Tuesday at Council for McIntosh Project

I guess everyone knows we’re coming to council this Tuesday for the McIntosh project to be heard.

This is at Council Chambers on 7th & Main, at 6 pm, Tuesday November 24. We are the first 2 items on the agenda. Zoning goes first, followed by the HARC appeal afterwards. The zoning change is Item J.

I’m not sure exactly how the HARC appeal, Item K, will proceed if the zoning change is denied. I hope some people will speak in favor of supporting HARC’s denial of this project.

As for the zoning, plenty of people have made very important points about this to the P&Z Commission verbally and in writing. It will all have to be presented to council anew. There are no minutes available from the P&Z meetings, and staff has not captured or incorporated any of our citations to the UDC or other points made by the people. Treat this meeting as if it were a fresh look at the project.

And although this project is coming forward from P&Z as a compromise recommendation – to approve but stay within zoning limits on 2 variance requests – I think the goal at council remains to ask for total denial of the zoning request for the PUD. There’s no room on this lot for ANY variance beyond what current zoning allows – which is already a stretch.

Here are some key points that I see in this discussion if you speak:

  • This is NOT downtown. This is the heart of Old Town. The downtown zoning district is several blocks away. Any suggestion of a need to encourage high-density ANYTHING in the heart of Old Town is absolutely wrong.
  • The Old Town Overlay District zoning is what controls the block in question. We have cited countless times the UDC section that disallows the gateway Overlay District zoning, and still our planning department has not changed its Staff Report to reflect this. The citation to the UDC is Section 4.11.020.
  • A zoning change is being requested here, from Commercial to High-Density Multifamily (MF-2). Note that it could have been MF-1, low-density multifamily requested. I think when residents say they don’t have a problem with an apartment complex as such – even though commercial would be more useful to the neighborhood – they’re not really thinking of high density.
  • The point is that a change from commercial to low-density could probably fit in if done nicely, but high density should be required to justify itself more, and be held to a higher standard, as well as provide even more buffers to the surrounding neighborhood.
  • Instead, the developer is asking for a variance to go even further than high density. We’re going from a maximum allowance of 24 units to 32 units – that’s a one-third increase in density, in the middle of a protected, residential area of moderate density. This is why P&Z recommended approval ONLY with the density cut back to the regular zoning of 24. In other words, no added variance on top of the already extreme, high density MF-2.
  • The Staff Report lists 6 major variances including the density. Other variances ask for a taller building, higher impervious cover allotment, smaller setbacks, less buffer zones and tighter clustering of separated buildings.
  • There are no existing conditions that force this project to ask for these variances. The building has been designed from scratch to be at least 30% too big – and IF the developer can get the variances, the project will be shoe-horned into a lot that’s too small. This is why everyone opposes the project as being simply too big.
  • Why is it so big? Because allegedly the lot is already covered with 92 impervious cover. So:
    • The new zoning would place a limit of 50%. But the project needs 87% – that’s how big it is compared to the land it wants build on.
    • The developer claims this 87% is still better than the existing 92%, so everything is a net gain. Our planning department has signed off on this exploitive logic.
    • No one thinks about a development that would actually remediate the existing impervious cover – instead they want to exploit it.
  • A separate question arises here about this claimed 92% impervious cover – does it really exist? All we can see is a lot of grass growing. The survey commissioned by the developer has not been made public, and has not been reported as being evaluated by our planning department. Council and the public should see that survey before anything gets approved.

To send last-minute comments to the city, contact senior planner Mike Elabarger mike.elabarger@georgetown.org, (512) 931-7746.

 

 

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