submitted by Tom Linehan [Email address: tlinehan #AT# - replace #AT# with @ ]

Allandale came up short at Tuesday night’s Planning Commission meeting when they took up our Vertical Mixed Use (VMU) recommendations for the North Loop property. Allandale’s VMU application is not scheduled to go before the Planning Commission until late March however, due to staff error, the North Loop tract was included in Rosedale’s borders for VMU consideration.

Allandale was represented by Paulette Kern, Zoning and Planning Chair,
Allan McMurtry, VP Allandale Neighborhood Association, and Steven
Zettner, co-chair of the Allandale VMU Committee. Others in attendance
from Allandale included Anne Young, Kerry Kimbrough and myself.

Paulette, in her presentation asked that the Planning Commission hold
off on taking up this tract until Allandale came before the Planning
Commission with its full VMU application. The Planning Commission
unanimously denied the request and when the final vote was taken
rejected Allandale’s recommendations for the North Loop tract. Allandale recommended that the North Loop area be included in the VMU overlay district but with restrictions. The Planning Commission’s
recommendation to the City Council for this tract of land is to opt in the tract in VMU with full density incentives. If accepted by
the City Council, the area bounded by Burnet Rd on the west, North Loop
on the North, and Hancock on the south is given zoning rights to build
out with no density caps.

Is Allandale anti-VMU? Here are the points Paulette made in her presentation:

Allandale supports VMU at the North Loop tract however we prefer
holding off on the density incentives until the specifics for making
this a successful destination center are fleshed out. Encouraging
maximum density on a tract does not by itself translate into good urban
form, i.e., diversity, walkability, community, practical and effective
transit, and workable streetscapes. It takes planning. Allan McMurtry
followed up recommending that the neighborhood and the city involve
student’s from UT’s urban studies program to help us think through the
impact and the implications of VMU at that location and other locations
along Burnet Rd. He was arguing to have a plan in place first. Allan
reported that he had already initiated discussions with the UT program
and garnered initial interest. One of the points Paulette made is a
successful VMU should be more than just a convenience for the residents
that live there, it should also be a destination for area residents – the people who live in the neighborhood.

ANA’s presentation was followed up by Jay Kaplan, owner of much of the
North Loop tract. He traveled from Houston for the hearing. He argued
for VMU with the full set of incentives saying the incentives were
necessary to make a VMU development worthwhile and that excluding him
from the density incentives like the parking incentive that allows the
developer to have fewer parking spaces than currently required would
put him at a competitive disadvantage.

Next step is for the Planning Commission’s recommendations to be
forwarded to the City Council where it will be taken up by council in
the next few weeks. ANA representatives will be in attendance. The
other portion of ANA’s VMU application, the portion that addresses our
recommendations for the commercial tracts on the west side of Burnet Rd
to Anderson Ln and on the south side of Anderson Ln to MoPac will be
considered by the Planning Commission in late March.