Saturday, November 22, 2014

Marshal Tract PUD: Briefing before Austin City Council

A briefing was held on the proposed PUD for the Marshall Tract before the Austin Mayor and City Council on November 20, 2014. This is the beginning of the zoning change process for the tract. The video  is embedded below:

Marshall Tract PUD from Paul Schumann on Vimeo.

In copying and embedding the video in this blog, some resolution was lost. You can also find the video as item 174 here.

The presentation was scheduled for 2 pm, and I understand it finally happened at 10:30 pm. Thanks to all the intrepid Lost Creek residents who saw it through, but especially to Jenn Lamb, LCNA President, who did a great job representing our interests.

Just remember, this was the first engagement in a protracted battle. We have to stay involved and committed to the protection of our interests to get this bad idea defeated.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Loop 360 Coalition of Neighborhood Associations

Loop 360 (Capital of Texas Highways) is designated a Hill Country Roadway (1) by the City of Austin. The City annexed the roadway and land on either side of it and protected it's character though land use zoning for new construction withing 500 feet and 1,000 feet of the road. The City also planned retail development only at the major intersections of the road. The rest of the land along the road was zoned for office, residential or civic use.

At the time of the creation of the Hill Country Roadway Ordinance, there was a lot of opposition from developers and land owners. This was described by E. Charles Palmer:

“Growth-control measures inevitably cause economic hardships in some areas. The Hill Country Road Ordinance, for example, has had considerable economic impact on the investors who purchased the land at inflated prices based on highest possible building density and height. The banks that lent money for purchase of the land are also hurt, as are the architects, contractors and others affected by loss of jobs. The developers accuse city government of being inconsistent and unprogressive, while city government consoles the developers on their poor business decisions. Despite efforts at compromise and talk of working toward common goals, the lines between proponents of rapid growth and the advocates of slower, more controlled growth seem to be more clearly drawn in Austin than in San Antonio. (2)”

620 was also classified as a Hill Country Roadway. However, incremental development, traffic congestion and widespread retail zoning has greatly degraded the road's scenic value.

Developers and land owners have continued to put pressure on the development of land along the Loop 360 corridor and left unchecked will gradually, incrementally destroy its character.

Loop 360 is already classified as a congested roadway by the Mobility Investment Priorities Project (3). “The rapid growth of Austin over the last several decades has exacerbated traffic congestion on Loop 360, as the city has nearly doubled in size every twenty years. Geography and environmental constraints contribute to limiting the right of way, complicating expansion plans,  because this particular segment of 360 crosses over the Barton Creek Greenbelt, an environmentally sensitive area.” Continued development of office space in the area will increase traffic congestion all over the city as people have to commute to the area. Rapid transit systems have to play a role in solving Austin traffic congestion problems and it it is not likely that a rapid transportation system would reach this area of office development.

Attempts to modify Loop 360 by TxDOT have met a considerable amount of resistance (4, 5, 6). Yet continued development coupled with the facts that there is no alternative north-south route in west Austin, and the lack of mass transit, is going to increase congestion in the corridor.

Two recent developments in Austin's land planning efforts – Imagine Austin (7) and CodeNEXT (8) – have possibly opened the 360 corridor up for expansion discussion once again.

The concept of a neighborhood being developed in Austin's CodeNEXT project could positively or negatively influence the development along 360. If the developers and land owners manage to get this corridor classified as a neighborhood, then they could possibly control its development based on an incremental approach of “more of the same”. With the establishment and recognition of a 360 CONA, we might be able to use the concept of the 360 corridor as a neighborhood to keep it a scenic roadway.

The 360 CONA would be modeled after the 2222 CONA (9) created by Peter and Carol Torgrimson

“The purpose of the 2222 Coalition of Neighborhoods Associations (2222 CONA) is to provide a forum for influencing development of the 2222 Hill Country Corridor in a manner that benefits the people who live, work, and enjoy recreation in the 2222 Corridor

Our focus is to encourage development that minimizes traffic safety problems, minimizes negative impact on the environment, preserves the natural resources, and blends aesthetically with the natural beauty of the Hill Country.”

