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Commission OKs more multi-family zoning for Riverside Drive area

Monday, December 15, 2008 by Mark Richardson

A developer seeking to build a small condominium complex in Southeast Austin ran up against a group of neighbors Tuesday night convinced that they had enough multi-family housing in their neighborhood. The project, four lots running 1406 through 1506 Parker Lane in the Riverside Drive area, eventually won a zoning recommendation, but not before some give-and-take on both sides.


Developers Ryan Diepenbrock, Bryant Coleman and Michael Hackett had originally sought to rezone the four tracts Multifamily Residence, Medium Density (MF 3-NP) and to change the land use on the East Riverside –Oltorf Combined Neighborhood Plan from Single Family to Multifamily. However, staff from the Neighborhood Planning and Zoning Department opposed that, recommending instead that the land be zoned Townhouse and Condo Residential, Conditional Overlay (SF-6-CO-NP) and set the land use as Higher-Density Single Family.


It became clear early on that there had not been a lot of communication between the developers and the neighborhood. Lead developer Diepenbrock said that from a financial point-of-view, condominiums were their only option.


“We are planning to develop 18 units at $225,000 each,” he said. “Other configurations simply do not generate sufficient revenue for us to make a go of it on this tract.”


He showed commissioners a chart showing the financials on building a small number of single-family homes, town houses or duplexes. Even with a considerably higher cost per unit, the condominiums were the only build-out that would allow them to make money on the four lots, he said.


Residents who lived close by the tract of four lots said they were strongly opposed to higher density in the area.


“We have lived next to the lot at 1408 Parker for more than 20 years,” said Mark Tarranola. “We do not want the noise, traffic and commotion that comes with that many people living in that small of an area.”


He also expressed concern over the developers’ unwillingness to put items discussed for a possible restrictive covenant in writing.


“They seem to want to do everything on a handshake,” Tarranola said. “For all we know, they could flip that land, so who knows what would be going up there tomorrow.”


Toni House with the East Riverside Oltorf Combined Plan, called EROC, pointed out that her area was already one of the most densely populated in the city.


“In 2005, city records show that there were about 500 single family homes in EROC,” she said. “But there were also more than 5,000 multi-family units in the same area, with site plans filed for another 2,500 to be built. Our density is 41 people per acre. We have very little green space.”


In the end, the Planning Commission voted to go with the staff recommendation of  SF 6-CO-NP, limiting the condos to two stories, placing a vegetative buffer on the west side of the property and requiring a 25-foot setback from single family housing. The commission voted 6-2 with members Clint Small and Tracy Atkins voting no.

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