process yields no result.


“This is not an easy decision for the client to make,” Drenner said. “This has obviously been a difficult issue for staff and for some in the neighborhood.”


Rojas said the commission would like to leave the case in 2015, but he expected it would continue into 2016.



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