Neighborhood concerns about St. Edward’s University plans for new operations building

At the August general meeting, SRCC Area Coordinator Elloa Mathews gave a presentation about St. Edward’s University’s plans to build a new operations building on St. Edward’s Drive. Their plans for an operations building include having truck deliveries on St. Edward’s Drive, both box-type smaller delivery trucks and full sized 18-wheel semi tractor trailers. Nearby neighbors have serious concerns about the effects of this heavy truck traffic in an entirely residential neighborhood (Sherwood Oaks). Here is some background information on the issue:

Earlier this year, the university announced plans to build a new building but it was unclear what exact uses the building would have. In March, SRCC received a notice from the city that plans were filed, stating that it would be a general operations building encompassing many uses such as police, purchasing, and receiving. We requested more information/a meeting with administrators at St. Ed’s, and explaining our concerns about traffic and public safety on St. Edwards Drive, and received only cursory emails containing statements such as “There will be no new additional traffic resulting from these projects being completed.”

At the beginning of June, neighbors discovered that the bonds for this and other construction would have to go through the city council. Ms. Mathews requested a vote of the EC on June 7 to leverage this opportunity by asking the city council for help with encouraging the university to respond to our concerns. The EC voted on June 8 to send a letter to council. The text of the letter can be read here. The letter did successfully get everyone’s attention and a meeting was quickly scheduled between various neighbors and representatives from the university for June 13, at which the neighbors explained their concerns over traffic and safety on St. Edward’s Drive. At no point during the meeting did the representatives indicate that the building they have planned will be increasing traffic and introducing large truck traffic to the neighborhood. After the meeting, we discovered that the university knew all along that they would be having truck deliveries to the new building, and had requested a Right-of-Way (ROW) waiver from the city so that they could use the dead-end of St. Edwards Drive for the large trucks to turn around (because the site cannot accommodate turn-arounds). A copy of their letter requesting the waiver can be found here.

Following the June 13 meeting, SRCC President Gretchen Otto wrote a letter to the university, describing in detail all of the neighbor’s concerns about traffic and safety on St. Edward’s Drive and giving suggestions for specific things the university could do to help alleviate the negative effects. A copy of this letter can be accessed here.

After many repeated attempts to find out more information from the city, without receiving any help, neighbors were becoming increasingly concerned about the situation. As more and more people found out about the plans, opposition grew during July. When Ms. Mathews gave her presentation at the August 1 general meeting, the members voted to pass a resolution stating our opposition to having such a large commercial operation right in the heart of Sherwood Oaks. Here is the text of the resolution:

Whereas, St. Edwards University is made up of 160 acres, and

Whereas, the St. Edwards campus is bound on its west, south and east sides by commercial corridors including IH35, Woodward Street and Congress Avenue, which is a state highway, and

Whereas, the north side of the campus is the Sherwood Oaks neighborhood, a close knit community of only 250 single family residentially zoned houses and duplexes, and

Whereas, this boundary between the neighborhood and the campus currently only houses sports fields which impose no commercial use on the neighborhood, and

Whereas, the neighborhood is inhabited by original homeowners in their 80’s and 90’s including several WWII veterans and Purple Heart recipients and their widows who walk and wish to remain mobile, and

Whereas, many families with children and new babies, one as young as eight weeks old, ride their bikes and walk their dogs on St. Edwards Dr. identified by the City of Austin as sidewalk deficient, and

Whereas, these residents currently find overflow parking from the University on St. Edwards Dr. to block their field of vision for exiting their own neighborhood streets creating dangerous traffic conditions, and

Whereas, the proposed operations building on St. Edwards Drive will introduce 18 wheel trucks into the Sherwood Oaks neighborhood that previously had no reason to be in Sherwood Oaks, and

Whereas, the introduction of this commercial use in our residential neighborhood sets a precedent that the university can use for future expansion, and

Whereas, the university has a multitude of acres of land on commercial corridors on which to place its operations building so as not to create an unsafe environment for its taxpaying neighbors so,

Be it resolved that the South River City Citizens neighborhood association opposes St. Edwards University’s attempt to use our residential neighborhood for commercial operations.

Approved by SRCC August 1, 2016

Neighbors did finally secure a meeting with city staff on August 5, as well as another meeting with St. Edward’s staff. More information covering these meetings and next steps will be posted soon.

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