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Council postpones vote on Spicewood Springs tract

Wednesday, January 21, 2009 by Austin Monitor

A zoning change on a 2.4-acre parcel on Spicewood Springs Drive faced no opposition in its first two readings, but last week, with the specifics on the table, Council was a bit more reticent to give approval on third, and final, reading.

Council and the owner Morin Scott have gone back and forth on just how much – and how many units – could be built on the steeply sloped property at 5005 Spicewood Springs. The owner wanted to change the zoning from SF-2 to SF-6 in an effort to put a smaller footprint on the property.

Originally, the owner planned to build some kind of mixed-use project on the parcel, which sits on Spicewood Springs Drive, between Mesa Boulevard and Loop 360. The property, however, is near the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone and in close proximity of the flood plain.

In the course of discussions, plans were narrowed down to two duplexes, for a total of four units. The most recent question of Council was what kind of variances would be necessary to build out the property, especially given the steep slopes.

In a presentation to Council, NPZD Director Greg Guernsey noted a number of probable variances, even with the zoning change: cut/fill greater than four feet; construction of buildings or parking lots on slopes greater than 25 percent;  construction of roadways or driveways on slopes greater than 15 percent; and  additional concerns about the placement of trees and whether a driveway would have to cross a SF-2 piece of the parcel to get to the SF-6 development.

Council Member Laura Morrison expressed her discomfort at approving any zoning change that would require variances for development. Council Member Lee Leffingwell followed that up with a question: How many units could be built on the property in a way that required no variances?

Environmental Officer Pat Murphy said his assessment was that building any number of units would require variances. The number of units was not the issue, Murphy said.

With the intention of further defining the conservation easement and buffer arrangement on the property, Leffingwell called for the vote on third reading to be delayed until Feb. 12. The owner is expected to work with Murphy’s staff.

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