Construction in a Floodplain

The Moore Group is currently obtaining variances and permits for Construction in a Floodplain for a residential project. Our client owns property that is in a floodplain, and the client wishes to construct improvements to the property. City code normally does not allow for construction in a floodplain, so we are obtaining a variance to allow the construction to proceed. In order to obtain the variance, we are engineering the project in specific ways that meet city requirements. The city desires to maintain the current stormwater volume within the floodplain. Our proposed construction will use some of the floodplain volume. In order to balance the floodplain volume, we are removing an unneeded structure from the property. We have prepared calculations that show that there is a net increase in floodplain volume as a result of the project. We are preparing construction plans to raise the foundation of the existing structure and proposed addition to an elevation above the floodplain elevation. Our surveyors will prepare a drainage easement to contain the floodplain. The easement will exclude the building footprint, effectively removing the structure from the floodplain. We will represent our client at a public hearing before the city council to request the variance. At the public hearing, we will provide justification for the council to grant the variance. We expect to have city staff support for granting the variance. With the support of city staff, there is a good chance the variance will be granted.

Site Development Engineering & Planning for a Wedding Event Facility

The Moore Group has been retained to provide planning and site development engineering for a wedding event facility in the Texas Hill Country, northwest of Austin.    The project will include 26 stand alone houses and an event center.  The buildings will all be designed to take advantage of passive solar heating and cooling. The buildings will be designed utilizing innovative insulation techniques and will provide natural air movement through the building by the use of carefully located vents.  The Moore Group will design water amenities and water quality controls that work together to provide function and beauty.  Site runoff will be collected and used to irrigate the on-site landscaping.    We will also design a Fire Protection system that will include a water storage tank and pump system.  This is needed because the facility will be located where the existing water system is only capable of providing domestic water service.   The Moore Group will provide site development permitting for this project through a local municipality and Travis County.  We will post more about this project as it proceeds and is permitted for construction.  

New Office Development in Northwest Austin

The Moore Group has recently been retained to do land planning and prepare a Site Development Permit Application for a new office development off Research Boulevard in northwest Austin. The project is in the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone, so a Water Pollution Abatement Plan has also been prepared and submitted to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).  An innovative Water Quality Pond has been designed to take advantage of the terrain surrounding the proposed building. This is an “infill” project in an area that is mostly already developed, so there were challenges regarding the means of handling the offsite drainage coming from the existing developed properties.  We were able to design a combination of diversion structures and detention that meets all requirements. We certainly are excited about the resurgence of the Austin Real Estate Market.   Onward, into 2013!

Get the Most out of Your Civil Engineer

When you start a business or even add a new branch to your existing business, you have a lot to think about and a cornucopia of decisions to make. How will you find key employees? Who will be your Clients and how will you find them? You also have to answer mundane questions such as “Which light bulb should you use since there are going to be thousands of them in the building?” Or, when you create the website for your new company, what font should you use on the menus? Forest green or Kelly green? I can’t help you a lot when it comes to those vital decisions (though I can tell you that you should NEVER use Comic Sans on a menu). I can, however, tell you about how choosing a civil engineer can make or break your business and I can bet with all of those other decisions, that one may not have occurred to you. Many businesses just use the engineer their architect or investor suggests and usually whoever suggests the engineer is getting something out of it. Great for them, but not necessarily great for you. Why are civil engineers important? If you find out about problems mid-way through your project, or worse, after your project is finished, it can cost you thousands of dollars to fix the problem. An experienced engineer knows what things need to be taken into account to preempt such costly issues. An engineer can perform a feasibility study to determine if the site where you have chosen to build your facility can meet city requirements for site area. An engineer must take into account things like permitting, utilities, parking, drainage, growth, erosion and flooding. Another problem that can pop up is that of permitting. A good engineer is an expert at getting you the permitting for your project. Without that permitting, your project could fail without ever even getting started. A good engineer will have good relationships with the people in charge of approving your permit. Many types of permits must be signed and sealed by an engineer, or the permit will not be issued. A good engineer will do more than give you a drawing or a signature. The best civil engineers will make sure your project is a success and try to save you money long term. So don’t always go with the guy your architect hands over to you. Do research to see if the engineer has some good reviews or testimonials. Look at that engineers previous projects. Do they have experience working with a project similar to yours? If you are looking to start a new development project, make sure you choose the right engineer. It could mean the difference between success and failure for your project.

Our New Project on Lake Austin, “Laguna Terrera”, is Under Construction!

It is great to see a project that you have drawn on paper become a reality.  Laguna Terrera is a high-end residential project located on Lake Austin near the community of West Lake Hills.  Our survey crew is on-site now providing locations for pilings.  Soon the utilities will be constructed. I’ll keep you updated on the progress! .

We can now Announce it: The Moore Group is obtaining the entitlements for the Austin Curling Club

We recently represented the Austin Curling Club before City Council.  Based on the reception we recieved, we are now obtaining entitlements – including site plan approval – for a unique new sporting facility.  This will be the only true Curling Arena within a thousand miles of Austin. The Curling Club will include a restaurant and bar.  The facility also includes three regulation sheets of curling ice and dressing rooms for the competitors.  The facility will draw Curlers from across the country and abroad from Canada,  United Kingdom (especially  Scotland), the United States, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, Finland and Japan, all of which compete in the world championships. In addition, the facility will showcase “green” construction components, including rainwater harvesting, solar cells on the roof and the re-use of heat given off by the ice refrigeration compressor to provide heat for hot water. We are very excited to be chosen to work on such a unique and environmentally progressive project. .

