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June 14, 2013: Governor Signs Texas Facilities Commission Sunset Bill SB211 Into Law, Protecting Local Communities

In a victory for both state and local interests, SB 211 became law, saving over 200 acres of Central Austin from being developed by private interests without local zoning controls or public input. Correcting earlier legislation, SB 211 is an amalgam of several bills filed in the house and senate this session resulting in strong legislation calling for local zoning review of all state public private partnership development. The bill also provides for an augmented public involvement process and an appeals board similar to the General Land Office process model used in the successful Triangle Development. SB 211 calls for a comprehensive land use and transportation planning process for the Capitol Complex. This bill passed unanimously in the house and senate and we would like to extend a special thanks to Senator Kirk Watson and State Rep. Elliott Naishtat for their support. Read the bill...

January 9, 2013: Sunset Commission votes 10-2 to recommend all P3's be put on hold, TFC agrees

Austin American-Statesman: An influential group of Texas lawmakers on Wednesday called for a time-out on unsolicited proposals for public-private projects. The Texas Sunset Advisory Commission took the vote after a debate about the future of the Capitol complex. Read more...

State of Texas and University of Texas Land:
Public Private Partnerships (P3)

The Texas Facilities Commission (TFC) has invited proposals for private, residential, and mixed use development on over 200 acres of state land in Central Austin. This land was identified as under-utilized in the TFC's 2011 and 2012 Facilities Master Plan Reports. The 345 acre University of Texas Brackenridge tract and the 109 acre University of Texas West Pickle tract are also being proposed for private use development. From a community planning perspective, it is incumbent upon the public, and all entities participating in these projects, to do everything possible to ensure the success of these collaborations. The benefits should not just be in strictly defined financial terms, but also cultural and include public amenities for the thousands of new residents who will occupy these new projects. Development potential can be maximized by proactive land planning of an envelope, instead of on a parcel-by-parcel basis within the limitations of an individual developer's proposal and funding capacity.

Imagine P3: A Public Community Planning Process

A planning approach that combines all state, university, county, federal, and city-owned parcels in the same discussion, an Imagine P3, could work very well.

Under state law, municipalities hold zoning control, land planning, and site development authority over private use development on leased state land. SB 1048, codified under Chapter 2267 of the Texas Statutes, enables a public-private partnership development agreement be created and managed by any governmental entity or agency in the state. Under this framework, the TFC is acting as an agent for individual state agencies that own land in Central Austin. The executive director of the TFC has made the assertion that the City of Austin has no zoning control, land planning, and site development authority for private use improvements to government owned land under this new process. The city, having cited state law for regulatory controls over private use projects on public lands, has asserted the contrary. Applicants have agreed with the city's position. In the first proposal under SB 1048 to be made public, the Austin Planetarium project's own development team clearly agrees city zoning and regulations apply, as stated on page 114 of their proposal:

A list of applicable permits and approvals required for the development and completion of
the qualifying project for federal, state, or local agencies includes:
State & Federal
• Texas Facilities Commission Review
• SWPPP – Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan
• ADA - American with Disabilities Act & Fair Housing Compliance
• TAS - Texas Accessibility Standards
• Capitol View Corridor Determination (State)
City of Austin
• Zoning
• Subdivision
• Consolidated Site Plan
• Building Permits
• Service Extension Request (SER)
• Traffic Impact Analysis (TIA)
• Capitol View Corridor Determination (City)
• Great Streets Program
• Congress Avenue Overlay
• Downtown Commission & Design Guidelines
• Possible Variances to the City of Austin Land Development Code"

These conflicting positions need to be resolved before meaningful planning can begin on these projects.

Austin is not timid about adding value to the public planning efforts and partnerships it undertakes. On the heels of the Downtown Austin Plan, it just completed a successful comprehensive planning effort: Imagine Austin. It endeavors to add 750,000 new people to the urban core in the next 30 years. These public planning processes invited every citizen to take a place at the table. The city staff that managed those campaigns is still in place. A planning approach that combines all SB 1048 parcels together, along with city, county, university, and federal assets in the same discussion, an Imagine P3, could work very well.

The planning and development of the last remaining vacant land in Central Austin is not just a once in a lifetime opportunity. After the state-owned parcels are built-out, their 99-year land leases will impact at least 4 generations of Austinites. For all people who live and work in this city today, for the residents of these new communities in the future, and for the state agencies that will depend on the revenue stream, that's forever. From a planning perspective, there is a responsibility to do everything possible to ensure the success of this collaboration.

Based on comparable development, 200+ acres of Central Austin designated in the TFC's process could be well in excess of $1 billion in built-out project value. The financial return on these assets cannot be the only measure of their success; the return on good community planning could carry many more benefits. SB 1048 may effectively create communities in which tens of thousands of future citizens may work and live. Today, a population-dense Central Austin needs infrastructure and open space that were never provided for in the first build-out of the area, when the population was a fraction of its present size. P3 development will likely only increase the need for parks, transportation, schools, affordable housing, and civic infrastructure. To be effective anywhere in Texas, P3 should address those public component needs as well. The families of many state employees who work in the agencies to benefit from P3 revenue, also live and work in Central Austin. Thousands of state workers will benefit from a balance of civic, commercial, and residential amenities that should accompany any new P3 development.

The problem solving power of P3 could be enhanced by bringing the city's, county's, university's, and federal government's underutilized public land portfolio to the same table. With planning and enabling legislation we could see the state erecting administrative use buildings on land the city owns, and the city dedicating parks and building rail on land brought to the table by the state. This may usher in a new era of intergovernmental cooperation while maximizing the exchange of value between the state and the city. It would provide the opportunity for fair market value land swaps, along with their respective revenue streams, for projects that require civic or public components such as parks, schools, and rail.

An Imagine P3 planning process could also encompass other projects such as the 345 acre Brackenridge tract and the 109 acre UT West Pickle tract, the latter currently inviting P3 proposals.

Imagine P3 as a process with great potential to solve problems for generations. It's the city's best opportunity to accommodate growth with public amenities, and deserves the most creativity and the fullest allocation of planning resources that it can have. SB 1048, combined with enabling legislation for land transfers, and a creative community dialogue fostered and supported by all parties, can provide abundant solutions. These concepts could then be applied elsewhere in Texas to foster collaborations between state government and other municipalities.

A 501c3 created to align public resources with citizen intent, the Central Austin CDC enhances the livability, safety, and diversity of our community by building bridges of communication and respect among people.

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