I think it is imperative to the future of the Loop 360 corridor that this 360 CONA be developed. Together we can exert more power than we can individually. I have estimated almost 9,000 households would be contained within this corridor. If we don't have a way to look at the Loop 360 corridor as a system, understand its past and protect its future, we will see a degradation in the scenic road way and a decrease in the quality of life for us, and a possible degradation of the economic value of our homes. As the old saying goes, we re in danger of “being nibbled to death by ducks.”

If you are interested in representing your neighborhood in discussions about the formation of a 360 CONA, please contact me.

1. Hill Country Roadway Ordinance (1985)
2. E. Charles Palmer, The Balcones Escarpment,
3. Texas A&M Transportation Institute
4. Texas State Highway Loop 360:
5. Loop 360 Issues:
6. Austin Comp Planning: A Brief History:

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Cousins Presentation Monday Night

Tim Hendricks, Senior VP, Cousins Properties, spoke to the neighborhood at a meeting Monday (11/17). He presented visualizations of the two towers from various perspectives, as well as two other options for development of the land (all PUDs). Unfortunately, he gave us present no handouts and no permission to reproduce anything he presented. If any thing is made available, I'll pass it on to you.

Two things he said that I want to comment on:

  1. While I can't remember his exact words, in response to a question of why there was nothing in his proposed PUD for the neighborhood, he stated that PUDs were designed for the benefit of the land owner and the developer, not the neighborhood, or community at large. This is not true. The concept of a PUD was originated in the U.S., recognizing the power it provided, that:  “PUDs have not been recognized explicitly under state statutory law.  The establishment of any PUD must correspond with the general authority delegated to local governments by the state.  Thus, under Town Law for example, the PUD must "promot[e] the health, safety, morals, or the general welfare of the community" and it must be created "in accordance with a comprehensive plan”."
  2. He stated that he was reading our blogs and that they had errors in them. First, as far as I know this is the only blog addressing this issue. His plural blogs also might refer to Next Door Lost Creek. If that's so, then he is unethically reading correspondence specifically controlled to Lost Creek residents only. If that expectation of privacy is non existent, then I have a real problem with Next Door. As far is this blog is concerned, it's open for anyone to read and comment on. If he sees an error, then comment on it in public. I'm reduced to calculating or estimating all the variables around Cousins development of the Marshall Tract because I've not been given any information from Cousins. And, if Cousins has provided information to the LCNA, and they have kept it secret...

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Athletic Center's Proposed Site Near School Worries Neighbors

Katie Urbaszewski
Austin American Statesman, 11/13/14

Neighbors said, "they are worried that the building will affect their property value due to the building's height, proximity to their homes, and the noise and traffic the building will bring".

Seems like a common problem.

Read article here.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Issues Concerning the Proposed Development of the Marshall Tract as a PUD

The following is a list of issues related to the proposed rezoning of the Marshall Tract from Single Family (SF-2) to a Planned Unit Development (PUD) with a base General Office (GO) Zoning with many variances. This list has not been prioritized. Each issue has a link to further discussion on this blog – Marshall Tract Development. 

Please write to the City of Austin expressing the concerns you may have regarding this PUD development. All the important contacts are given in the post here. You can write to any or all of the city contacts, but please write the Mayor and City Council before their first discussion of this project on November 20th. Don't send all of these.  Choose the ones important to you and write it in your own words. Please include the case number in all your correspondence.

