By Paulette Kern, Jack Kern, Nancy McMurtry, and Allan McMurtry
Our many concerns begin with the assertion that the VMU Overlay District is a zoning change for Burnet Road, which currently does not allow residential. The VMUOD allows residences to be built above commercial use on the ground floor. Allandale residents have been denied the rights of notification and a prior hearing in front of City Council.
The most observable change will be in traffic. VMU traffic will merge with Wal-Mart traffic (remember, we haven’t won this fight, yet) to create a witches stew of vehicles papering our trees, streets, and air with pollution, noise, and high speed pass-through. The normal escape routes down Burnet and Anderson will be blocked, flooding all our major neighborhood streets, like Bullard, Great Northern, Shoal Creek, Greenlawn Parkway, and ultimately further and further south.
When 80,000 people go into The Domain, how will the residents get downtown when Mo-Pac is clogged? Add to those multiple VMU developments (apartments or condos) up and down Burnet Road and Anderson Lane. Ask what these residents will do when Burnet Road and Mo-Pac are clogged. With no proactive plan to improve Burnet Road for cars or mass transit and with incentives which allow VMU minimum setbacks off the street, we fear we will be buried in traffic, lacking options to widen Burnet Road with a bus lane or left turn lane south of Koenig. Will this density get everyone out of their cars to walk? Maybe not, since VMU can get by with fewer features for bikes and pedestrians!
We are concerned foremost about the strain on infrastructure – not only roads, but also water, wastewater, schools, and parks — basically our neighborhood’s quality of life. As noted by a Council member, there is no plan by the City of Austin to make any infrastructure improvements to prepare for VMU.
Next, there is the threat of rezoning residential properties, as homes lose viability due to effects of 3 to 4 story buildings in their backyards. This doesn’t address the impact of these buildings shading adjacent properties and forming cliffs of cement and iron railings.
Also, we see VMU increasing property values, and therefore taxes and rents, for the businesses along Burnet. This effectively drives out the neighborhood friendly, local businesses. Instead of Clay Ways and Amy’s, we’ll have Hagen Daas, Starbucks, and The Gap. VMU is being tried in most major corridors east of Mo-Pac all at once. If it is so good, shouldn’t others seek it out? That all of this can be accomplished in 90 days makes one wonder if the process isn’t designed to opt out of neighbors’ opinions and assets. If VMU has a silver lining, it’s that you might get a small reduction in property taxes from the degradation of the area. But, cheer up, the City has offered all of us expedited “quick and easy access” to parking permits so we (but not our visitors) will be able to park in front of our own houses.