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ZAP turns down commercial zoning for Spicewood lot

Thursday, September 18, 2008 by Mark Richardson

Turning down a last-minute compromise, Zoning and Platting Commission members voted Tuesday to reject a request for commercial zoning in a lot in an environmentally sensitive area of West Austin. The owner of a nine-acre lot just off Spicewood Springs Road west of Loop 360 had requested a zoning change to limited office – mixed use (LO-MU) from single-family residence (SF-2).


The lot is a long, narrow piece of land that – according to the Watershed Protection and Development Review Department – has a number of potential environmentally sensitive features. It is located in the Bull Creek Watershed and is very near the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone, but has not been surveyed for environmental features such as bluffs, springs, canyon rimrock, caves, sinkholes or wetlands.


Only a small portion of the lot is actually buildable, as at least two-thirds of the lot contains steep slopes or other features that would prevent construction. According to city code, the resulting useable impervious cover on the lot is 0.265 acres, or about 11,500 square feet without obtaining a variance.


Property owner Morin Scott said he planned to build a small retail-office building on the site, but a neighboring landowner said a commercial property in the area would be detrimental to his property.


“My land runs next to his for quite a distance,” said Laszlo Herczeg. “A commercial building in that area would increase traffic and hurt my ability to access my land. I have a lot of concerns about him building there.


Herczeg’s land is about 30-feet wide at its northernmost point and runs parallel to the Scott tract for several hundred yards before emptying into a small canyon.


The owner’s agent, Holland Wiler, countered that any building his client might put on the lot would not interfere with neighboring properties, and would not disturb any of the area’s environmental features.


After the public hearing closed, Commissioner Clarke Hammond – sensing no sentiment to approve commercial zoning for the tract – offered a compromise.


“I would move to zone the property at an SF-6,” he said. “That would allow them to build a condominium complex or something similar on the tract. I just don’t think commercial is going to work there.”


However, Commissioner Keith Jackson did not see much value in the compromise. He offered a substitute motion to leave the tract at SF-2.


“I think the best thing is to leave it right where it is and deny the zoning request,” he said. “With as little space as there is to develop on the tract, I don’t see more than a single home going in there. You couldn’t build very many condos on that lot.”


Hammond withdrew his motion and Jackson’s motion won unanimous approval. The City Council will have the final say on this but is unlikely to grant commercial zoning with such a strong statement from the ZAP.

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