The Parks and Recreation Board has determined that the planned unit development project on the Austin American-Statesman property is not a superior park project.
Based on this determination, Council further encouraged Parks staff to continue to work with the Applicant in an attempt to address the Council’s list of site goals as well as the current concerns of the Parks Department.
Tuesday’s vote was 6-1-1, after much debate and some arguments over various voting scenarios, with Richard Suttle, who represents developer Endeavor Real Estate Group, and Parks Department Director Kimberly McNeeley, proposing suggestions for actions the board could take. . Once it became apparent that the language suggested by McNeeley would get six votes, Board member Laura Cottam Sajbel moved the motion.
Cottam Sajbel is the Board Representative on the South Central Waterfront Advisory Board. The group’s vision plan for the south central shore of Lady Bird Lake was formally adopted by city council in 2016. It originally filed a motion to reject the proposed park plan, but only five members were willing to take this route. .
The Statesman Building sits on an idyllic waterfront property along the city’s hiking and biking trail at 305 S. Congress Ave. When the parks board received a briefing on the PUD two weeks ago, two park planners Scott Grantham and Atha Phillips, the city’s environment coordinator for the program, were unsure whether they would have enough resources. information and other details as the council met on Tuesday. Their skepticism turned out to be correct.
At the start of the presentation on Tuesday, McNeeley told the board that while the ministry and developer have made progress in their negotiations, “we’re not at the top level yet, but we have a commitment from our team and a candidate’s commitment to resolve (outstanding issues).
Grantham reiterated this sentiment. “When it comes to parks, staff find the applicant’s proposal fair or acceptable. Not superior.
Some of the outstanding issues include access to the bat viewing area from their home under the Congress Avenue bridge, a planned holding pond under the bat habitat, and a park entirely ceded to the city. The existing walking and cycling path on the property is a servitude of the park. The developer’s proposal to build a 70-foot jetty so close to the bats also raised concerns; the board prefers to reduce the landing to 30 feet.
Board members expressed frustration at being asked to vote on a park plan that was still under negotiation. President Dawn Lewis said the number of items still to be finalized “gives a feeling of vagueness and uncertainty”.
Grantham told the board: “I just wanted to make sure you have confidence in knowing that this is something that we are actively working on.”
“I appreciate this for an update,” replied Rich DePalma, board member. “But you know my kid is actively studying right now and he’ll get money if he gets an A, but I’m not giving him that money until he gets it.”
While Endeavor began working on the plans for the Statesman site two years ago, board members generally felt they were in a rush to review a plan that was not fully prepared.
Suttle said that because the developer had been in the city process for two years, he applied a remedy in code to move the case forward. “If you just go ‘round and ‘round and ‘speaking of things, I can write a letter to the city saying, “I am ready to hold hearings whether there is a recommendation or not. And after two years, we decided it was time.
The Planning Commission is expected to review the case at its October 26 meeting. The city council will make the final decision some time later.
Photo courtesy of Google Maps.
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