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Planning Commission backs zoning changes over neighbors’ opposition

Tuesday, July 9, 2013 by Elizabeth Pagano

Despite opposition from the neighborhood and a request for more time to work things out, Planning Commissioners moved forward with a South Lamar zoning case at their last meeting.


Developers were seeking a zoning change from Family Residence (SF-3) to Urban Family Residence (SF-6) for a lot at 3907 Clawson Patio Homes, and a change from SF-3 to MF-1 at the adjacent 3902 Clawson Road. The lots have two different owners – Dean Chen and Roy G. Crouse, respectively – though both were represented by Vincent G. Huebinger of Bleyl Interests, Inc. The lots will be developed together as well, as duplexes or “patio homes.”


Huebinger explained that the zoning change was necessary to make the vision for the lot, and the adjacent lot, a reality. The plan faces opposition from the South Lamar Neighborhood Association.


In a vote of 5-2, the Planning Commission approved SF-5 zoning for tract I and SF-6 on tract 2, with a limit of 16 units total for both tracts combined. Commissioners Danette Chimenti and Myron Smith voted in opposition. Commissioners Jean Stevens and Stephen Oliver were absent.


“I understand some of the concerns of the neighborhood, and I share them myself. I think this is going to be an ongoing problem,” said Commissioner James Nortey. “But if the question is: is the zoning appropriate, (the answer is) yes, because it conforms with Imagine Austin, yes, because it is compatible with nearby adjacent uses, and yes because it still promotes a diversity of housing.”


“I wish that the relations between the neighborhood and the owner had gone a lot better but, unfortunately, in this instance I do think the zoning is appropriate,” said Nortey.


Chimenti said that she was happy to see the change to SF-6 zoning, and the limit on the number of units allowed, but, had reservations about the way the case was resolved.


“It seems like we are just pulling stuff out of the air,” said Chimenti, who explained she would have loved to have seen things worked out with the neighborhood.


“It is complex. It’s a complex piece of property, it’s a complex development, and it’s complex what needs to happen in this neighborhood,” said Chimenti. “I would have really liked to have seen a postponement.”


The owners were adamant that another meeting with the neighborhood association wouldn’t result in a compromise. The case had previously been postponed to facilitate conversation – resulting in two meetings that the applicant described as hostile. Huebinger said that they had moved down from their original request and were willing to settle on SF-6 zoning.


“In my opinion, and I’ve been in both meetings and met with people, they do not want us to do this project. They want us to stay with SF-3,” said realtor Johnny Cuchia, who owns different property on Clawson Road. “When we had our very first meeting, it was so hostile that we were taken aback by it… The people that are representing the neighborhood association don’t live on Clawson Road. They don’t live anywhere near Clawson Road.”


Crouse said that in the meeting neighbors that seemed positive about the project were disregarded, and there had been no compromise offered from the association at or from either of the meetings.


Bryan King, who is a member of the neighborhood association as well as a Board of Adjustment member, said that he was not present at either of the meetings, and apologized if there was a bad tone. He said he would be happy to get involved, was sure the property would be developed, and would like to be in agreement with the developers about what was built.


Many neighbors spoke against the rezoning, citing concerns with increased traffic on Clawson as well as pervasive drainage issues in the neighborhood. They said that they wanted more information about plans for the lots than they were given.


Association President Nancy Maclaine told the commission that she was put in the position of approving SF-6 zoning at a previous committee meeting, on the spot, and was unable to “take a deal on the fly,” as the zoning change had to go through the normal neighborhood association process.


“We’re not saying no to SF-6; we’re not saying no to SF-5; but we think it ought to be done with due diligence,” said Maclaine. “We’re always mindful of the fact that we are zoning the dirt. The pictures are nice… but they also can sell the land, and the zoning goes with the property.”

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