 Case Number: CD-2014-0015

  • The two proposed 373,000 square feet of office buildings would have a carbon footprint 4 times that of a single family development. It would require 354,000 acres of acres of average biological productivity land to offset the carbon dioxide generated. More
  • The proposed PUD would require numerous variances from the proposed base General Office (GO), and a variance from the Austin Hill Country Roadway ordinance. Whereas, the land could be developed as SF-2 with no zoning variances. See following blog post for descriptions of zoning classifications. More
  • The proposed PUD with two office buildings would increase traffic on already congested Loop 360 by 10% to 17%. More
  • The proposed PUD is in violation of Austin's PUD ordinance in many ways. Especially it fails to meet the basic criteria set forth in the ordinance: “Be consistent with applicable neighborhood plans, neighborhood conservation combining district regulations, historic area and landmark regulations, and compatible with adjacent property and land uses.” It fails to meet several Tier 1 requirements established in the ordinance. And, the developer has failed to demonstrate that the proposed PUD is superior through Tier 2 requirements. More
  • The proposed PUD is essentially spot zoning that is prohibited by law. More
  • The proposed buildings will dominate the landscape and are inconsistent with all other office buildings in the area. More
  • The proposed development of the Marshall Tract is intrusive into the residential development of Lost Creek. More
  • The proposed development of two tall office buildings will degrade several of the characteristics of the Lost Creek neighborhood valued by its residents: privacy, hill country vistas, trees, night sky, fresh air and low noise. More
  • The proposed PUD is inconsistent with CodeNEXT* in which compatibility with neighborhoods is a significant issue. More
  • The proposed PUD is inconsistent with the strategic direction for Austin expressed in Imagine Austin, a master plan approved by City Council. The land is not in any preferred growth corridor nor will it be served by any mass transit. It is in the master planned Hill Country Roadway Corridor. Austin's city charter states “ no public or private development shall be permitted, except in conformity with such adopted comprehensive plan or element or portion thereof”. More
  • The Marshall Tract was annexed into the City of Austin in 2008 as SF-2. It was a part of the Las Cimas property annexation which was zoned for offices. In the zoning report the office buildings on Loop 360 adjacent to Lost Creek were clearly marked “Lost Creek Commercial Area”. The Marshall Tract was correctly zoned upon annexation as SF-2. More
  • Cousins is a professed exploiter of circumstances. Their CEO has stated that Cousins will employ a strategy of urban trophy assets and opportunistic investments. By CodeNEXT terms Lost Creek is best described as a Driveable Suburban neighborhood, not urban. “Urban trophy assets” do not belong in the neighborhood. More
  • Lost Creek needs parkland. If Lost Creek had been developed under the Austin Parkland Dedication ordinance, approximately 20 acres would have been set aside for parks. Lost Creek has nowhere near that amount. If the Marshall tract was to be developed into residences, an additional 1 to 4 acres would be added as park land under the Parkland Dedication ordinance. More
  • The Marshall Tract is surrounded by property zoned Limited Office (LO), SF-2 and a Hill Country Roadway Corridor. General Office (GO) is not compatible with it's neighbors. More
  • The PUD will decrease the assessed value of residential land adjacent to the Marshall Tract. In Lost Creek, land with greenbelt behind it was appraised 13% higher than land with houses behind it. Land with offices behind it was appraised 9% lower than land with houses behind it. More
  • The two Cousins office buildings would consume 7 times more electricity than a residential development. More
  • The PUD will consume 13% more water than if the land was used for single family homes. Over ten years, a residential development will save 14 million gallons of water. More
  • The PUD as proposed would violate at least 10 of Austin's 12 Principles of Zoning. More
  • The tallest of the two office buildings proposed will be one of the highest altitude buildings in Austin. More
  • The economic value of the houses in Lost Creek is at least $600M. That far exceeds the value of proposed construction on the Marshall Tract, and this home owner value must be protected. More
  • Safety and security are important concerns for Lost Creek residents. Increased density of development in close proximity to housing can affect crime rates. More
  • The Marshall Tract is a remnant of one of many ranches and farms in the Eanes community. Almost all have been developed in one fashion or another. It has a rich archeological and early settler history. In its early days the Ford Motor Company used mohair from goats to make a soft, long-lasting fabric which was used to upholster the seats in its "tin lizzies". H.B. Marshall was one company's first mohair suppliers. The cemetery is a Texas Historical Cemetery (TV-C136). Members of the original founding Eanes family are buried here. The first Eanes settler – Alexander- is buried in an unknown location. Robert Eanes' grave (1805 – 1895) is also commemorated with a Texas Historical Marker (15597), although the grave is unmarked by a stone. More
  • The construction of the two office buildings will be an ecological disaster to the Marshall Tract. Natural habitat will be destroyed through massive cut and fill operations and Golden Cheek Warbler habitat will be destroyed. More
  • Austin is annexing a unique and valuable neighborhood at the end of 2015. It needs to be protected by Austin. More

* CodeNEXT is the new City of Austin initiative to revise the Land Development Code, which determines how land can be used throughout the city – including what can be built, where it can be built, and how much can (and cannot) be built. The process is a collaboration between Austin’s residents, business community, and civic institutions to align our land use standards and regulations with what is important to the community. This initiative to revise the Land Development Code is a priority program out of Imagine Austin, our plan for the future adopted by City Council in 2012.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

People to Contact to Express Opinions on Cousins PUD

Planning and Development Review Department
505 Barton Springs Rd.
Austin, TX 78704
Phone: 512-978-4000

For information about the commissions associated with the Planning and Development Review Department (land use commissions), click here.

