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Champion sisters win zoning

Wednesday, April 11, 2001 by

Recommendation from commission

Neighbors along FM 2222 unhappy about traffic

The Planning Commission voted last night to modify the conditional-use overlay on one tract of land owned by the Champion sisters along FM 2222 west of Loop 360 and change the zoning on two others. The zoning for the site, approved by the City Council after extended negotiations (See In Fact Daily, March 14, 2000), was DR on two of the tracts and SF-2 with a conditional overlay on the other.

Those zoning classifications and conditions were approved after members of the 2222 Coalition of Neighborhood Associations expressed concerns about traffic on FM 2222. The group insisted that development on the land owned by the Champions be limited to 6,500 trips per day. DR zoning, or “Development Reserve,” is intended to prevent premature land development without adequate infrastructure.

Attorney Michael Whellan, representing Josie Champion and her sisters, Juanita Meier and Mary Robertson, told commissioners his original request to change the zoning on all three tracts to SF-2 would bring them in line with the surrounding neighborhoods. “This is completely consistent . . . with the entire Jester Neighborhood community,” Whellan said. “Compatibility, compatibility, compatibility and fairness. Those are the issues before you.”

Neighbors were opposed, citing the City Council decision last March to limit traffic generated by the site. “A key condition of that zoning ordinance is the 6,500 vehicle trips per day for all tracts,” said Pate Brendle with the 2222 Coalition of Neighborhood Associations and the Jester Estates Residential Group. Changing the zoning, Brendle said, would increase the number of trips. “The cap is significant because even 6,500 trips per day are in addition to over 120,00 trips per day approved by the Council in other new developments on FM 2222.” Figures from the Texas Department of Transportation put the capacity of the road at 39,500 trips per day.

Commissioners didn’t give the Champions exactly what they requested, but they did approve new zoning that will allow more trips. A motion by Chair Betty Baker to change the zoning on all three tracts to SF-3 passed 5-1. In addition, the conditional overlay pertaining to traffic was replaced by another mandating that lot sizes be at least 1/4 acre. That satisfied Whellan, who said that the resulting density would actually be lower than that in surrounding neighborhoods.

Commissioners didn’t seem too thrilled to have the long-running saga back on their agenda, with Vice Chair Ben Heimsath referring to the traffic-count debate as “splitting hairs.” Baker said, “I remember this case well . . . I kept thinking we could forget it. I appreciate the concerns that have been raised. I look very closely at fairness, and I think the motion I made would treat the property fairly.”

The lone dissenting vote came from Commissioner Jean Mather, who said she felt the change was not in the spirit of the agreement reached last March by the City Council.

No amnesty for extra small

Lot, says Board of Adjustment

Plan for house does not fit Cesar Chavez plan

At Monday’s meeting of the Board of Adjustment, members found that they did not have a copy of the East Cesar Chavez Neighborhood Plan—or the accompanying regulations approved by the City Council for that area. So they were uncertain about the effect of granting a number of variances requested by a Waller Street property owner.

Casey Caballero, who owns the tiny, substandard lot at 208 Waller, and Greg Pitzer, who wants to build a three-bedroom residence on the property, asked for variances to allow a reduction in setback requirements and increased impervious cover. They also asked that the lot, which is 2224 square feet, be accepted as legal for a single-family residence. The lot is zoned SF-3, which requires a minimum area of 5750 square feet. Caballero explained that his family has owned the lot for several generations and that it was once the site of a single-family home.

Neighbors told the board they were opposed to the development plan, citing increased traffic and failure to comply with the neighborhood plan. Joseph Martinez, chairperson of the neighborhood planning team, told the board that the plan and zoning approved by the City Council allows for a “small lot amnesty” for properties that are at least 2500 square feet. This property does not meet that minimum requirement and all members of the East Cesar Chavez Leadership Team opposed the variances.

Frances Martinez (no relation to Joseph Martinez) said the neighborhood is already burdened with traffic from a church that meets daily and an apartment complex that lacks sufficient parking. She said the owner of the lot could easily make his property conform to the 2500 square foot requirement because the lot directly to the north has a large backyard, part of which Caballero could purchase. That lot is the site of a large, beautiful Victorian house, she said. Another alternative for Caballero, Martinez noted, would be to sell his property to the adjoining apartment complex for parking.

Pitzer, the developer, introduced documents explaining that the lot in question has been a “legal lot” since 1932, when the land was first divided. “The reintroduction of a single-family residence on this legal lot will compliment the neighborhood and rid the neighbors of a vacant lot health hazard,” he wrote. Pitzer pointed out that the proposed home would be two stories, with only 1181 square feet—53 per cent—of impervious cover. SF-3 zoning permits up to 45 per cent impervious cover on a minimum 5750 square foot lot. The small lot amnesty allows up to 65 per cent impervious cover.

The board voted 3-2 to deny the requested variances, with Chair Herman Thun and alternate Leane Heldenfels voting against the denial. On Tuesday, Betty Edgemond, vice chair of the board, said she would like to know how the BOA should treat neighborhood plans that have been approved by the city. She said the board had postponed the case from the previous month in order to give the developer and the land owner a chance to meet with the neighborhood planning team. However, she noted that remarks made by both sides during the hearing indicated that neither had done so.

©2001 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

Bradley Bill discussions . . . About 20 attorneys, members of the city staff and Hays County property owners met at the Capitol yesterday with Representative Rick Green (R-Dripping Springs) to discuss different aspects of proposed legislation to create a development district at the Spillar Ranch. Landowners were there to voice concerns about how their property might be affected by such legislation. City staff, including aides to Mayor Kirk Watson and Council Members Beverly Griffith, Jackie Goodman and Danny Thomas, took notes so they could report the conversation to their respective bosses . . . Earth Wake and Bush Bash . . . An organization called EarthWake 2001 will be holding a press conference on the south steps of the Capitol at noon today. The press has been invited to attend the wake, to learn “more about the bleak future in store for Mother Nature under the Bush Administration.” Other cities hosting the EarthWake tour include Portland, Oregon; Olympia, Washington; Tucson, Arizona; and Denver, Colorado . . . Ramos family to reunite . . . Grammy award winner Ruben Ramos and his brothers Alfonso, Elijio, Joe and Roy, plus Ramos sister Inez, will be performing together for the first time in over 20 years from 4-6 p.m. today on the Austin-Bergstrom International stage . . . At the old Airport . . . The City of Austin has officially released its Request for Qualifications for the developer of the 709-acre Robert Mueller Municipal Airport site. “It's going to go out all over the country to people who have an excellent reputation in the development community in America,” said Council Member Beverly Griffith. Copies are also available from the city's Purchasing Office in Two Commodore Plaza. The city will put out a Request for Proposals sometime this summer, and could select a master developer for the site before the end of the year. Meanwhile, back at the Legislature. . .Early this morning, Jim Walker of Mueller Neighborhoods Coalition, sent an email alarm on Rep. Ron Wilson’s Mueller bill. He said the House Transportation Committee would meet to consider sending HB 2522 to the House floor today.

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