This is the sixth in a series of public meetings to gather stakeholder feedback on the proposed Watershed Protection Ordinance.
Up until now, the bulk of our focus has been on how to shape new, “greenfields” development. For this meeting, we turn to the subject of redevelopment. At this meeting, we will be discussing the Redevelopment Exception 25-8-26 & 27. Last December, the Austin City Council asked us to specifically consider possible improvements to these sections.
To date, only two projects have been built using the 2007 Barton Springs Zone Redevelopment Exception. Our City Council is now asking staff to work with the community to determine if changes are warranted to:
Extend its use to other properties (e.g., residential) both in and beyond the Barton Springs Zone;
Allow a portion of a site to use the exception (instead of the entire site); and
Look at other possible options.
We’ll use our discussion with the stakeholders to help inform our report back to Council prior to the end of April. We will also discuss the citywide 2000 Redevelopment Exception.
For reference, please explore the following links:
Prior to the year 2000, development requiring a site plan was required to fully meet the environmental code in all aspects. The Council at the time was wrestling with the challenge of how to encourage revitalization in the city center rather than in the suburban fringe. So Council passed the first “Redevelopment Exception” to allow landowners to retain their existing developed footprint (measured in impervious cover) and be exempted from many environmental requirements, notably stream buffers and impervious cover limits. In exchange, they were required to build an engineered water quality "pond." So landowners could retain their existing impervious cover and not have to set back from creeks—but their new runoff would be slowed and treated in a pond. This was an advance over the status quo of direct discharge of untreated runoff to creeks.
But the 2000 Redevelopment Exception limited western watersheds (Barton Springs Zone, Lake Austin watersheds, etc.) to 25% of a given site’s existing impervious cover. A landowner wanting a more complete redevelopment would have to reduce their impervious cover to 15 or 20% or whatever the watershed class limit specified. Perhaps not surprisingly, only a handful of sites used the ordinance in these areas. So in 2006-07, a stakeholder group led by Council Member Lee Leffingwell worked with staff to propose a new Barton Springs Zone Redevelopment Exception to address this concern. Properties were allowed to retain their fully developed footprint so long as they provided a water quality control and paid into a land bank to mitigate for their imperious cover. The land bank purchased off-site land such that the overall impervious cover for the project plus the offsite land was about 20%—functionally similar to that of SOS-level limits.