Grove fight in District 7 race highlights tensions caused by growth


It’s by a twist of geography that the biggest issue in this Austin City Council race doesn’t actually fall in District 7.

Just beyond the district’s southern boundary sits a 75-acre site where developers hope to build 1,700 homes and 360,000 square feet of office and retail space.

The nearby neighborhoods, many of which fall in Council Member Leslie Pool’s district, have organized in fierce opposition to the Grove at Shoal Creek development. Pool is a vocal critic of developer ARG Bull Creek’s current proposal, which returns to the council Oct. 20. Her challenger, Natalie Gauldin, co-founded a group campaigning for the project.

The fight over the Grove — and between Pool and Gauldin — has thrown into sharp relief a core tension underlying city politics: how to house the thousands of people Austin is adding every year through births and moves without displacing current residents or chipping away at the city’s culture and character.

“This is really becoming a race about who has the best vision for the future of Austin,” said Gauldin. She charges that Pool is part of a build-nothing cabal that would prefer to seal off Austin from the outside world.

“If you want development to just happen, and you want to subtract out government regulation from it, then I don’t know what you get, but it wouldn’t look like Austin,” Pool said.

Pool maintains that she isn’t opposed to growth and density. For instance, the Bull Creek Road Coalition, which she co-founded, called for a mixed-use development at the Grove site, albeit a smaller design that would have included far less retail and office space. But, she says, it must be done in conjunction with the neighborhoods that surround the development.

“The people who have told you I don’t want any development there are feeding you a line, and it isn’t true,” Pool added. “They have made it all up.”

Pool has gotten plaudits from good-government groups for leading the passage of tougher lobby and campaign finance reporting requirements. But she has earned the ire of some urban activists, like Gauldin, by opposing the Grove and voting against easing the rules on garage apartments, among other issues.

Pool raised twice as much money as Gauldin between July and September, but Gauldin’s campaign touted its grass-roots efforts “knocking on tens of thousands of doors.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Politics

Swamped by flood, stung by theft, tiny Martindale rebounds
Swamped by flood, stung by theft, tiny Martindale rebounds

For the small, rural Caldwell County town of Martindale, the news last April that its bookkeeper, whom City Council members failed to vet, had stolen more than $20,000 from city coffers was something of a wake-up call. One year later, the city has instated several ethics and due diligence policies, hired a professional, bonded certified public accountant...
Austin City Council to examine if land-use board’s roster is illegal
Austin City Council to examine if land-use board’s roster is illegal

An influential land-use commission will come under scrutiny by the Austin City Council on Thursday after groups, including the NAACP, have called the composition of the board illegal because too many members are tied to real estate businesses. Since 1994, Austin’s charter has limited the makeup of the Planning Commission to no more than one-third...
Travis County opioid drug overdoses on the rise, 2006-16 data show
Travis County opioid drug overdoses on the rise, 2006-16 data show

The rate of opioid overdose deaths in Travis County, including those from heroin and prescription pain medication, nearly doubled from 2006 to 2016, according to data released by the Austin Public Health Department. In 2006, Travis County averaged four deaths per 100,000 residents. The rated jumped to 7.5 deaths per 100,000 residents in 2016. The figures...
Kris Kobach, once the face of Trump’s voter fraud panel, is held in contempt
Kris Kobach, once the face of Trump’s voter fraud panel, is held in contempt

Kris W. Kobach, the secretary of state of Kansas and face of the Trump administration’s efforts to clamp down on supposed voter fraud, was found by a federal judge on Wednesday to have disobeyed orders to notify thousands of Kansans in 2016 that they were registered to vote.  Kobach, who served last year as the vice chairman of the Trump...
Across Midwest, farmers warn of GOP losses over Trump’s trade policy
Across Midwest, farmers warn of GOP losses over Trump’s trade policy

Here in the largest soybean-producing county in the country, a snowy winter has left North Dakota farmers like Robert Runck with time on their hands before spring planting — time they have spent stewing over how much they stand to lose if President Donald Trump starts a trade war with China.  “If he doesn’t understand what he&rsquo...
More Stories