Using a Development Agreement to Develop Land in Texas

A Landowner can eliminate a lot of uncertainty and risk when developing land in Texas by entering into a Development Agreement with local Municipalities.  The Development Agreement also helps the local Municipality set forth rules for development that specifically apply to the subject property.  We at The Moore Group have assisted both Landowners and Municipalities in the preparation of Development Agreements.  A Development Agreement should be a “win-win” agreement that helps both parties achieve their goals.  It can also streamline procedures for obtaining the additional entitlements that follow the Development Agreement. One aspect of Land Development that can benefit from a Development Agreement is offsite improvements.  Municipalities typically require larger developments to make improvements to the infrastructure adjacent to the proposed development.  The infrastructure improvements are needed because of the additional burden a large development puts on local streets and utilities.  With a Development Agreement, the Landowner can know in advance how much will be required for offsite improvements, and the Municipality can be sure that the necessary improvements will be made to support the development. In summary, a Development Agreement can help both the Landowner and the local Municipality plan Development in a way that benefits both parties.  We at The Moore Group have experience in the preparation of Development Agreements.  We can help prepare a successful Development Agreement

The Benefits of Water Districts (including M.U.D.’s & W.C.I.D.’s)

The State of Texas allows Land Developers to form Water Districts in order to help finance medium to large sized projects. The Water District repays the Developer for the cost of utilities, drainage systems, ponds and other improvements. The Water District is a taxing authority that re-pays the Developer through the issuance of bonds, similar to municipal bonds.  There is more than one type of Water District. Types that are commonly used in Land Development include the Municipal Utility District (M.U.D.) and the Water Control & Improvement District (W.C.I.D.). Both types allow the Developer to be reimbursed for many construction costs and soft costs.  When the District is formed, there is a resident on the property to be developed who will vote in a special election for the Creation of the District and for the eventual Reimbursement of the Developer. The voting resident is not just anybody, but is a person who is living on the land for the purpose taking part in the election and voting to create the District. Since the voting resident is hand selected, the outcome of the election is pre-determined and the Developer is guaranteed to be reimbursed once there are enough taxpayers in the District to support the Bonds.  A good rule of thumb for the size of development that makes creation of a Water District viable is that it should have the equivalent of at least 200 average price homes that are paying taxes to the Water District. We have helped our Clients with the Creation of Districts of over 2,000 homes, mixed with commercial property. But a high end development may provide enough of a tax base to support a District with fewer than 200 tax payers. We have assisted Clients with small Districts as well.  We have a team of experts that have created Districts in the past.  Call us at 512-442-0377 for more information on Water Districts as they apply to Land Development.

Have you been red tagged? There is a solution to your Red Tag:

First, here is the likely scenario: You own property, and you want to be able to use it.  Maybe you need a parking area or a storage space.  So you make some small improvements to your property.  You are not hurting anyone, all you are doing is making it easier to use your property. Then a city inspector shows up and gives you a citation, commonly called a “Red-Tag”.  There are threats of fines and legal action.  You must Stop Work, says the city inspector.  What should you do? We can help.  Our firm has assisted numerous property owners who found themselves in this situation.  We can immediately get the city inspectors off your back, and give you time to deal with the situation.  Not only can we remove the burden of the Red Tag, but we can obtain permission for you to make all the improvements desired.   We even allow for a series of improvements over a period of two or three years.  If you have been Red Tagged, call us.  We can give you immediate relief from city demands.  Then we can file documents with the city that will allow you to make the improvements you need, all with the blessings of the city.  You will be on good terms with city inspectors, and they will leave you alone.  You will be in control of the situation.  Call Ed Moore at 512-442-0377

Negotiating City Maintenance of Ponds

  City staff persons can attempt to cause unnecessary expense to a developer and the eventual home owners within a development.  For example, while obtaining entitlements for a recent land development in the City of Austin, a city case manager told us that we would have to pay into an escrow account an amount of money sufficient to maintain three ponds within our project for a 2-year maintenance period.  In addition, this staff person wanted us to provide restrictive covenants that would place the long term burden of maintenance on the eventual home owners within the development.  We found that the city code did not require a developer to maintain ponds within this type of development.  Although the city case manager had made written comments requiring us to pay money for maintenance, there was no basis in the code for this expense!  The code requires the City of Austin to maintain the ponds serving this development.  We showed the reviewer the portion of the code that covered maintenance of ponds in this type of development (and in this area).  The reviewer had to admit we were right, and that we would not be required to pay money for maintenance of the ponds.  However, he had a reason why he initially told us we would have to pay for maintenance.  He said “The City Council made a mistake, there is not enough funding for the city to maintain these ponds.” Grudgingly, he concurred with us that he did not really have the authority to require us to pay for pond maintenance.  I am happy to say that this issue was resolved in our favor.  The lesson from this experience is to check the basis in the code for the requirements made by reviewers.  The staff reviewer may be asking for something he would like to see, but is not really a requirement.  We always strive to maintain good relationships with the city staff, especially the higher-up staff.  But when it comes to staff requests that are going to cost us money and are not requirements, we gently remind the staff person of what the code actually says.  Although at times we have had to find satisfaction from a person in a supervisory position, when we know we are right we have always succeeded in obtaining the correct reading of the code. The Moore Group