by JEN BIUNDO
With a lawsuit out of the way — at least until the appeals process kicks in — developers of the U.S. Foodservice distribution facility moved forward this week with permitting their proposed site.
In a split 6-1 vote with Council member Ron Fletcher dissenting, the Buda City Council approved the preliminary plan for the 49-acre U.S. Foodservice development east of IH-35 at Turnersville Road.
Though the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval of the plan in October, council members held off on the issue until the dismissal of the lawsuit targeting the development.
Debate Tuesday night centered on the traffic impact analysis to be completed by developers of the Sunfield Municipal Utility District (MUD), the sprawling mixed use development where U.S. Foodservice plans to build its $51 million distribution facility.
Developers of the MUD have agreed to complete a traffic impact analysis of the entire 2,130-acre property, rather than just the 49-acre U.S. Foodservice site. But some council members said they wanted to see the traffic study before approving any elements of the development.
“It sounded like if we wanted to we could make them do that before we approved the plat,” Fletcher said.
City development codes require a traffic impact analysis at an earlier stage of the permitting process for residential developments than for commercial developments.
In residential developments, the traffic study must accompany applications for a preliminary plan, which carves land up into individual lots. But for commercial developments, the traffic study comes later in the game when developers apply for their site development permit, which shows the locations of buildings, roads and access points.
However, the codes don’t address developments that combine residential and commercial usage.
“We’re clearly in a weird place,” said Buda council member Sandra Tenorio.
The 49 acres slated for the distribution facility lies east of city limits in the Sunfield MUD. Though the city has no zoning authority, a development agreement gives the city some control over land use planning.
This summer, council members approved a development agreement amendment allowing limited light industrial use on 95 acres of the MUD, drawing the ire of some local residents who said the development would generate too much heavy truck traffic. Organized under the name BudaFirst, the group gathered petitions seeking to put the matter to citizen vote in a referendum election, but city attorneys said the development agreement change was an executive item not subject to referendum.
In October, BudaFirst members filed suit against the city, arguing that the city should have called a referendum election. Six weeks later, the court of appeals ruling sided with the city, throwing out the suit. But BudaFirst members have said they’re considering appealing the decision.
Jen Biundo is managing editor of the Hays Free Press where this story was originally published.