Originally Posted by KevinFromTexas
The current rule says that buildings have to be built at least 150 feet from the river.
That's what I initially thought, too, based on an earlier article I read in the Austin American Statesman, but evidently, that's not the case.
Under the current code, the actual building is supposed to be setback 200 feet from the Town Lake shoreline.
Apparently there are 2 setbacks - a primary setback where no development is allowed, and a secondary setback where some site development is allowed, but no actual buildings can be constructed. I'm under the impression that the secondary setback could include things like a patio or deck, a swimming pool, tennis courts, a plaza with a fountain, surface parking, etc.
The Waterfront Overlay District is divided into 15 subdistricts and each subdistrict has its' own set of rules and regulations.
The property that CWS wants to develop is in the South Shore Central subdistrict, which includes the property bounded by the Town Lake shoreline on the north, East Bouldin Creek on the east and south, and South First Street on the west.
The Waterfront Overlay ordinance is in the Zoning section of the city's Land Development Code, which is available online at
This is a great site for someone like me who knows next-to-nothing about zoning ordinances and issues.
(After choosing frames or no frames, you can type in "Chapter 25" in the search field and the first link that comes up is CHAPTER 25-2. ZONING. Click on that and it brings up all these zoning ordinances.)
Scroll down to Division 8.
Waterfront Overlay District and Subdistrict Development Regulations.
Subpart C covers the different subdistrict regulations.
§ 25-2-742 is the part that covers the South Shore Central Subdistrict Regulations
The primary setback lines are located:
(1) 150 feet landward from the Town Lake shoreline;
(2) 80 feet from the East Bouldin Creek centerline; and
(3) 35 feet north of the northern public right-of-way boundary of Riverside Drive.
The secondary setback lines are located:
(1) 50 feet landward from the primary setback line parallel to the Town Lake shoreline; and
(2) 130 feet from the primary setback line parallel to the East Bouldin Creek centerline.
If you go back and read the earlier Austin Chronicle "Town Lake Variance Shuffle" article posted above, it notes that:
On Nov. 14, the land and facilities subcommittee of the Parks Board recommended to the full board a denial of all variances to the Town Lake setback, while permitting setback reductions along East Bouldin Creek.
So the city is already considering a variance with respect to the setback requirements on the East Bouldin Creek borders along the eastern and southern boundaries of this subdistrict. Upon learning that, my thought was - why should CWS get a variance on the Town Lake setback requirements, too?
Finally, there was an earlier Austin Chronicle article from back in October called "A Waterfront War"
posted in another thread.
That article mentioned:
According to parks board vice chair Jeb Boyt, no other developer has ever requested a variance from the primary setback. "We can be much more flexible about the secondary setback," said Boyt. "But we need to apply a much higher standard in the primary setback."
If CWS is proposing to have parts of the high-rise portion of this project 80 feet from the Town Lake shoreline, they're basically asking the city to cut the primary setback almost in half and eliminate the secondary setback all together. In return, all the city gets is a trail on a 25-foot strip of land - land that CWS couldn't build anything on anyway. The more I think about it, the more I think the city and it's residents would be getting ripped off if we go with this plan. It gives CWS too much and the city too little, IMHO.
Based on my understanding of everything I've read so far, here's what I would consider to be two more reasonable compromises.
Keep the 150-foot primary setback along Town Lake but eliminate the 50-foot secondary setback.
Require CWS to designate the entire 150 feet from the Town Lake shoreline as dedicated parkland, but
make the city responsible for the financial costs of constructing the trail extension on that land. Financially, the city would still come out ahead because it's approximately $950 per linear foot cheaper to construct the trail over land than doing so over the water with a boardwalk.
This compromise would put 150 feet of designated parkland between the Town Lake shoreline and the towers.
Reduce the 150-foot primary setback to 100 feet and keep the secondary 50-foot setback in place.
Require CWS to designate the 100-foot primary setback from the Town Lake shoreline as dedicated parkland, but make the city responsible for the financial costs of constructing the trail extension on that land.
The remaining 50-foot secondary setback between the designated parkland and CWS' towers would be privately owned by CWS and could be used for site development (pool, patio, plaza, fountain, etc) but no buildings.
Both plans would allow CWS to place their towers 50 feet closer to the shore than what city ordinances currently allow, but they would still be 70 feet further away from the shore than what CWS is currently proposing.
I realize the developers are trying to get the best deal they possibly can, but the city should be doing that, as well. I don't have a problem with the city negotiating with developers, but personally, I think either of the above two compromises are the most the city should have to give up. Of course this is only my opinion.