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ZAP backs compromise with developer, neighborhood on duplexes

Tuesday, March 25, 2014 by Elizabeth Pagano

Brokering a compromise between worried neighbors and developers, the Zoning and Platting Commission last week asked that plans for a duplex development in far South Austin be scaled back.


The owners, Brian and Geryl Winterowd, were seeking a change from SF-2 zoning to SF-3 zoning at 2507 Mitchell Lane. In addition to the base zoning, the 3.789-acre lot has a conditional overlay that limited development to one unit per acre.


The Winterowds were seeking the zoning change in order to build duplexes on the lot. Bobby Jo Cornelius of Site Specifics told the commission that they planned to construct 18 duplex units, or 36 residences, on the land.


Concerned neighbors showed up to express their opposition to a plan they feared would increase traffic and bring renters into the neighborhood.


Resident Susan Willman said that she bought her house six years ago specifically because of the green space behind the house.


“I am concerned about the issue of duplexes. I don’t agree it’s not going to translate into a higher rate of crime,” said Willman, who said that duplexes near her daughter’s house had drawn drug dealers and police raids since they were built.


“I think if anything is going to be developed, it should be single-family homes, where it will be a larger yard and people who are probably the owners and who will care more about their property,” said Willman.


Willman also worried that the development could exacerbate already bad traffic on Drew Lane and nearby Manchaca Road.


Brain Winterowd explained that he lived adjacent to the proposed development, and planned to live there “the rest of his days.”


“We would never permit a development of the land in our backyard in such a way that would be detrimental to us or to our neighbors,” said Winterowd. “If anybody is impacted by the development it would be us, and what is intended is units to go in that have an average listing price of about $275,000…What we would be doing, in essence, is actually elevating the value in the general area.”


Though the commission didn’t cast aspersions at the intentions of the Winterowds, they were concerned about the impact that building so many duplexes would have. Ultimately, they voted unanimously to approve a reduced change that kept the zoning at SF-2, but limited the number of lots allowed to 16. Commissioners Sean Compton and Gabriel Rojas were absent.


“I’m generally pro-density,” said Commissioner Rahm McDaniel. “But when I look at this site and the surrounding area, what I keep coming back to is that SF-2 is probably the right zoning for this site.”


“This site is challenged by not just the shape of the site, but also the traffic patterns around the site…This part of town is almost irredeemably suburban, because of the layout of the streets,” said McDaniel.


He found support with Commissioner Patricia Seeger, who worried that a change to SF-3 could spark a trend.


“You look at this, and it’s too dense and kind of an inappropriate place for so much density… I was looking at a satellite image of Drew Lane a moment ago, and it is not a very healthy road,” said Commissioner Jason Meeker. “This is the general malaise of our nice city. Our infrastructure has not kept up with out development. I think that’s what we are all seeing that we would like to prevent – overburdening this area.”


“We put too many structures, too many dwellings… We’re opening a Pandora’s Box,” said Meeker.

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