April 9, 2016 general meeting minutes

The general Northwood Neighborhood meeting was held at the United Christian Church and was called to order at 1:05 PM. On the dais were President Leanna Lang, Vice President Jeanie Beckham, Treasurer Nancy Grijalva, Secretary Donna Blumberg and Zoning Committee Chair Mat Synatschk. About 50 neighbors attended the meeting.

Special guests were Meg Davis, Milwood President, and Louisa Brinsmade, Land Policy Advisor, and Michael Gaudini, Policy Advisor from Leslie Pool’s office.

President Leanna Lang called the meeting to order at 1:05 PM. After introductions, the topics were summarized: Balcones Park, raising dues, garage sale, the rezoning and apartments.

Balcones Park improvements

Meg Davis, President of Milwood Neighborhood Association, discussed the Balcones Park improvement project. They received a grant from the City for $200,000 that requires them to raise $15,000 cash and get 1200 volunteer hours. All donations of any amount are appreciated; $50 and more donations get a sign in the front yard. www.balconespark.org has details. As a neighborhood we support the Balcones Park improvement project and encourage neighbors to donate to it.  

Treasurer’s report

Treasurer Nancy Grijalva reported on the current amounts in the main account and the legal and research fund and described our expenses; the main expense is the newsletter. (Despite the popularity of social media such as Facebook and NextDoor, the newsletter is still the only way to reach all neighbors).

Dues 

Dues are voluntary and only a small number of residents pay. The dues pay for the newsletter, Easter Egg Hunt, July 4 and other activities and events. These expenses are increasing; dues have not changed since 2011. A motion to raise the due to $20 beginning 2017 was made, seconded and passed by a wide majority.

Please pay your dues if you have not done so! how to pay

Garage sale

The neighborhood spring garage sale is Saturday May 14 (avoiding Mother’s day weekend).

We have been charging $2.00 to participate which used to cover the cost of the two Statesman ads; need to change that to $3 since the ad cost has increased. We also advertise on Craigslist and NextDoor for free. Several people who often go to garage sales stated that no one checks the Statesman ads; we can avoid that cost. Someone who handles estates sales suggested advertising on estatesales.net, it costs about $50. Will investigate that.

Apartments: rezoning application to MF-4

The MF4 zoning Multifamily Residence Moderate-High Density district (City’s zoning category descriptions, PDF) is intended to accommodate multifamily and group residential use with a maximum density of 36 to 54 units per acre, depending on unit size and mix. This district is appropriate for moderate-high density housing in centrally located areas near supporting transportation and commercial facilities. Based on this and the 7 acres, up to 378 units could be built under this zoning category even though part of the tract is in the floodplain and is not buildable.

The site plan is not legally binding.

The current zoning is IP/CO, industrial park with a conditional overlay. The former owner needed the IP zoning as they planned to build a water quality testing lab. The conditional overlay limited the options to a small neighborhood office and similar structures with a maximum of 45,000 square feet.

Volunteers needed

We need volunteers for numerous areas!

  • Make signs (was very helpful in communicating to neighbors about this meeting)
  • Set up carpools for downtown meetings – who can drive and has space, and who wants to go but cannot drive. Need someone to coordinate carpooling.
  • Phone bank – call neighbors who do not use email or NextDoor
  • Deliver flyers to homes

To volunteer, email northwoodna@gmail.com; include “volunteer to oppose apartments” in the subject line.

Fundraising 

We need an attorney and possibly other specialists such as a geologist to review the developer’s geological site plan report. This area of Austin is atop karst (limestone with caves and underground voids) and is in the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone; not all geologists are karst experts. How much would this cost? Consultants typically charge around $300/hour; we don’t know how many hours would be needed. And there are other undeveloped land areas around us (such as Robinson Ranch); we may need funds when those areas are developed.

Next steps

Once the Zoning staff have completed their review we (workgroup) will meet with the Zoning and Planning commissioners and City Council individually. For the public hearings EVERYONE needs to attend. Zoning and Planning Commission and City Council  definitely notice when many people attend meetings to support or oppose a project. Once a firm date has been set we will share that information through NextDoor, our Facebook pages and signs.

