West Austin News, Vol. 23, Issue 41 (August 26, 2010)

City Council Says “No Thanks” to Neighborhood Plan for Brackenridge Tract

By Martha DeGrasse

After three years of hard work, negotiation and compromise, the West Austin residents finally saw the proposed Central West Austin Neighborhood Plan put before the City Council last week. Although the City Council approved the neighborhood’s requested limitations on new development, some parts of West Austin were excluded from the plan. Most notable of these is the Brackenridge Tract, which includes the West Austin Youth Association and Lions Municipal Golf Course. The Brackenridge Tract is currently owned by The University of Texas, which has made clear its intention to increase the revenue it receives from the property.

Throughout the West Austin Neighborhood Group’s three years of meeting with city planners, the Brackenridge Tract was part of the neighborhood plan. The neighbors’ stated goal from the outset was to help plan for “intelligent” development of the Brackenridge Tract.  So many members of WANG were very disappointed at what they saw as the eleventh hour exclusion of the Brackenridge Tract from the plan. “We are concerned that the Council’s decision to exclude the Brackenridge Tract could have a dramatic and adverse impact on our neighborhood since it would allow an immense and unplanned development,” says Michael R. Cannatti, secretary and past president of WANG.

The university is in the process of considering many proposals for development of the Brackenridge Tract, but the one that has gotten the most attention is a plan from Cooper, Robertson & Partners, a New York-based architect group. That proposal would add up to 6,600 new residential units to the neighborhood, more than doubling the number of homes in the part of West Austin that is west of MoPac.

The decision to exclude the Brackenridge Tract from the Central West Austin Neighborhood Plan was not made by the entire City Council. The council’s integrity officer asked asked council members Laura Morrison and Chris Riley to recuse themselves from the decision. They both have relatives who work at The University of Texas, and UT could clearly be affected by the Brackenridge Tract’s inclusion in the plan. Council Member Bill Spelman also recused himself because he is a professor at UT. Ironically, WANG members suspect that these Council members who have ties to UT may have been more supportive of the neighborhood group than some of the other council members.

Although this is a disappointing time for WANG, the group’s members realize that they have made some good progress. The neighborhood plan calls for restrictions on development along Windsor Road, Exposition and Enfield, areas that were once considered likely to be heavily developed with many more apartments.  “To the extent that we have avoided that, we have had some success,” says Cannatti.

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