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Council members approve Lake Austin Overlay, shoreline rules

Monday, May 19, 2014 by Elizabeth Pagano

A new set of zoning regulations known as the Lake Austin Overlay got past its first City Council hurdle Thursday night.


Council voted on first reading to adopt the regulations, with two more to go before the overlay is adopted. In general, they approved the recommendations backed by the Planning Commission. (See Austin Monitor, April 15)


Council Member Laura Morrison did make one change to the section that establishes a Lake Austin (LA) district overlay. That overlay would apply to properties within 1,000 feet of the lake that are zoned Lake Austin (LA), Interim-Lake Austin (I-LA), Development Reserve (DR), Rural Residential (RR) and Interim-Rural Residential (I-RR).

Morrison added an amendment to include Planned Unit Developments, called PUDs, to the overlay, stipulating that if the overlay was in conflict with the rules of the existing PUD, the PUD zoning would dominate.


Former Lake Austin Task Force Co-Chair Linda Guerrero addressed the Council, quoting minutes from a1951 meeting that included some of the “same chronic concerns” that the city was still trying to address in 2014. However, Guerrero said that Austin had finally come a long way, and was “very close” to settling on new regulations for the lake


Guerrero asked that PUDs be added in to the overlay, noting that many of those properties were zoned LA originally. She asked Council to increase the land that would be covered by the overlay, saying, “I don’t know the exact percentage, but I just want a little more.”


Planning and Development Review’s Jerry Rusthoven said that about 13 percent of the land in the overlay was currently included in PUDs. He recommended against including PUDs, because that zoning had already been negotiated.


Council voted 6-1 to approve the Planning Commission Lake Austin Overlay recommendations, including PUDs. Mayor Lee Leffingwell voted in opposition.


Council also tentatively adopted regulations that will change how the city regulates boat dock and shoreline development.


Several people addressed Council about the proposed regulations, including consultant Bruce Aupperle, who asked for a number of changes.


He asked that the regulations be changed to allow trams, and warned that the code as currently written could have him scrambling back to Council for small details like adding a slide to a deck. Aupperle also warned that, as written, the new code was “cleverly changing the definition of a dock footprint,” by expanding it to the edge of a roof line and dock amenities.


“What’s wrong with trams?” asked Leffingwell. “Obviously, there are plenty of lots that couldn’t be accessed without trams, or mountain climbing equipment.”


Environmental Officer Chuck Lesniak explained that, under current code, trams weren’t allowed. He said that trams could create a visual and vegetative scar on the hillside, and increase erosion. He assured Council members that trams could still be allowed with a variance from the city, as is the current practice.


Council voted 7-0 to adopt the dock and shoreline regulations on first reading as recommended by the Planning Commission, though some amendments may be made in future readings, Council members largely steered clear of the details Thursday night.


Council Member Kathie Tovo was recused from the sections passed that dealt with bulkheads and docks.

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