COMMENTARY, MOSTLY ABOUT PFLUGERVILLE

About the Multi-Family Residential Design Guidelines Advisory Committee
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A discussion leading to the creation of a committee to be assigned the task of coming up with recommendations about multi-family residential design guidelines took place at the September 9, 2008, regular City Council meeting (Agenda Item 12B). The minutes of the September 9 meeting are available here. Note that Section 12 is not listed in the minutes. Agenda Item 12B has become 13B and now there are two 13Bs. Look for 13B. Discussion regarding the development of multifamily design guidelines.

The text* of the resolution written for creating and appointing the Multi-Family Residential Design Guidelines Advisory Committee is apparently no longer available online from the City of Pflugerville website. The resolution included this quotation from the Comprehensive Plan Assumptions adopted in 2002: "high quality multi-family housing, when balanced with other housing options, is considered a desirable addition to Pflugerville."
Five questions immediately come to mind:

  1. Many apartment complexes have been constructed in recent years and more are planned. Has a balance already been reached?
  2. What exactly is high quality?
  3. A very large number of the current residents of Pflugerville were not here in 2002. Do most current residents consider the addition of still more apartments and other forms of multi-family housing to be desirable?
  4. It is claimed that there is a glut of apartments in the Austin area. Why is the construction of more apartments being considered now?
  5. Should any dense apartment complexes be located immediately adjacent to or within neighborhoods of single family homes?
Quality:

The City of Pflugerville has adopted the motto "where quality meets life." It is at least debatable whether or not a large number of apartments is associated with quality in a suburb. In a discussion of density in a smart growth glossary, Mike Clark-Madison (in the Austin Chronicle, vol. 18, issue 19) has written: "in your Better Neighborhoods, we're still talking about owner-occupied, single-family units."

Here is a relevant quotation from "Letter to Gazette: 'Increased Housing Density Will Hurt Northampton.'" "Increasing the population density of our residential neighborhoods is the very opposite of what is needed to sustain the quality of life here in our beautiful city." This was an excerpt from one of the web pages posted by the North Street Neighborhood Association located in Northampton, Massachusetts.

In an article entitled "Low Density Initiatives: Are Richer Cities Smarter?" in the June 23, 2008, issue of Mission Viejo Dispatch, there is the implication that a high level of high-density development does not always benefit the citizens of a city, and that the citizens of many cities with lower per capita income do not understand this. In the article, the question is raised: "Are the citizens of these affluent cities (referring to some in Southern California) more astute at understanding the perverse politics and economics that can negatively affect their communities?" Notice in the article that it is suggested that higher density planning can occur "under the guise of glitzy terminology like 'new urbanism', 'walkable urbanism', and 'smart growth'."

Some Comments from Pflugerville Residents:

Summaries of comments made by some residents of Highland Park North at the hearing about the proposed Stone Hill apartments can be found in the minutes (look for Public Hearings, Section 4B) of the June 10, 2008, meeting of the Pflugerville City Council.

An article by Amy Stansbury entitled "Land Development: Topic for Ongoing Debate" appeared in the August 2008 online issue of Community Impact. This article is relevant to current issues regarding apartments in Pflugerville. There was a lengthy response in the "Comments" section that followed the online Community Impact article. This lengthy response was not available in the print edition of Community Impact distributed in the mail.

Do Apartments Have an Adverse Effect of the Values of Nearby Homes?

During this past year, a number of contentious adjacency issues have arisen about the proximity of proposed apartment developments to single-family residential neighborhoods. In the August 26, 2008, regular City Council meeting, one City Council member reported that in an example studied, the proximity of an apartment complex to a residential subdivision had no adverse effect on the value of the single-family homes nearby. One could easily argue, however, that no general conclusion was valid. In the example chosen for study, the apartment complex is separated from the nearest homes by a wooded area, a creek, an amenity area, and a major street. This is not really the kind of adjacency some were concerned about. This more closely resembles the ideal pattern of development to be expected from Euclidean use-based zoning.

In the weekend editions of the Austin American-Statesman, there is a NewHomes advertising supplement. Here it would be very difficult if not impossible to find an upscale subdivision of single-family homes advertised by selling points such as "surrounded by developments of apartment homes" or "homes are intermixed with small apartment complexes."

Committee Meetings

The first meeting of the advisory committee first proposed on September 9 by the Pflugerville City Council took place on October 13, 2008. The meeting was hosted by PfCONA.

A summary the proceedings of the meeting can be found in the City report entitled "Multi-Family Design Standards." A tabulation of the data obtained from the SWOT analysis initiated during the meeting is available in this City pdf document. General information about SWOT analyses can be found in this Wikipedia article.

The following meeting of the committee was held on November 12 and, as indicated by the next to the last slide in this presentation, included a "Visual Preference Survey and Discussion."

The materials for the Visual Preference Survey are available online from the City of Pflugerville. These include the survey and the score sheet. Also see the Multi-Family Design Standards page.
The third meeting of the committee was held on January 28, 2009, at 7:00 pm in Suite 500, 100 East Main Street. The fourth meeting will be held on February 25, 2009, at 6:30 pm according to the Multi-Family Design Standards page.
Note added, February 27, 2009: The fourth meeting was apparently rescheduled for 6:30 PM on March 3, but no notice of the rescheduling was posted on the Multi-Family Design Standards web page.
*Text of resolution as it appeared at an earlier time:

RESOLUTION OF THE CITY OF PFLUGERVILLE, TEXAS CREATING AND APPOINTING MULTI-FAMILY RESIDENTIAL DESIGN GUIDELINES ADVISORY COMMITTEE


WHEREAS, the City of Pflugerville has been challenged (by?) various development pressures for multi-family and other forms of attached residential units; and

WHEREAS, the Comprehensive Plan Assumptions adopted in 2002 state "high quality multi-family housing, when balanced with other housing options, is considered a desirable addition to Pflugerville"; and

WHEREAS, the local knowledge of community stakeholders and industry expertise are needed to align community expectations and that of multi-family and attached residential development products.

BE IT RESOLVED BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF PFLUGERVILLE, TEXAS:

The Multi-family Residential Design Guideline Advisory Committee shall be composed of the following representatives whose terms shall be for the duration of the project:

(A list of committee members appears here.)

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