Change would allow for 325-unit apartment
complex near 2222/City Park Drive
By CASSIE MCKEE, Four Points News
A controversial zoning request for the Champions tract at the corner of RM 2222 and City Park Road will go before the Austin City Council on Sept. 22 for second and third readings.
Residents in the nearby Glenlake neighborhood say they plan to attend the meeting to protest the zoning change, which would allow for a 325-unit apartment complex to be built.
“This is a big issue for City Park Road neighbors and anyone driving RM 2222/ Loop 360 and Courtyard/360 because of the increased traffic with no light at the exit (or) entrance to the apartments, and potentially no real left turn prevention from the driveway onto RM 2222,” said longtime Glenlake resident Linda Bailey.
Those living nearby Champion tract 3 say they object to the development’s conceptual site plan, which shows one of the apartment’s main entryways on City Park Road. She said the road has a dangerous curve and she’s personally witnessed three rollovers in the area.
“We are opposed to that driveway going onto City Park Road,” Bailey said. “It’s not right to put up an apartment house and then put the driveway in the worst possible, unsafe place and hurt everyone driving up and down City Park Road.”
The other exit drive would be a right-out only onto RM 2222, Bailey said. She said those in her neighborhood have met with a city of Austin traffic engineer and a representative from the Texas Department of Transportation who both said it would be impossible to put a traffic light at either of the two driveways.
The zoning request was recommended by the Zoning and Platting Commission at its May 17 meeting. City planner Victoria Haase told Four Points News in May that staff recommended the zoning request because it allows uses that are supported under the city’s Imagine Austin comprehensive plan, which encourages higher density development at the intersection of arterial roads and major highways.
“In addition, the 325 apartment units will help to alleviate the housing shortage that we have in the city of Austin,” Haase said.
District 10 city council member Sheri Gallo, who represents the area, said in a recent newsletter that she has hosted numerous meetings with many of the nearby neighborhood groups.
“Our office will continue to listen to input and work with the neighbors and property representatives to make sure the property owner addresses neighborhood concerns,” Gallo said. “We are also assisting neighbors in getting additional information and explanations from staff.”
City Council heard public testimony from neighbors regarding the proposal during its
June 23 meeting and passed the recommendations of the ZAP Commission with an additional condition of requesting that city staff include a mechanism to limit future development of the eastern track of the site, according to Gallo’s newsletter.
Bailey, who also volunteers on the board of the Glenlake Neighborhood Association, said the neighborhood has had to retain its own legal counsel because it does not feel that the city is listening to their concerns.
“Gallo only wants to listen to one (person) per neighborhood,” Bailey said. “This is why we have to get a lawyer. We don’t feel like we really have a place at the table.”
In addition to the traffic concerns, Bailey said residents are also concerned about the possible environmental impact the project could have for Bull Creek. She said the developer has requested a number of variances to city ordinances such as the Hill Country Roadway Ordinance and Lake Austin Watershed Ordinance.
“This property is subject to the Hill Country Roadway regulations but is ‘grandfathered’ to 1980 water-quality regulations,” said another longtime Glenlake resident, Carol Lee. “Since Bull Creek contributes to our drinking water supply, how this property is developed will have a direct impact on the quality of our potable water supply.”
Lee told FPN in May that she opposes the applicant’s request for a mixed-use zoning designation and would prefer a more specific multi-family designation.
“Mixed Use allows anything, anywhere and this property does not lend itself to multi-use purposes,” Lee said. “If they insist on developing apartments, the zoning should be changed to MF-1, as per the zoning category that allowed the 459-unit Gables Grandview apartments to be developed on the bluff on the opposite side of RM 2222 from this property adjacent to Jester Estates neighborhood.”
She said she would prefer a zoning of General Office as that would have the least impact on traffic congestion, especially during weekends when many travel to Emma Long Park via City Park Road. She said it would also have less of a lighting and noise impact on the adjacent neighborhood.
Bailey said she would like for more of the negotiations between the developer and the city to be made public, so that surrounding residents could be included.
“We have to wait until the last minute and go to the Sept. 22 meeting for the second reading,” Bailey said. “Nobody’s told us what’s in (the agreement). We have no idea if anyone’s going to advocate for the neighbors, which is why we have to get a lawyer. It’s isn’t right, it’s expensive.”
“I don’t really think we’re unreasonable,” she added. “I’ve driven up and down City Park Road every day for 18 years. I know where the problems are.”
City Park neighborhoods give feedback to City Council
Residents of City Park Road neighborhoods met on Sept. 7 and compiled their feedback regarding the Champion tract 3 conceptual site plan. They sent their concerns to District 10 Council Member Sheri Gallo on Sept. 13. This is the letter sent by Carol Lee, Linda Bailey and
The natural conditions of Tract 3 make it challenging to develop. This is neither the fault of the neighbors nor of the City. In 1996 the property was given remarkable exemptions from development regulations that help protect our public drinking water supply and designated scenic roadways. The Watershed Protection Ordinances and the Hill Country Roadway Ordinance are the primary regulations that help protect the water quality of Bull Creek/Lake Austin and provide for development that is compatible with the area and our neighborhoods. We would like to see any proposal to develop this property respect these regulations to the maximum extent possible.
The application to rezone the property for Multi-Family development has grown in scope to concern matters that are properly subject to determination in the site planning process when much more information is known. However, we are being asked to comment about a conceptual plan that proposes deviations to most every provision of the HCRO, and even to the relaxed standards of the 1980 Lake Austin Watershed Ordinance to which the property is “grandfathered.”
We are willing to agree to some limited deviations of the HCRO and LAWO subject to certain conditions, further described below, that would be enforceable by the public stakeholders.
1. Use the 2222 entrance as the primary entrance for the complex, as was assumed in the TIA. Any access onto City Park Road must be limited to use by fire, EMS, police and other emergency vehicles, with driveway barrier to prevent access by non-emergency vehicles.
2. No fill in the creek or tributaries or critical environmental features. The main 2222 entrance
should be a span bridge rather than a box culvert. The main drainageways for the area should not be obstructed in any way.
3. Maximize the placement of the development within areas of the property where the slope is
<25%. Any variances should be “the minimal amount necessary” so use the flatter areas before proposing construction on steeper slope areas. Exercise the special exception granted to leave only a 25-foot undisturbed vegetated area (vs 100 foot required for other properties) to move the development closer to 2222, but not in the floodplain or CEF. This should eliminate the need to place 8,000 SF on slopes >35%, allowing compliance with LAWO 13-3-621 and 13-3-636.
4. Include stormwater and water quality ponds that would capture sediment and other pollutants
in the runoff before it reaches the creek. Construct the ponds prior to other construction activity that changes the natural grade of the land, such as cutting into slopes and placing fill material.
5. Commit to locating mechanical equipment at ground level or within a pitched roof design that minimizes the visibility and noise of the mechanical equipment from all angles.
6. Ensure there can be no further development of Tract 3 (i.e., the Eastern portion).
7. Avoid granting entitlements via Settlement Agreement/Special Exceptions Ordinance that would override regulations that would be applicable with details of a formal site plan. For example, when further environmental and drainage studies are done, additional limitations endemic to the site may reveal themselves—such as if the groundwater table is 30 feet, it may not be possible to excavate to the depth desired for the parking garage.