Planning Commission
To make and amend a master plan, recommend approval or disapproval of proposed zoning changes and control land subdivision within neighborhood planning areas and submit, annually, a list of recommended capital improvements. See Article X of the City Charter and Section 2-1-166 of the City Code for additional duties.


Dora Anguiano, Planning and Development Review Department, 512-974-2104
Jerry Rusthoven, Planning and Development Review Department, 512-974-3207
Greg Guernsey, Planning and Development Review Department, 512-974-7668

Meeting information (agenda, time, date)  is at this link.

Contact Dora Anguiano, Planning and Development Review - 5th Floor, One Texas Center, 505 Barton Springs Road , (512) 974-2104. Deadline for comments is 4:30 pm, Wednesday the week prior to the Commission meeting. Only 1 copy needed.

Zoning and Platting Commission
Perform duties relating to land use and development, as prescribed by Title 25 (Land Development) of the City Code and other duties as assigned by the council. Section 2-1-188 of the City Code.

Pursuant to ordinances adopted by the Council, exercise control over platting and subdividing land within the corporate limits of the City and extraterritorial jurisdiction of the City to insure the consistency of and such plats or subdivision with the adopted comprehensive plan or element
or portion thereof. Recommend to the Council approval of disapproval of proposed zoning changes;


Dora Anguiano, Planning and Development Review Department, 512-974-2104
Jerry Rusthoven, Planning and Development Review Department, 512-974-3207
Greg Guernsey, Planning and Development Review Department, 512-974-7668

Meeting information (agenda, time, date)  is at this link.

Contact Dora Anguiano, Planning and Development Review - 5th Floor, One Texas Center, 505 Barton Springs Road , (512) 974-2104. Deadline for comments is 4:30 pm, Wednesday the week prior to the Commission meeting. Only 1 copy needed.

City Council
Physical Address:
301 W. Second St.
Austin, TX 78701

Mailing Address:
P. O. Box 1088
Austin, TX 78767

Phone: 512-974-2250
Fax: 512-974-2337



Speaking at City Council Meetings (from the City Council Web Site)
“Citizens may speak on most agenda items by completing an electronic registration in person on the kiosks located in the lobby of City Hall. Citizens can sign up at the kiosks after 12:00 noon on the Monday prior to the council meeting. You can speak on several items; however, citizens may not speak on briefings, executive sessions or on items where the public hearing has been closed.

Donating Time

You may also donate your time to another speaker if:

  • You were present when the speaker began to address council
  • You can specify the name of the speaker

A speaker may receive donated time from a maximum of four people present and may speak for a maximum of 15 minutes. The council may limit the number of speakers or the length of testimony in compliance with state law.

Consent Agenda Items

The council may adopt items without a separate vote on each item as the consent agenda. You may register to speak on consent agenda items.

You may speak one time, for up to three minutes on the consent agenda as a whole, regardless of the number of items for which you have signed up to speak.

You may not participate in removing more than three items from the consent agenda during a council meeting.”

Cousins Land Use Plan

Here's the current land use plan for the Marshall Tract.
Unfortunately in their specifications the total acreage of the 4 areas is more than all the acres in the tract.

Things We Don't Know Yet

There are two things that we know that we don't know about Cousins PUD. How many things should we know about that we don't know we need to know????

We don't know what the construction plan  is. How much will it annoy the neighborhood? Where's the construction traffic going to be routed? How much noise? How much dust and other pollutants?

All I can tell you is if they get what they've asked for, namely taking 50 feet off the top of the two hills and filling the space between, it's going to take some big equipment and I don't see how they will get that equipment in and out of the project through Las Cimas. Not my problem I guess unless they have to use Lost Creek Blvd.

How about equipment like this?
 OK, maybe I exaggerate. Something like this?
And, use of explosives?

It's going to be ugly, like strip mining on a smaller scale.

