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Planners postpone SOS amendment for mobile home park

Friday, April 16, 2010 by Kimberly Reeves

The Planning Commission held its collective nose this week and postponed a request for an amendment to the SOS Ordinance for a mobile home park.


The vote was intended to give the Environmental Board time to form a subcommittee next week to consider whether certain non-commercial properties should qualify for redevelopment options in the Barton Springs recharge zone.


Typically, those rights are reserved for commercial properties and intended to take those properties off of septic systems and provide proper drainage. It gives commercial properties, typically limited to 15 percent impervious cover, the right to redevelop with up to 40 percent impervious cover limits.


Even Commissioner Jay Reddy — whose then-Codes and Ordinances subcommittee recommended initiating a code amendment to the SOS Ordinance – seemed less inclined to support any type of exception moving forward. In fact, Reddy said given new information, his recommendation would have been a non-recommendation.


Commissioners seemed inclined to do nothing on the ordinance to accommodate redevelopment on the site of The Courtyard, located on Southwest Parkway. The project is located next to St. Andrews School.


“I think we should just stay silent for about 30 seconds, and Dave (Sullivan, board chair) will get the idea,” Reddy joked, when the first proposal by Commissioner Kathryn Tovo did not move forward with a code amendment to the ordinance.


Reddy clarified that it was not the particular merits of this case. Instead, he had problems with the idea of amending the ordinance based on a single case.


“This seems like the most labor-intensive way of dealing with this problem for all parties,” said Reddy, adding that there were other ways to get people off septic systems in the Barton Springs recharge zone. “If City Council is worried about this, then maybe they should be providing some funding to get these people connected to the sewer system.”


Environmental Officer Pat Murphy tried to clarify the Environmental Board’s discussion, noting that the commission did want to suggest a task force in order to provide a more orderly and organized discussion. All told, despite some concerns of Council, only a handful of large-scale residential properties exist in the recharge zone on septic systems: the 19-home mobile home park known as The Courtyard; a small apartment complex in the area; and an historic home.


All told, it was no more than 70 acres of land. Environmental Planner Matt Hollon noted that residential properties had been excluded from the new redevelopment ordinance specifically because Council feared too many applicants.


“Council said, specifically, let’s not bring this in because the number of people coming in would flood the system,” Hollon said. “Instead, at the two-year update, we’ve had exactly zero of those cases come through to completion. There really has been no land rush, as expected.”


Presented with the option to defer to the Environmental Board – any motion would have to go from one board to the other before going to Council anyway – the die appeared to be cast.


An initial vote not to initiate a code amendment failed on a vote of 3-4, with Commissioners Tovo, Chimenti and Reddy voting for it.


A second motion, by Commissioner Mandy Dealey, postponed the item until May 25, with the understanding that the Environmental Board could be ready with some initial direction at that time. That passed on a 7-0 vote, with Commissioners David Anderson and Saundra Kirk absent.


Any code amendment to the SOS Ordinance would start at the Environmental Board, move through the Planning Commission and go to the Council for approval. At Council, a super-majority would be necessary to approve an amendment.

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