Higher Hurdles Considered for Land Bought from State

The Capital City is dotted with state-owned property. Texas leaders have hinted that several of those properties could be on the market soon awaiting plans of private developers. Those plans could be met with a higher bar if a new Austin ordinance takes effect. But as our Jeff Stensland explains, critics fear the change might cripple Austin's growth.

AUSTIN, Texas -- Sara Speights, with the Bull Creek Road Coalition, lives a stone's throw from these 75 acres of land.

Developers want to create an 18-acre park, and build a mix of homes, apartments and office space.

"Their very own traffic analysis estimates it will put 26,000 car trips a day on little old Bull Creek Road. That's overwhelming," said Speights.

A proposed ordinance would raise the bar of approval if the city's Planning or Zoning and Platting Commissions don't recommend plans for the former state-owned land.

Instead of six yes votes, plans would need nine.

"What it does, then, is encourage compromise and coming together on these developments in a way to make them better developments," said Speights.

The change also gives neighbors the ability to shoot down plans they don't like.

That new rule would apply to all state-owned property that is then sold off to private developers, just like what is expected to happen with Lion's Municipal Golf Course in the next few years. Ward Tisdale with the Real Estate Council of Austin says that could cause developers to get cold feet, thus devaluing property the state currently owns.

"This change, first of all, is contrary to state law. Second of all, it is just bad policy. We live in a majority rules environment, and that's the way decisions should be made at the government level," said Ward Tisdale with the Real Estate Council of Austin.

Tisdale says raising the bar could gut the city's comprehensive plan, which calls for a compact, connected community.

"We are morphing into a true urban city. In order to do that, we need to have the tools available for more dense development," said Tisdale.

The Grove at Shoal Creek disputes Speights' numbers on the traffic impact.

A representative says that -- by their estimation -- due to trip distribution, the Grove is anticipated to generate 9,300 daily trips on any one segment of Bull Creek Road.

The Planning Commission postponed its decision on the new rule until next month.

It will come back before the City Council on Jan. 28.

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