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Oak Hill neighbors split over density on Loma Vista lot

Tuesday, July 15, 2008 by Austin Monitor

Some Oak Hill residents left last week’s Planning Commission meeting dismayed over the commission’s decision to recommend small single-family lot zoning for one tract within the Oak Hill Neighborhood Plan. The commission is recommending SF-6 zoning for an 11-acre site at 6800 Waters Way near FM 1826 and US 290, with a conditional overlay to limit the number of homes on the site. Although that recommendation is in concert with plans from the Neighborhood Planning Contact Team, several neighbors organized to oppose the request citing concerns over traffic and density.


“It’s not the zoning that’s most important in this as far as the character of the subdivision,” said Barrett Allison, who led the presentation on behalf of the Loma Vista neighborhood. “Loma Vista One is a low-density neighborhood. Our largest lot here is nine acres. On average we have one home per two acres of land.”


Neighbors argued that the SF-6 zoning, even if it included a conditional overlay limiting the total number of homes to be allowed under the more-restrictive SF-1 zoning category, would still bring too much development to their area.


The street that would provide access for the new residents, Allison said, “was never meant to be a major thoroughfare. There are no curbs, no on-street or off-street parking. When a mail truck or garbage truck stops, you can’t get around them.” He told the commission that even SF-1 density on the tract would be too much. He recommended a conditional overlay limiting the 11-acre site to 12 units.


“This is supposed to be the vision of the neighborhoods. This is the vision of our neighborhood,” Allison said. “If you’re not going to support that, then just about everything I’ve heard up here about the importance of the zoning principles and the goals of the Planning Commission or the Oak Hill Plan is just thrown out the window.”


But attorney Jeff Howard, who represented owners John and Jackie Waters, reminded them that the neighborhood planning contact team had recommended SF-6 zoning with a limit of 30 units on a vote of 11-2. “All the property around the Waters tract is zoned SF-2,” he said. “The Waters have proposed SF-2 density but they’ve indicated they are willing to accept SF-1 density. So we’re talking about a density for this tract that is appropriate for the neighborhood. Many lots are over one acre, but about 37 percent are under one acre.”


He argued that by clustering the 30 homes on the property as allowed under SF-6, the family could build a more environmentally responsible development that preserved more green space. “Don’t let the SF-6 scare you. The key to this case is the conditional overlay. It gets you the neighborhood-compatible density, it gets you the traffic limitations, it gets you the single family character and it gets you the flexibility to do a clustered housing development.”


Neighbors, however, were not convinced. “I am afraid of SF-6. I don’t know what that looks like, I don’t know what the plan is,” said Bryan Reese. “I think it gives the property much more flexibility, and because the property owner is not the developer, we don’t know what the future holds for this piece of property if it’s developed by someone else.”


But Howard’s argument did win over members of the Planning Commission. “I grew up in a rural area where people moved to the community because it was rural, and then, having been there not very long, prohibited my family from developing the farm that we’d had for 30 years,” said Commissioner Mandy Dealey. “I cannot be as sympathetic to the people who have moved into this neighborhood within the last 15 years. So you can boo me, you can throw things at me, you can slash my tires. But I have a very particular perspective on this that I can not change or help, and I won’t apologize for it,” she said.


Dealey moved to endorse the recommendation of the neighborhood planning contact team for SF-6 zoning, a conditional overlay limiting the tract to 30 units and a limit on the number of trips per day associated with the site. Commissioner Perla Cavazos provided the second to the motion, which passed on a vote of 5-2-1, with Commissioners Chris Ewen and Paula Hui opposed and Commissioner Saundra Kirk abstaining.

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