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ZAP denies contentious rezoning request at Balcones Country Club

Friday, October 11, 2013 by Elizabeth Pagano

Opponents of a bid to develop Balcones Country Club land won a unanimous victory at the Zoning and Platting Commission last week.


The Balcones Country Club Membership Association brought forward the proposal to rezone four lots from Rural Residential to SF-1. Currently, the land is undeveloped and considered part of the Balcones Country Club golf course. Those opposed to the zoning point to a warranty deed – established when the land was still part of a Municipal Utility District – that says the land is set aside for recreational or golf course use.


The lots in question are located at 9405 Fourteen Tee Drive, 11512 Spicewood Parkway, 11300 Spicewood Parkway and 9900 Mandeville Circle.


Unlike private deed restrictions, which the city is not a party to and cannot enforce, the city’s legal staff explained that this situation was different. The warranty deed was in effect when the Northwest Travis County MUD No. 2 was annexed by the city in 1997. The terms of the annexation lay out that the city can enforce the warranty deed, which is effectively a public restrictive covenant at this point, though it is not obligated to do so.


The Zoning and Platting Commission took that obligation seriously. They voted 7-0 to deny the zoning request.


“I think something is wrong when the city annexes an area and reduces the value to the owners,” said Chair Betty Baker. “I just don’t think it should happen.”


Commissioner Patricia Seeger said that while she saw the zoning appropriate for the land, she had to think about how reasonable the presumption that land would remain undeveloped was.


“I really feel like whoever took over the obligation of the original restriction has the duty to defend it. I would reasonably feel that it should be defended,” said Seeger.


A valid petition against the zoning change stood at 51.24 percent. Though stockholders of the country club voted to approve the change, members declined to provide a tally of that vote. One neighbor pointed out that the membership only accounts for about 20 percent of the community’s residents.


The membership association says that the development of the four lots will allow the golf course, which has been closed for the past two years, to reopen.


John Cotton, who identified himself as a life member of the country club and former member of the club’s Board of Directors, said that the community’s biggest fear was that once the warranty deed was pierced the board of the country club would be able to sell off more property in the future.


There were about 40 people who spoke about the rezoning. Many neighbors explained that they had purchased their property with the understanding that the land would remain undeveloped. They also expressed concern that increasing impervious cover could exacerbate drainage and flooding issues in the area.


Consultant Alice Glasco, who spoke as a representative of the Cotton family and drew from her own history as City Planning Director, told the commission that she had attended all of the public annexation meetings that took place in 1997. She reminded the commission that the meetings were quite contentious, with many MUD residents not wanting to be annexed.


Glasco said that at the time, one of the big reasons for opposing annexation was a concern that the city would not enforce existing deed restrictions.


“They were not pleasant meetings,” said Glasco.


That passion survived at the Zoning and Platting Commission meeting.


“I’ve been affiliated in some capacity with the city since 1974… I have never seen a situation with such tenacity,” said Baker. “Our phones are burned up, our emails are burned up. We got the message. We know why you are here.”

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