Many thanks to the 40ish neighbors who took the time to go to City Hall on February 2. Our 4:00 “time certain” (earliest time the case would be heard) turned into a 6:45 discussion.
This is the first reading; there will be 2 more readings (date not yet set); the vote on the third reading is binding. Normally no public testimony is allowed after the first reading.
Recording of the City Council meeting; we are item 56 part 2. The first 20 minutes are the developer’s presentation; beginning at 20 minutes the Mayor called one speaker from Northwood then a pro apartments speaker and continued that pattern.
End result: The developer described their plans – including 4 and 5 story buildings – and had some people give “we need affordable housing” talks. They had no other justification. After some truly excellent presentations by Northwood neighbors, covering
- unsuitability of the proposed zoning for the area traffic/safety
- limited exits which make it impossible to evacuate everyone during a disaster such as a wildfire
- environmental issues (flooding and karst terrain, which often contains sinkholes and/or caves)
- poor mobility/walkability and how this site fails the goals described in Imagine Austin
- availability of more suitable tracts further west on Parmer
- testimony from a neighbor/social worker who is familiar with the needs of the target demographic describing the problems with the location (among other points, caregivers who travel to the clients’ homes often use public transportation)
To everyone’s great disappointment, our own Council Member Leslie Pool gave an impassioned speech FOR the affordable housing units. Pool also made the motion to accept the MF-4 zoning.
The Mayor, Council Members Casar and Renteria made “we need affordable housing” speeches and Council Member Houston said she was impressed with the developer and encouraged us to work with them. With our own council member in favor of the rezoning, all other council members also voted for it with very little discussion and no questions for the neighborhood. To say we were disappointed and disheartened is an understatement. They ignored all of the safety and environmental concerns and the comments from the Watershed Protection department’s representative about “2, possibly 3 known sinkholes”.
We (Northwood) were aware of one “critical environmental feature” (a sinkhole). The Watershed Protection rep noted that the neighborhood’s environmental facts were accurate. The Watershed Protection rep stated there are 2, possibly 3 sinkholes and that would be investigated further during the (intensive) site plan phase” which happens after zoning. (Note: even if all goes the developer’s way, they may discover site problems that prevent them from developing it. The 3/1/1979 City Council session included a rezoning request for this tract; it includes the quote “they do not plan development of Tract 1 until the sewer is in and terrain problems can be solved“. Unfortunately the location of those records with the terrain problem details is unknown.)
The third reading – date not yet decided – is the final and legally binding vote. There is normally no public discussion at the third reading. However, the developer still needs the tax credits funding from the Texas Dept. of Housing and Community Affairs; there is much competition for these tax credits.
We lost the first round and we are NOT finished yet. Stay tuned to NextDoor and the private Facebook Group for details.