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Planning Commission opposes ending covenant to allow condos

Tuesday, December 17, 2013 by Elizabeth Pagano

Prospective developers of an East Austin tract might have to come up with another plan after the Planning Commission declined to recommend terminating a restrictive covenant on the property.


Paul Saustraup asked to terminate the restrictive covenant at 1120 Tillery Street. The covenant rolls back zoning from the existing CS-MU-CO-NP to SF-4A-NP on the 3.36 acres if the current use as a plant nursery is discontinued. Currently, the property is home to Ted’s Trees.


Though staff supported the change, the neighborhood did not. Neither did the Planning Commission, which voted unanimously to deny the request. Commissioners Jean Stevens, Alfonso Hernandez, Richard Hatfield and Brian Roark were absent.


Commissioner Danette Chimenti urged the applicant to come up with a better solution to the problem with the neighborhood.


“If there is an agreement to terminate a restrictive covenant, then that’s another thing. But if the neighborhood is not in agreement with that, and the applicant just comes to us and wants to terminate something that was agreed to, I think we do a disservice to the whole process if we approve something like that,” said Chimenti.

Daniel Llanes, who is on the Govalle/ Johnson Terrace Contact Team, told the Planning Commission that the contact team was “categorically opposed” to the termination of the covenant.


Llanes said that they would like to work with developers on a proposed road, and emphasized a desire to have single-family homes, not condominiums, in the area. He said that the neighborhood had done Ted’s Trees a favor in writing the neighborhood plan, and expected their deal to be honored.


“From a policy perspective, as far as neighborhoods, to build single-family homes attracts sustainability. It attracts people who have more of a tendency to come into the neighborhood, to live there for the long haul, particularly families. That bodes well for our school districts as well,” said Llanes.


He contrasted this with how he saw condominium owners, who he worried tended to buy condos as investments or “as stepping stones.”


“We really want to maintain the character,” said Llanes. “A lot of the east side is multi-generational. We don’t want to erase that. We want to actually encourage that, so that’s what this is actually about.”


“We want to make sure that the character of the neighborhood as a residential area, single-family houses, (remains,)” said Llanes. “Because we’re Texans. We’re not from New Jersey or somewhere else, where everyone is used to living in buildings without yards.”


Agent Hector Avilia told the commission that Ted’s Trees is still the owner of the property, and they planned to close on it in January. They plan to build single-family homes on the land, though Avilia said that he didn’t know if the deal would go through if the restrictive covenant remains on the land.


“In this case, condominium is just a selling point. We’re building single-family homes. The word condominium is just so we can go to the county and record the deed, and so the driveway and green space remains common,” said Avilia.

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