We don't know where the catchment is going. We know it's about 2 acres. The lowest spot on the Marshall Tract is in the south west corner. The square below in the left bottom area shows the relative size of the retention pond.
And, we don't know where the compressors, air handlers, and garbage collection equipment is going.

Zoning Specifications for Marshall Tract PUD

When a PUD is created, the zoning for the land is custom and does not necessarily conform to Austin's zoning classification. However, for communication purposes, a base zoning is identified. Cousins has chosen a General Office (GO) zoning as their base. Technically they are not asking for variances on the GO base, they are only using that as a structure for their custom zoning, and that will not fit into any standard classification. The characteristics of the custom zone will be embedded in the ordinance creating the PUD.

When Cousins filed their Development Assessment Application for a PUD, Cousins was asking for significant changes to the GO specifications.

The author states the PUD seeks GO zoning for the base district and proceeds to indicate all the City Code modifications to the proposed PUD District:

  • Maximum height 122 feet instead of 60 feet
  • A maximum of 50 feet of cut* instead of four feet of depth
  • A maximum of 35 feet of fill instead of four feet.
  • A maximum height of buildings of 120 feet more than 200 feet from Loop 360 instead of the Hill County Roadway ordinance of 40 feet.
  • An assertion for the Hill Country Roadway ordinance that the area is in a moderate intensity zone.
  • Instead of a Floor to Area (FAR) of 1:
    • 0. 5 for a building on property with a slope gradient of 15% or less
    • 0.25 for more than 15% but less than 25%
    • 0.2 for more than 25% but less than 35%
    • 0.1 for more than 35%
  • Can construct a roadway or driveway with a gradient of greater than 35% instead of not greater than 15%
  • Can construct a building or parking structure on a gradient of more than 35% instead of 25%
  • May provide for water diversion of up to two acres instead of 1 acre.

* This means they will take 50 feet off the tops of the two hills and probably fill in between them to create a level platform for their massive construction.

For more information on this Development Assessment Application, read Marshall PUD: Development Assessment Application.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Comparison of Trip Generations for Various Elements of the Marshall Tract

The data we have available to us from the Texas Department of Transportation for existing traffic is shown below:

The following is a list of estimates of average daily traffic counts generated by various elements:

  • 373,000 square feet of office space will generate 4,364 trips daily. This estimate was made using Institute of Traffic Engineers (ITE) tables. This seems low to me because Austin offices average 100 square feet per employee or for these two buildings, 3,730 people. With only two trips per day, 7,460 trips would be generated. All of this traffic would enter and exit through Las Cimas on to Loop 360. Loop 360 has 44,000 average daily traffic counts, so the two buildings would increase traffic on Loop 360 by between 10% and 17%.
  • 74 homes, according to ITE tables, would generate between 740 and 788 trips per day. All of this traffic would enter and exit on Lost Creek Blvd. increasing the existing 10,970 by 7%, and Loop 360 by 2%.
  • A 100 bed senior living center would generate 348 daily trips according to ITE tables on Lost Creek Blvd, or an increase of  3%. It would increase the traffic on Loop 360 by 0.8%.
  • I really don't have good data for a fire house without EMS. The best I could find was between 3 and 5 calls per day or 6 to 10 trips per day. This is not high from a traffic perspective, but is from a noise perspective, and getting the fire truck through gridlocked traffic on Lost Creek Blvd.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Carbon Footprint

I estimated the carbon footprints for single family homes and the two large office buildings proposed for the site. I used averages provided by the two calculators I used for this zip code when available and national otherwise. If the Marshall Tract was developed under the current SF-2 zoning, approximately 74 homes could be built on the property meeting all the conditional overlays. Each home would generate about 109 tons of carbon dioxide a year, or 8,044 tons of carbon dioxide a year for all the homes. The two office buildings totally 373,000 square feet of office space would have to violate many zoning conditions to be built, and would generate 31,500 tons of carbon dioxide each year. The carbon footprint for the office buildings alone, not counting any other development of the land, would be 3.9 times that of single family homes.

These translate into global acres of average biological productivity to offset the carbon dioxide generated as 90,403 vs. 354,016 acres

The two carbon footprint calculators I used were:

  1. For homes, Cool Climate Carbon Footprint Calculator
  2. For Office, The Green Office