Apartments planned for Oak Creek

Sign the petition against rezoning for apartments

Background

In December a representative of Pinnacle Housing, a development company that builds affordable housing apartments, contacted the Northwood Neighborhood officers. They have an option to buy the 7+ undeveloped acres on Oak Creek between the Pegasus homes and the creek and storage units (map). They plan to build up to 120 units, a mix of 1-3 bedroom homes in two and 3 story buildings. They have named this the Elysium Park project.
Preliminary site plan  – Elysium Park funding application plan (PDF) – Elysium Park Cost Benefit Analysis

A significant number of the units will be reserved for affordable housing. The developer told us there will be an estimated 200 additional vehicles from this development that will be entering and leaving on Oak Creek and Silver Creek. The developer will eventually need to request a zoning change.

Pinnacle Housing is a for profit company, as are most development companies. Their goal is to make a profit by building apartments; this is understood and expected.  And like other apartment developers, they make their profits through charging competitive rents. Austin has high rental rates, which makes it difficult for many individuals and families to be able to afford to live in the city.

To encourage developers to offer reduced rent rates, the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) has an Affordable Housing program that offers tax credits – in other words, taxpayer money is used to encourage developers to offer reduced rents. This is a highly competitive process; there are nowhere near enough funds and credits to meet the demand here and throughout Texas.

Housing Tax Credits (“affordable housing”) process overview

Pinnacle Housing is requesting 9% tax credits, or about $1.5 million, along with $581,700 in fee waivers from the City. Developers often request fee waivers for adding water, wastewater and other infrastructure; when enough fees are waived, the utility bills of existing residents may be increased to compensate.

TDHCA has a detailed application; points are assigned or deducted for numerous areas. To gain points, the developer requests a statement of support – a resolution – from the City Council and from the State Representative. If the neighborhood is registered (we are), they can also contact TDHCA to approve or oppose the application; this also affects the points assigned. Frequently asked questions about the housing tax credit (HTC)
Nine percent tax credits details

Northwood position on apartments

The Association officers and  residents recognize the desperate need for affordable housing units in Austin. However, we firmly believe that this location is completely unsuitable for apartments, for reasons stated below. The “affordability” is not the issue. Preston Oaks, McNeil Estates, The Reserve at Northwood, Milwood and Walnut Crossing also oppose apartments on this tract.

We expect that something will be built here. Although, given the complete absence of parks or greenspace north of Parmer and Austin’s commitment to increasing green space, our first choice is a park, we realize that may not happen. Years ago we worked with the property owner to create suitable zoning; we simply want something that complies with the current zoning and conditional overlay (PDF download).

Summary of reasons for opposition

Apartments are not a good fit for that area due to increased traffic; limited street exits for all current residents; potential for increased flooding; safety issues due to traffic, trains and flooding;  negative impact on water quality; and the possibility of caves with endangered species. Additionally, Austin is committed to increasing green space and parks. This area would be perfect for that since there are no parks north of Parmer.  video of May 2015 flood – video of Oak Creek Drive being flooded – flooding slides shown to City Council during Feb 11 meeting

Current status/action needed

February 2016 – We need ALL residents who are at least 18 years of age to sign petitions showing that we oppose the apartments plan. If you wish to sign and live in a nearby neighborhood, either contact your neighborhood association officers or if needed, email northwoodpresident@gmail.com We will submit the petitions to the TDHCA and to our State Representative Israel.

Despite our efforts (details below), the City Council did approve the affordable  housing resolution – they lent their support to the developer’s request for tax credits for this project.  This was only the first step. Just because a majority of the City Council members agreed to support the affordable housing tax credit request does NOT guarantee they will support the rezoning.

