The “Final Open House” meeting for our neighborhood planning process will occur this Thursday, March 4, 2010 (6:00 p.m – 9:00 p.m.) at the LCRA Red Bud Center, 3601 Lake Austin Blvd. At this stage of the process, City Staff has prepared and posted drafts of the “Transportation,” “Land Use,” “Neighborhood in Context” and “Parks, Open Space & the Environment” chapters for the plan at http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/planning/neighborhood/cw_austin.htm#Draft%20Plan. Please attend the Open House to provide feedback and make corrections to the drafts. This is our last chance to review and comment on the final draft plans before the plan is presented to Planning Commission and City Council, and to provide feedback about the plan and the planning process in the form of a survey. There will be no formal presentation at this meeting, so please attend at your convenience. You can also take an on-line survey at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/XQ3GVZ8.
In general, we believe that the draft chapters reflect a lot of work and captures many of the points the community made during the process. However, there are two very significant omissions because the planning process failed to meaningfully address the Brackenridge and Austin State School tracts in terms of how they fit within our vision for the future of our neighborhood. Therefore, the draft chapters must be improved if this plan is to help us preserve our neighborhood. Those of us in the neighborhoods on both sides of MoPac who have been working on the Plan for the last several years have submitted detailed comments and have proposed changes to the draft plan during the process. For example, our revisions to the “Transportation” chapter are posted at Neighborhood Stakeholder Revisions to Draft Transportation Chapter _March, 2010_, and our revisions to the “Land Use” chapter are posted at Neighborhood Stakeholder Revisions to Draft Land Use Chapter.
Without attempting to capture all of the details, here are some basic points the City needs to hear regarding the “Vision Statement” and the “Land Use” chapter.
1. The Staff’s “Vision Statement” language in the Plan — that “new office, commercial, retail or multi-family development should be located along the edges of the neighborhood” — sounds safe enough, but “edges” is too vague to provide a meaningful guideline, and to the extent its meaning can be gleaned from the Plan it includes locations most of us would not want to see new development, such as “Lake Austin, Lady Bird Lake and 35th Street,” Lake Austin Boulevard, Lions Municipal Golf Course, WAYA, Johnson Creek Trail, Eiler’s Park and Deep Eddy Pool, “the medical district located between 38th and 31st Street between Lamar Boulevard and Shoal Creek,” and Shoal Creek Hike and Bike Trail is the edge of the neighborhood as well as Lamar Boulevard. We most certainly do not envision “new office, commercial, retail or multi-family development” being located at these “edges.” It is also unclear whether “new” means a commercial or multi-family use on a property not now being used as such or whether it refers to redevelopment of existing commercial sites. We spent months developing a Future Land Use Map to establish the location of future land uses. Accordingly, we recommend that development or redevelopment of existing commercial or multi-family property should be in accordance with the Future Land Use map adopted by the community. Any new commercial or multifamily development should be located on the State School or the Brackenridge properties if they are developed (as opposed to existing residential areas).
2. The current draft of the Land Use chapter is a good first step but it needs to do a more complete job of reflecting neighborhood interest in preventing increased traffic and parking on neighborhood streets and in guarding against potential negative effects of future redevelopment of W. 35th Street properties on the abutting single family homes. We also need additional language to more fully express our concern about the impact of redevelopment of the commercial properties between 34th and 35th Street on the school and the neighborhood. The language in the Plan should be revised to more fully and clearly make these points.
3. Another major problem with the current draft of the neighborhood plan is that City Staff has not allowed the Brackenridge Tract to be included in the Land Use chapter, and has provided very limited planning options for the Austin State School tract. In the current draft, the Land Use chapter would appear to allow multi-family along the Exposition side of the Austin State School tract, contrary to the overwhelming weight of opinion of the neighborhood. In addition, the Land Use chapter entirely fails to address the community’s stated preferences for the Brackenridge Tract. The first preference is to encourage UT to keep the Lions Municipal Golf Course, West Austin Youth Association, and Field Research Laboratory uses in place with consideration made for additional recreational opportunities on site, and to otherwise comply with the parameters established by the 1989 Brackenridge Tract Development Agreement. The second preference is that, in the event that the Brackenridge Tract is (re)developed, it should be done in harmony with the adjacent neighborhood, transportation system, and natural resources, as set forth in the neighborhood’s proposed revisions to the Land Use Chapter.
Please attend the Open House to provide feedback on the drafts. You can also take an on-line survey at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/XQ3GVZ8 where you will be shown a summary of the Plan and given an opportunity to comment.