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Dawson “shockingly” happy with redevelopment plan

Monday, August 25, 2008 by Austin Monitor

The Planning Commission has endorsed a zoning change for property on Wilson St. in the Dawson Neighborhood that would allow the owners to redevelop the existing mixture of single-family and multi-family housing with a larger, denser multi-family style complex under the city’s SMART Housing guidelines.


Currently, the property in question has several different zoning categories on three different tracts, including SF-3, MF-2, and MF-3. Cobalt Partners, Ltd. is seeking a change on some of those tracts to MF-2 and MF-4 to allow town-home style construction.


Armed with an extensive list of conditions, some neighborhood representatives said they would support the project. “This case has had more twists and turns than ‘All My Children’. It has been a roller coaster, to say the least,” said Rob Robbins. He described the initial plan presented by the developers as “awful”. After a presentation by agent Mike McHone to the neighborhood association earlier this year, Robbins said, “we sent him packing with the order to go back to his architect and do something decent.”


The neighborhood’s main objection to the original plan was the additional density the project would bring to Wilson Street. “Shockingly, they came back with exactly what we asked for. It was a better product…and it did overwhelmingly get support within the neighborhood, mainly because of the sensitivity to Wilson Street,” Robbins said. “That was a real high.”


Not everyone, however, was satisfied with the new plans, which would limit the height of the new residences to ensure they do not clash with nearby single-family homes. “There are likely to be three times the number of vehicles in this development as are there now,” said David Barker, who lives on Wilson St. “Our main concern is with the erosion of the amount of SF zoning in our neighborhood, specifically near where we live. There is considerable MF already on this site and nearby on Durwood Street. I am concerned about the quality of that part of the neighborhood, and I think we can do better than what this is suggesting. This plan will put three story apartment structures across the street from us.”


The Planning Commission approved the applicant’s request on a vote of 6-1, with a conditional overlay limiting the height on MF-4 portions of the site to 35 feet and the overall number of multi-family units to 62. Compatibility standards will also apply, which limit any structures within 100 feet of the property line to 40 feet in height. “This represents the desires of the neighborhood, and we will do as much as we possibly can to tie the zoning to the agreement between the neighborhood and the developer,” said Commissioner Mandy Dealey.


The only vote in opposition came from Chair Dave Sullivan, who was not satisfied with the developer’s commitment to make 10 percent of the units available to tenants at 80 percent of the area’s median family income. “I believe the market is doing better than what you’re doing with SMART Housing,” he said, citing several town homes in the neighborhood that would be available to families at 70 percent of MFI. “I really do think we need to do some work on SMART Housing. We ought to be looking at more of the local area, and if the need is for housing at 60 percent MFI, then it ought to be 10 percent at 60 percent MFI to get the benefit.”


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