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Planning Commission OKs flag lots over neighborhood opposition

Tuesday, November 15, 2011 by Elizabeth Pagano

Citing its legal obligation, the Planning Commission unenthusiastically approved a flag-lot subdivision in South Austin last week. Commissioners voted 7-0 to approve the subdivision at 2110 Fort View Road. The property is 0.505 acres, and the subdivision will divide it into three lots, two of which will be flag lots.


Though there was clear neighborhood opposition, the subdivision met all legal requirements, leaving the Planning Commission with no discretion.


“I understand that sometimes it is frustrating to come to a meeting where you hear we must approve something. But it is important for people to bring problems before us. Because we can make changes for the future,” said Chair David Sullivan. “That doesn’t help you, but it could help somebody else in the future. In many cases, people have brought us problems, and we’ve made changes in the land development code.”


At the end of September, the Planning Commission voted to amend city code to address flag lots. In its recommendation to Council were requirements about subdivisions as well as a recommendation that flag lots be rejected if in violation of private deed restrictions.


Though the amendment has yet to pass, agent Mike McHone explained that not only did the property meet current requirements but the owners had gone one step further.


“We have gone far beyond what is currently required under the flag lot ordinance. We are in total compliance with your flag lot ordinance… We believe we are setting a standard for the city, and meeting the standards that have not even been adopted by the City Council yet for flag lots,” said McHone.


Planner Don Perryman told In Fact Daily that this was the case, and the subdivision met all of the requirements in the proposed flag lot amendment yet to be passed by City Council.


“We believe this is in compliance with the long-term goals of the city in creating small, affordable lots in the city, a compact city that will allow us to build single-family homes that are modest in size,” said McHone.


Willie Elsass, neighbor, understood the commission had to approve the subdivision, but worried that it would set a precedent on the street, which is comprised of similar lots.


“You’re really setting a situation where it is probably going to happen to all of those properties. I think that’s a tragic thing,” said Elsass. “We are extremely diverse in that area, from ethnicity to socio-economics, to the sizes of property, to the sizes of houses. Why would the city just allow this to be destroyed? Because that’s exactly what’s going to happen. You are not creating a better thing by allowing this to occur.”


Chair Dave Sullivan acknowledged the concerns of the neighbors, who feared that flag lots would overrun the small neighborhood, and radically increase impervious cover in the area. He recommended that the remaining properties be rezoned SF-1, to stave off future subdivision.


Six of the seven property owners on that section of Fort View Road oppose the subdivision, the seventh being the applicant.


Elsass called Sullivan’s suggestion an “interesting proposition.”

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