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Commission backs neighborhood’s zoning request

Thursday, February 26, 2009 by Kimberly Reeves

Given two almost identical zoning options for a tract on Kings Lane – one of them endorsed by staff and the other by the local neighborhood – the Planning Commission this week landed on the side of the Central Austin Combined Neighborhood Plan.

The lot, at 3301 Kings Lane, is zoned LO-NP but is smaller than the required square footage, the product of its tangled 80-year-old history. On the Heritage Neighborhood future land use map, or FLUM, the property is zoned single-family as the ultimate desired use. But the zoning remains LO-NP.

On the face of it, the lot does not appear to be consistent with mixed use. Kings Lane, in fact, is more alley than commercial corridor, although it is a block off West 34th Street.  The lot currently is being used as off-site parking for medical offices across the street. Agent Phil Moncada, acting on behalf of owner David Heaps, wanted to re-zone the Kings Lane property to LO-MU-NP to allow its eventual residential use, but without a timeline for action.

In opposition, Al Godfrey spoke for the Heritage Neighborhood. It was the neighborhood’s suggestion that the property be zoned SF-4a-NP. That would have given the property about the same setbacks, plus identical coverage and impervious cover limits, but it would have set the clock ticking on development. According to city codes, Heaps would need to begin construction in 10 years. Moncada had some doubts about that timeline, given the current economy.

Commissioner Mandy Dealey asked staff whether the property could have been zoned either SF-1 or SF-2, instead of LO-MU, but Planners Victoria Craig and Clark Patterson considered the applicant’s suggestion an appropriate use for the property in that location, under that zoning, with restrictions on use proposed by the applicant. A CO also was being added to limit trips to no more than 2,000 per day.

Commissioner Saundra Kirk commented that an SF use did appear to make more sense, given the size of the lot and the single-family residence to the east. The dimension of the street itself was narrow, with no characteristics of a corridor, Kirk said. Kirk said she would have preferred to see a site plan if the owner intended to make a zoning change that would continue to support LO-MU zoning.

“This kind of (proposed) zoning is out of scale with the street and lot size,” Kirk said. “I wouldn’t see that as being a practical project for this location.”

Moncada raised the point that the parameters on the proposal – with its setbacks and impervious cover – would suggest that LO-MU was no more of a problem than SF-4a. The commission, however, tended to favor starting the clock ticking on development, which would require compliance in 10 years to the FLUM.

Godfrey told the commissioners that the LO-NP zoning was a conscious effort by the neighborhood not to kick properties on the FLUM out of compliance. The goal always was to move the property into compliance under an SF zoning category.

The commission favored the SF-4a-NP zoning recommendation for the property. An amendment to put more restrictions on it – a 10-foot rear setback – failed. A number of smaller lots in the area already had a smaller rear setback.

The Planning Commission approved the SF-4a-NP zoning unanimously.

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