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ZAP rejects variance on home site to protect wetlands
Monday, January 12, 2009 by Austin Monitor
The Zoning and Platting Commission has rejected an environmental variance for a single-family lot near the Balcones Country Club near US 183 and Anderson Mill. The owner of 9009 Spring Lake Drive, which is in the Bull Creek Watershed, wanted to build a single-family home on the property, but wetlands and nearby seeps are protected by the city’s regulations.
The Environmental Board had recommended the variance with several conditions, which were included in a proposed restrictive covenant. City staff also recommended the variance. The owner’s agent, Mike Chapa, told the commission his client simply wanted the variance to utilize the property. “If it’s denied, then we won’t be able to build on our property,” he said.
Neighbors came to the meeting with technical data disputing some of the conclusions reached by staff and the Environmental Board in their recommendation. They originally contested the staff’s conclusion that the lot contained over 2,100 square feet of allowable impervious cover, but after a brief recess to review the regulations staffers re-confirmed that figure.
Neighborhood representatives testified that while the lot was zone SF-1-CO, it was inappropriate for a residential use.” The property never should have been sold in the first place. It was part of a golf course, it was RR at the time, they cut this piece out and sold it to the gentleman who did no due diligence,” said neighbor Jerry Lozano. “The gentleman has moved to California. It’s just another investment that didn’t work.”
He disputed the staff’s conclusion that denying the owner the right to build on his property would subject him to different standards than surrounding landowners. “There are no other houses in the neighborhood that have that many water quality features around them or are built near wetlands or seeps or anything like that,” he said. “We still believe that there should be nothing built on this property.”
Commissioner Keith Jackson was skeptical of the neighbors’ arguments. “I’m struggling with this,” he said. “This is an individual asking to build one single-family home in what is obviously a neighborhood of hundreds of single family homes. What is the real rub here?”
Lozano admitted the neighbors had originally been concerned about flooding on the property, whether the home would be properly maintained, and whether it would be visually attractive. “Now, we have discovered the different features and believe it should not be built there,” he said.
Lozano was not the only one opposing the variance. Neighbor Eric Holston told the Commission he believed the current owner would turn around and sell the property to someone unfamiliar with the restrictions on the site. “I hope that we wouldn’t pass along the same problems we’ve been discussing to an unwitting buyer. The current owner has already been victimized by inadequate disclosure compounded by his own lack of due diligence,” Holston said. “We’re being asked to fix this for him.”
Some members of the Commission were sympathetic to the plight of the property owner. Jackson made a motion to approve the recommendation of the Environmental Board. However, only three Commissioners supported that motion, with four opposed. Since the Zoning and Platting Commission has final approval on those variance requests, “this is dead,” Jackson said. “We get to hear this again with some other solution.”
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