ZAP backs project on Spicewood Springs Road despite objections
Monday, June 2, 2014 by Elizabeth Pagano
The Zoning and Platting Commission gave its blessing to more commercial zoning on Spicewood Springs Road at its last meeting, despite worries from neighbors that the change would just lead to more problems for residents of the area.
The proposed Overlook at Spicewood Springs site is between MoPac Boulevard and Loop 360, at 4920 Spicewood Springs Road. Project Manager Scott Taylor explained that office buildings are around the site. Moreover, the road is classified as a core transit area, making the switch to commercial zoning one that city staff can support.
Commissioner Jason Meeker said he was concerned that they did not have more information about the site and its environmental features. Other commissioners noted those were features more appropriately addressed at the site plan part of the process, not zoning, but Meeker didn’t back down.
“I feel like we are being asked to make a decision based on a site plan that we’ve been presented. That’s why I’m already jumping to that stage. I’m looking at a site plan tonight,” said Meeker. “I’ve been mesmerized by drawings and artist’s renderings tonight. I’ll have to go with what I’ve already seen.”
Meeker also expressed empathy for those who worried that the project would add more traffic to an overburdened Spicewood Springs Road.
Neighbor Kyle Read explained the road was only two lanes at that point, and noted that long-promised improvements to it have yet to materialize.
“It seems as though we are getting the horse before the cart. We’re building all these buildings over there, but we’re not doing anything about the roads. It makes it a heap of trouble for an old guy like me trying to get in and out,” said Read. “I’m just a little bit to the right of John Birch as far as property is concerned. I think a man ought to be able to do what he wants to do within reason. But if you are shutting down a whole subdivision who wants to get in and out of their homestead, I think that’s a problem.”
Taylor said that plans for the building had been scaled back to 18,000 square feet from 24,000 square feet. He said that he had tried to keep the building in scale with the office buildings around it, and tried to keep it as low-profile as possible.
Jay Sands spoke against the zoning, and worried that the zoning would “encroach into an area where we really shouldn’t be doing anything.”
Sands expressed concern that the project could end up like the nearby Austin Board of Realtor’s building, saying the backside of that office was “the primary view now of everyone on that side of the valley.”
“I’m not opposed to commercial development on this strip. Obviously, you’re not going to build single family homes on Spicewood Springs. It’s just a matter of having a building that blends into the area,” said Sands.
Karen Cerroni also spoke against the zoning change. She said that environmental concerns were of the “utmost importance” in her mind.
Taylor tried to allay these fears, saying that the project was more likely to improve water quality by filtering pollutants and road runoff before it hits the water quality zones.
Developers have subdivided a larger 23-acre lot in order to create a 4-acre parcel that they would like to be zoned General Office (GO). The remaining land, which is not along Spicewood Springs Road, will remain Single Family (SF-2.) On the commercially-zoned land, they propose to build a two-story office building with parking underneath. Though the building will be compliant with most Limited Office building standards, Taylor said that they had asked for the more-intense zoning in order to reduce the front setback.
That setback reduction will keep the building as far away from the ridgeline on the property, which is considered a Critical Environmental Feature (CEF.)
Commissioners opted, in a 5-1 vote, to grant GO zoning with a conditional overlay that restricts the site to LO development standards, except for the front setback, with Meeker voting in opposition. Commissioner Rahm McDaniel was absent.
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