Debate over Grove at Shoal Creek continues as City Council review nears

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A rendering of the Grove at Shoal Creek looking toward the southwest toward Mopac Expressway. Enlarge

A rendering of the Grove at Shoal Creek looking toward the southwest toward Mopac… more

ARG Bull Creek Ltd.

A rendering of the Grove at Shoal Creek looking toward the southwest toward Mopac Expressway.

The Austin City Council is expected to consider Planned Unit Development zoning for a 74-acre parcel near Bull Creek Road and 45th Street Sept. 22, and ongoing controversies about the proposed Grove at Shoal Creek mixed-use project are ramping up again in advance of the final debate.

The project has been under scrutiny since early this year when the first of several municipal advisory boards began reviewing it.

This week Assistant City Managers Robert Goode and Sue Edwards issued a memo to Mayor Steve Adler and City Council members in attempt to quell public rancor about whether the developer’s traffic impact studies are valid, as well as whether proper protocols have been exercised during staff reviews.

Here’s the message from the managers at the top in a nutshell: The Traffic Impact Analysis, conducted by developer ARG Bull Creek Ltd., meets the city’s requirements at this stage in the development process. City Traffic Engineer Rob Spillar is so convinced of this that he has stamped the document with his official Professional Engineering seal.

“This is an unusual step, but in this controversial case, with so many allegations regarding the accuracy of the TIA, we believe that this action reiterates the professional weight of his conclusions as the city’s traffic engineer,” the memo stated.

Moreover, Goode and Edwards also are convinced that there has not been any undue pressure placed upon subordinates to approve the PUD plans or to usurp their professional judgment. The fact that higher-ups have weighed in on the project should not be misconstrued as circumventing staff review, the memo stated.

“For a case as complicated and controversial as the Grove, we find it hard to understand why anyone would think that we wouldn’t require our department heads to be involved in the process,” Goode and Edwards wrote.

The lengthy memo and supporting documents have not silenced the opposition, however.

The Bull Creek Road Coalition, or BCRC, which has pressed for changes to the ambitious plan that includes residential, office and retail components along with parking and parks, still believe there is an “elephant in the room,” according to a statement released Sept. 14.

“We continue to be concerned about the assumptions used in the Grove’s traffic analysis that are either wrong, outdated or questionable and likely result in an underestimation in the enormous impact this PUD will have on the surrounding neighborhoods,” the BCRC statement reads.

The community group is largely composed of residents who live nearby the proposed construction site and who are concerned about traffic impacts and drainage in an area where flash flooding can be a problem.

Up until now, Anoushtakin and Ferinaz Arman have questioned the developer’s plan and sided with BCRC out of concerns about the impacts on their home at 2645 W. 45th St. However, they may have had a change of heart about the best course of action, since I spoke with Ferinaz Arman in early August.

A spokeswoman for ARG Bull Creek Ltd. said the Armans have agreed to sell their home — providing the developer with land needed for right-of-way improvements at 45th Street and Bull Creek Road. ARG did not disclose specifics of the purchase nor say how long until the transaction is finalized.

Jan Buchholz covers commercial and residential real estate, construction and architecture and retail and restaurants for the Austin Business Journal.