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Commission recommends zoning change for 13-acre tract in South Austin

Friday, November 8, 2013 by Elizabeth Pagano

With Election Night activities going on elsewhere, the Zoning and Platting Commission had a quiet meeting Tuesday, focusing on a single case in Southwest Austin.


The Sawmill Drive property that the panel considered is just northwest of the Oak Parke Subdivision and south of Bowie High School. Currently zoned Interim Rural Residence, the lot is just about 13 acres and currently has one single-family residence on it.


The owner is requesting a change from the current interim zoning to SF-2 zoning in order to subdivide the property. Staff supported the change, which is consistent with the zoning found in the nearby Oak Parke subdivision.


While the commission recommended the zoning change in a unanimous vote, after one neighbor’s testimony, it added an additional conditional overlay that limits the number of houses that can be built on the property.


“If we are looking at just the zoning case that staff has presented to us, the zoning is for a maximum of 97 lots,” said Commissioner Rahm McDaniel.


While this might be strictly true, given the other restrictions, staff estimated that the zoning change would allow 30 units on the property, at most. Additionally, a private restrictive covenant on the property would limit development to 53 units.


McDaniel said that though he understood that would not be practically possible, due to a restrictive covenant and city development standards, he used caution in what he factored in to vote for the zoning.


“I’m not trying to be unreasonable. I’m trying to be consistent,” said McDaniel, who mentioned previous cases involving private restrictive covenants and conceptual subdivision plans.


With that reasoning, the commission added a conditional overlay that limited development of the property to 30 homes.


Unlike the Oak Parke subdivision, development on the property will be limited to 15 percent impervious cover. The land is located within the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone, and the city was unable to find any previous permits that would allow grandfathering.


Though the Oak Parke Homeowners Association does support the request, there was one neighbor who spoke in opposition.


Marisol Claudio-Ehalt spoke against the zoning change, saying she was concerned that her neighborhood had the wrong impression of the change. She said that they were under the impression that the property would be developed as 25 large lots, about which they were happy.


Claudio-Ehalt noted that without knowing who the property would be sold to, it was hard to know what would ultimately be built.


Ross Frie, of Frie Planning, Development & Construction spoke on behalf of the owner, Atlas Cook IV, whose family has owned the land for several generations.


“His intent is not to develop the property. It is just to sell the property at this point in time,” said Frie, who explained that they had never attempted to rezone the property since it was zoned I-RR at annexation in 1998.


Frie explained that in a private restrictive covenant with the neighborhood, they had agreed to no multifamily zoning, ever, and a limitation of 53 lots that he said was a “worst case scenario.”


“This would be as nice, most likely better, than the existing neighborhood,” said Frie.


“We’re talking about zoning, which is about compatible land uses, and all we are requesting is SF-2, which is what the Oak Parke neighborhood is already zoned as. This would actually be a nice apartment site, but that’s not what we’re asking for,” said Frie.


Chair Betty Baker said those who were opposed to the project were “very fortunate” that the owners weren’t asking for SF-3 zoning.

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