Tuesday, June 17, 2014 by Elizabeth Pagano

Residents say redevelopment project doesn’t have enough parking

Rapid redevelopment projects are starting to stack up in parts of East Austin, where even pro-growth residents are beginning to ask for a little breathing room. What they got was a little more time from the Planning Commission.

 

At last Tuesday’s commission meeting, developer Mike McHone spoke on behalf of MX3 Homes LLC, which is hoping to build four townhomes at 1106 Lambie Street, just east of Interstate 35.The developers are seeking compatibility waivers that will allow them to build further into the side and front yard setbacks.

 

The group is also seeking an adjustment to the impervious cover allowed on the lot to 55 percent, but a quirk in the code means that case will not go before the Planning Commission. The Waterfront Planning Advisory Board denied the impervious cover change, and its decisions may be appealed only to City Council.

 

McHone explained that the plan is to replace an older home with four three-bedroom detached townhomes, each about 1,400 square feet. McHone said the only reason they were requesting a side-yard setback waiver from 15 feet to 5 feet is to construct decks on the backs of the homes. The front yard waiver would allow the homes to be built closer to the street – 10 feet instead of 25 feet.

 

Neighbors say the proposal is too ambitious for the lot. They told the commission that they were concerned that the plan did not provide adequate parking.

 

Brad Maples told the commission that nearby neighbors were pro-development and wanted an opportunity to work with developers. He explained the single biggest problem was with the parking on the site, which is currently two tandem spaces in a driveway for each unit.

 

“We’re convinced this is not going to function adequately in practice,” said Maple. “We think the more-likely scenario is that one car will park in the carport area, and the other one or two cars per unit will end up parking in the alley…or on adjacent streets. Collectively, as a group, we’ve watched this very scenario play out in our neighborhood as it continues to undergo redevelopment.”

 

McHone said that he believed the waivers were in compliance with the Imagine Austin Plan.

 

“We have a situation where the Imagine Austin Plan is a little bit ahead of the existing ordinances. We know that those ordinances are being redrafted. We really believe that we are creating a situation where we’ll have four workforce kind of homes in the inner city, which are very much needed,” said McHone.

 

Neighbor Kevin Burns, who is also the CEO of Urbanspace, took issue with the idea that the project would provide workforce housing, and guessed the average sales price for the units would be in the $420,000 to $475,000 price range.

 

“I looked at the lot. They purchased the lot for $300,000. You can make sense of doing a two-unit project all day long. It makes sense as a two-unit project. It makes sense as a three-unit project. The fourth unit is just absolutely extra gravy,” said Burns.

 

This argument appeared to gain some traction with Commissioner Brian Roark.

 

“The city is talking so much about affordability these days. It’s become the catchword for developers to use to make more profit when they are trying to cram too much into a small lot,” said Roark. “It basically means more money for the developer.”

 

McHone told commissioners that the waivers would simply allow for a better design, and that they could put four units on the land without waivers. Burns said this might be true, but suspected the townhomes would no longer have three-bedrooms. He said the neighborhood would not oppose smaller units.

 

The Planning Commission voted unanimously to postpone the case to July 8 in order to allow developers time to work with the neighborhood.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

City of Austin Planning Commission: This commission addresses issues of land use as assigned to it by Austin's City Code. These include the abilities "[t]o make and amend a master plan, recommend approval or disapproval of proposed zoning changes and control land subdivision within neighborhood planning areas and submit, annually, a list of recommended capital improvements." It has sovereign authority, or the right to make final decisions on certain cases.

Imagine Austin: The city's comprehensive plan, adopted in June 2012.

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