Council Moves Forward with Plan for Austin Oaks PUD

Dec 23, 2016

After approving a major mixed-use development called the Grove at Shoal Creek, the Austin City Council is moving forward with another big residential and commercial project planned for West Austin.

The Austin Oaks planned unit development, or PUD, was the last item to be heard at the final council meeting of 2016. Discussion on the development centered around some of the same concerns as the Grove at Shoal Creek, traffic mitigation, environmental impact, and neighborhood preservation.

Attorney Michael Whellan, who represents the developer Dallas-based Spire Realty Group, told council that the plan was negotiated through a “design charrette,” meaning the developer worked with neighbors and experts to develop a project that everyone would be satisfied with.

“…Basically giving up the design control to a community exercise, which is what we went through,” Whellan said.

But the plan that came out of that process isn’t final. Like the Grove, the Austin Oaks proposal has been met with lengthy public meetings and hours of discussion at the city’s various boards and commissions. In November, the case was approved by the city’s Zoning and Platting Commission, though it failed to win a recommendation by the Environmental Commission.

It was past midnight last week when council members granted initial approval to the case along with the recommendations from Zoning and Platting. Council Member Ann Kitchen said it didn’t make sense to dive in further at this point.

“I am not comfortable now that we are talking at this level of detail now at 1 o’clock in the morning,” Kitchen said.

Though Austin Oaks would be comprised of mostly office space, it would include about 250 apartments, as well. The developer has committed to making 10 percent of those units affordable at 60 percent of the area’s median family income. They’ve also suggested committing some of those units to employees of the Austin Independent School District at a higher median family income, an idea that was met with some pushback.

Outgoing Council Member Sheri Gallo represents District 10, which includes the Austin Oaks site. She said there’s still plenty of time for negotiation before the plan is final.

“The purpose of the first reading is just to move it forward, so that people have the ability to really start fine-tuning the minutia, like we did with the Grove,” Gallo said. “I mean that was a perfect example of how that worked and changed from reading to reading.”

The case still needs final approval from the council. It’s expected to come back up for a vote in late January.