Sign the petition

Petition locations – in Northwood and online

The deadline for the Housing Tax Credits is past; the developer has submitted their application for the Housing Tax Credits and Northwood has submitted our objection.
We expect the developer to continue with the rezoning request; we still need petition signatures against the rezoning.
Petitions are on the porches at
4507 Tamarack
3615 Oak Creek
4101 Oak Creek
13017 Silver Creek

An online petition is also available. Please only sign ONE petition. Anyone at least 18 years of age can sign.
Questions about the petitions? Email northwoodpresident@gmail.com

Contact our State Representative

Update 2/27/16: there is no longer a need to contact Representative Israel; please do NOT call or email her. Thanks in part to the numerous phone calls and emails she has decided to remain neutral rather than supporting the developer’s application for the Housing Tax Credits.

If you have not done so, please contact Representative Israel  when stating your reasons, please stay focused on traffic, flooding, safety, critical water quality zone and environmental. We want to keep these the main focus. It will only hurt our cause to say the development will cause increased crime or decreased property values.

Council’s Feb 11 vote on affordable housing resolution

As anticipated, a majority of the City council – including District 7 council member Leslie Pool (our council member) – voted against us and approved the affordable housing resolution. Council members Zimmerman and Troxclair voted against it, as we requested. We are very grateful for their support. Councilmember Zimmerman noted that “the neighbors are energized and getting educated on what to do…the opposition is rational and pretty strong.”

To watch the actual proceedings, go to http://austintx.swagit.com/play/02112016-632  (we are item 5, part 1 and part 2).

Communication from Council Member Pools office

Council District 7 Member Leslie Pool’s office emailed neighbors after the Feb. 11 meeting

The City Council Resolution was Step 1. What’s next?

The City’s letter of approval gives points towards this award. If Representative Celia Israel write a letter of approval, that also gets points towards the award; if she is neutral, they don’t get points; if she is against it, points are deducted. We have already met with Representative Israel to explain our position – she contacted us, thanks to all of the phone calls and emails. She listened to our concerns and will talk to the developer, then decide.
Northwood is registered with the Texas Dept. of Housing and Community Affairs and is submitting our own protest against the proposal; that may subtract points from the developer’s application. We also want to get as many petition signatures as possible showing our opposition to submit to Rep. Israel and the TDHCA.
The TDHCA must receive the applications, letters, packets and petitions by March 1; we want to get our packet and petitions submitted well before that date. We still need petition signatures!!!

Immediate next steps:

We need to get as many signatures as possible on the petitions – all residents who are at least 18 years of age can sign – and not just in Northwood! Residents in all nearby neighborhoods are encouraged to sign petitions; the various neighborhood associations will be contacting their residents.
We will send these to our State Representative Celia Israel (we met with her to explain her position; she is also meeting with the developer). We will also send these to the TDHCA.

Step 2

Assuming the developer either gets the 9% tax credit or otherwise decides to continue, the next step is a zoning change. We definitely have a voice in that; stay tuned for details.
It’s important to understand that if the developer does get the zoning changed to a category for apartments (there are several multifamily categories) and later decides to not build, that new multifamily zoning remains in place. Another developer can build anything within that zoning category.

City Council Feb. 11 Meeting recap

Many thanks to everyone who attended to show support, and especially to the neighbors who spoke, and a standing ovation to Ed English (Milwood resident and former District 7 Council candidate) who gave us invaluable advice. Our speakers – Matt Synatschk, Lyn Rios, Jeanie Beckham, Leanna Lang, Donna Blumberg and Amelia Tarbet focused on specific topics, such as the lack of fiscal notes, issues about the SMART housing requirements and problems with the site: traffic, walking distance to grocery, restaurants and other businesses, limited street access, dangers of the frontage road/Parmer access and flooding nearby and downstream. The traffic and flooding speakers had slides to illustrate their position.

Many thanks to everyone who sent flooding photos and video. Those were included in the flooding slides and did get attention! (Understandably, Council does not want another Onion Creek buyout situation). Council Member Ora Houston noted she had a problem with the flooding, and wanted to be sure that approving the tax credit resolution did not presuppose approving the zoning change approval; it does not. Per City Staff, there is precedent.

How do I stay updated?

Subscribe to NextDoor.com; we will be communicating the latest updates and action needed. If you want to be involved, email any of the officers.

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