Environmental Commission recommends Concordia sports complex variance

By NINA HERNANDEZ, Austin Monitor

Earlier this month, the Environmental Commission recommended a variance for Concordia University’s sports complex project in North Austin.

Concordia is working on a number of improvements to upgrade its sports facilities in compliance with NCAA rules, including an artificial turf soccer field, track and field with natural grass, eight tennis courts and a parking lot. The university is seeking a cut-and-fill variance from the Lake Austin Watershed Ordinance for its facility at 8200 Kilian Rd.

The variances would allow the site to change the cut-and-fill caps outlined in code to 15 feet and 12 feet, respectively. The university said it needs the variances in order to construct NCAA-compliant training and playing facilities, as well as the associated parking, pedestrian improvements, biofiltration ponds and rain gardens.

Map by Kimley-Horn via the city of Austin.

This level of proposed grading is necessary due to the natural slope of the property, the location of critical environmental feature setbacks and the constant elevation needed for a soccer field. According to staff, all of the developed runoff from the project will be treated by two biofiltration ponds, two detention ponds and rain gardens. That will keep any runoff from flowing into the critical environmental features.

Staff recommended the variance with three conditions: The university must promise to ensure no runoff drains into the critical environmental feature east of the track and field; install native grasses and wildflowers in any disturbed area adjacent to the track and field; and dedicate a 1-acre tract as a conservation easement.

Allison Kennaugh, project manager for the applicant, said the easement has the support of arborist staff. “Everybody at the county and city was really excited about the idea of dedicating an acre of land with existing vegetation where Concordia will give up all of their development rights to that piece of property in order to add it to the (Balcones) Canyonlands Preserve,” she said.

The commission voted to recommend the variance with staff caveats and three conditions of its own. Commissioners want the applicant to work with city staff, Travis Audubon and the Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Plan Citizens Advisory Committee to develop an outdoor lighting plan to include existing and new campus sports facilities. They also want the applicant to include at least 10 percent electric vehicle charging stations within the new parking area, and include plants and gardens that support butterflies, bees, hummingbirds and other pollinators.

The commission voted unanimously to approve.

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