Traffic Study

1,700 vehicle trips per day are projected from the apartments so the developer will do a Neighborhood Traffic Analysis, which is a smaller version than the Traffic Impact Analysis, which is required for 2,000+ trips per day.

There were questions regarding traffic counts and other information from TxDOT; we have been unable to get this information. One neighbor works there and offered to help.

Petitions

We have 1,044 signatures on the general “no apartments” petition.

We are working on a valid petition for property owners within 200 feet of the tract and already have a number of signatures from Northwood neighbors, the church across Oak Creek and Del Robles neighbors to the north.

Someone (developer?) is circulating a “pro apartments” petition for this project at UT – the daughter of a neighbor was approached in the library and asked to sign. She refused; many other students who do not know the background have signed. We need to get a copy of that petition.

Del Robles/Hidden Estates neighbors ideas

A neighbor from Del Robles stated that they have successfully fought “affordable” apartments that were also in an unsuitable location and suggested we contact their neighborhood association; we are already talking to them.

The street Del Robles was recently extended to the Fricke stables. Maybe it could be an option for another exit for the apartments to the frontage road? They would strongly oppose that. 

Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs – public hearing re Housing Tax Credits

The Austin public hearing regarding the 2016 Housing Tax Credits projects is April 12. At the April 12 meeting all comments are recorded.

The TDHCA awards the housing tax credits; it is very competitive. This is the only project in Austin; this project is competing with projects in Round Rock, Pflugerville and Georgetown.

We need people to go to the April 12 hearing to speak against giving this project the 9% tax credits. Even if the project doesn’t get the 9% credits, the developer will probably apply for the 4% credits. (TDHCA 9% housing tax credits – 4% tax credits)

Per Louisa Brinsmade, Land Policy Advisor for Leslie Pool,  this area is good for Housing Tax Credits because we match the census tract income target. Census tracts are redrawn yearly; our state senator has input about this. This area is not meeting the needs of the affordable community.

Why is rezoning before the detailed site review?

There were many questions about a detailed site plan, geological information and, heritage trees. However, the detailed review of the site, including the detailed site plan, is not available until after the rezoning change has been granted.

All of the environmental details are based on the specifics of the zoning such as the location of the buildings, impervious cover and such.  The geology of the site (karst, floodplain) is another concern; all of these are addressed after the zoning change.

  • Someone asked about heritage trees; this site does have them. If a heritage tree is in a bad location, the developer can pay a “mitigation” fee to remove the tree.
  • No detailed discussions with Council members until after staff information is available. We want to review their results and recommendations before the workgroup meets with City Council members individually.
  • What if the rezoning to MF-4 is granted and the apartments are not completed? Does the MF-4 zoning remain? Yes, unless a Conditional Overlay is written into the rezoning that states the MF-4 is only for this specific project.

Timeline for zoning cases

Zoning and Planning Commission public meeting is scheduled for May 12 and that date may change – we will share updates as soon as we learn them.

At the zoning hearing, anyone can talk for 3 minutes. Then the Commissioners vote. They can either 1) Support, 2) Support with conditions or 3) Deny the zoning request.

Then the rezoning application goes to the City Council. There are 3 readings.

City Council readings

The first reading is usually – but not always – scheduled 3 weeks after the Zoning and Planning Commission public hearing. At the first hearing people can sign up to speak for 3 minutes. You can sign up to speak and then donate your time to another person – sign up at the kiosk at city hall. You need to be present; when your name is called just state “donating my time to —-”.  All public readings are after 4 PM; there is no set starting time.

Second reading – there is no public hearing unless invited by City Council (we can talk to council members individually and ask one to invite us). Can sign up for citizen’s communication; there are a few spots and often regulars who sign up to speak on a variety of topics so be early to get one of these spots! The third reading may or may not be the same day as the second reading.

What everyone can do

Stay involved! Once we know what zoning staff recommends, we will share information about contacting the Planning and Zoning Commission members and the City Council.

The meeting adjourned at 3:00.