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Smart Housing project wins approval after design changed

Monday, September 29, 2003 by

Neighbors still say they fear traffic, other adverse impacts

The City Council has approved a zoning change for a proposed cottage community in Northeast Austin along Dessau Road. Community Partnership for the Homeless plans to build 30 homes on seven acres near Claywood Drive, with an option for a future daycare center on the site if the Council approves a conditional use permit.

The change approved by the Council is from SF-2 to SF-6. While the SF-2 zoning would have allowed 44 homes, the affordable-housing group sought the change to SF-6 to allow those houses to be clustered to reduce infrastructure costs. The group has previously focused its efforts on helping military veterans, but is now branching out to serve other clients. “We are embarking on a project to help a different type of market, and that is the single head of household families,” said Tom Stacy, President of Community Cottages, Inc. “This agency has really taken a stand in trying to do their part and provide housing in this case . . . quality, affordable, safe housing for single head-of-household families,” he said.

A similar proposal came before the Council in the fall of 2001, but was withdrawn in the face of stiff neighborhood opposition. While the new project does include significant changes in terms of access and location within the lot, neighbors were no more welcoming this time around.

“We do not oppose affordable housing,” said Tamala Barksdale, “we oppose this zoning change.” Neighbors were opposed to the arrangement of homes on the lot, the possibility of a daycare center and the traffic impact. “In order to fit the 30 units, daycare center and a community center and office, as well as adequate parking, the housing units would be situated in a cul-de-sac like design-facing a one-way 15-foot wide street,” said Barksdale. “Imagine the chaos and bedlam that would be created if an emergency happened at any of the facilities? Without access to an arterial road, all the traffic into and out of the development will be through local streets . . . It is unimaginable to me that the City of Austin would find that what is essentially a commercial development is appropriate for placement at the dead end of a small residential street. The zoning codes are there to protect citizens from undue burdens like those the traffic from this project would cause.”

While some neighbors were concerned about the impact of too many cars, others were concerned that the lower-income residents at the development would have too few cars and be forced to rely on public transportation. Currently, the nearest Capital Metro bus stop is three hundred yards away. However, Community Development Officer Paul Hilgers told the Council that Capital Metro could make changes to its service in the future as the population of the neighborhood grows. “Theirs is a project that certifies as meeting Smart Housing standards,” he said. “They are not required to have the transit services until there are actually people living in the facility.” In addition to adjusting bus routes, Capital Metro could also choose to service the site with vans or shuttles once the homes are occupied.

The council voted 7-0 to approve the zoning change, overriding a valid petition submitted by the neighborhood. “Generally, I think the proposal has been strengthened,” said Council Member Raul Alvarez. “We have a larger site and fewer units. The proposed density is approximately the same as the surrounding neighborhood. I think there are many reasons why this is a good proposal.” The ordinance passed by the Council requires any daycare facility at the site to obtain a conditional use permit. It also provides that no more than 100 children could be served by a daycare at the location.

Zoning change relieves owners of 30-year-old business

Change helps match zoning to use of Fortview property

When Terry and Debbie Sayther started their auto repair business in 1973, Fortview Road was outside the Austin city limits. Nobody worried about whether there might be some conflict with the desires of future residential neighbors along Clawson Road. Thirty years later, the extra lot the BMW repair shop uses for vehicle storage has gotten the Saythers into trouble. The city’s code enforcement workers have cited them for illegal use of the property, which was zoned SF-3.

Neighbors had complained when the couple kept extra cars along the street, so they rented the lot for those cars. On Thursday, the City Council agreed unanimously with the Zoning and Platting Commission recommendation that the property should be designated CS with a conditional overlay preventing any commercial uses besides vehicle storage. Sarah Crocker, representing the Saythers, told the Council the official position of the neighborhood association was one of neutrality.

After explaining the history of the business and the adjacent properties to the east and west—a mobile home and some construction sales and services, all zoned LO(office)—Crocker noted, “We have a number of other commercial uses that are also located on sites that aren’t zoned appropriately.” The primary reason for that, she said, was that the zoning did not match the use when it was put into place. Property just north of the auto repair store is primarily zoned single-family. She concluded that her client’s business “is rather rustic looking. It’s one of those things that keep South Austin weird.”

A few neighbors signed cards favoring the change, and others indicated they were opposed, but not many came to the Council hearing. One who did was Daryl Thompson, who told the Council, “Zoning is a tool to direct growth and preserve our neighborhood. This property was originally zoned SF-3 for a reason. If I wanted to live on the motor mile I would have bought property on I-35. If the sole purpose of ZAP and Council is to increase the tax base, I will be selling out and moving out of the country. My taxes have gone up every year and I refuse to pay for a private business to use and abuse the public right-of-way and pollute its air and water.”

Alice Glasco, director of the Neighborhood Planning and Zoning Department, told the Council that her staff recommended not requiring a restrictive covenant prohibiting dismantling of cars on the site. Because CS zoning does not allow such activities, she said, the restrictive covenant would be unnecessary. The Council followed her suggestion. Council Member Daryl Slusher made the motion and Council Member Betty Dunkerley seconded it.

©2003 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved

Presidential candidate Wesley Clark to visit Austin today . . . Former General Wesley Clark is holding a rally beginning at 1:30pm at Wooldridge Park, next to the courthouse downtown. Clark will be addressing supporters at what is being billed as "The General's Assembly" about 2pm. From here, Clark will travel to Midwestern State University, in Wichita Falls . . . No Environmental Board this week . . . The Environmental Board meeting previously scheduled for Wednesday has been cancelled. The next meeting will be October 15 . . . Hartman joins Smith, Robertson. . . Land use attorney David Hartman has joined the law firm of Smith Robertson Elliott & Glen. He was previously associated with Graves Dougherty Hearon & Moody . . . Appointments . . . The Council reappointed Suzi Harriman to the Arts Commission and Decker Ayers to the Building and Standards Commission. Council Member Daryl Slusher nominated Patrick Reinhart to the Ethics Commission. Yolanda Aleman-Limon was appointed by consensus to the Community Development Commission. Council Member Betty Dunkerley appointed Curtis Brown to the Building and Fire Code Board of Appeals. Wallace Beckham was named to the Child Care Council. .

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