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ZAP grudgingly OKs subdivision variance for gated community

Friday, July 18, 2014 by Elizabeth Pagano

Members of the Zoning and Platting Commission railed against the traffic flow planned for a gated community in the city’s two-mile extraterritorial jurisdiction, but finally approved the subdivision Tuesday night.

Developers were asking for a variance in order to make the subdivision streets private streets. Travis County Commissioners approved that request June 10. Because the proposed development is located in the city’s ETJ, the case was under joint review with the county.

The subdivision meets all city requirements, which limits the authority of Zoning and Platting Commissioners to vote against it. Commissioners voted 5-0 to approve the variance with Commissioners Sean Compton and Cynthia Banks absent.

The Tipco Subdivision is located at 1750 Far Gallant Drive. When complete, it will consist of 21 single-family lots on 85.27 acres. The subdivision will have access to both Far Gallant Drive and Scenic View Drive

The gating of the community won the support of neighbors but it did not impress Zoning and Platting Commissioners.

“It feels very much at odds with the comprehensive plan. I feel that by perpetuating this situation, you are only exporting a traffic problem,” said Commissioner Rahm McDaniel. “Twenty-five years from now, people are going to sit where I’m sitting and wonder why, with two bites of this apple we had, we didn’t address the lack of connectivity between these points.”

“I certainly don’t have an intrinsic problem with gated communities… The issue that I’m having here is that for 22 years that I’ve lived in Austin, I’ve wondered why you can’t get from the High Road over to the backside of Davenport Village,” said McDaniel. “I think this is a lost opportunity to fix something that should have been fixed a long time ago.”

Commissioner Gabriel Rojas also asked to be on record as opposing the gating of the subdivision.

Representing an opposing viewpoint, several neighbors were on hand to express concern about the quality of nearby roads. Several worried that if the subdivision was not gated, those roads could become overrun with traffic cutting through their neighborhood.

“If it is not gated, it will make my street a collector and it will be a major route to downtown,” said Joe Thrash, who lives on Far Gallant Drive and is a member of the Davenport Ranch subdivision.

Charles Rex Hall, Jr., who lives on Scenic View Drive, told commissioners that he believed his road had been unmaintained since the 1970s. As a result, residents had performed their own erosion and drainage fixes, building walls and curbs that made it impossible to widen the roadway. He said that, in its current state, the road was inadequate to support another subdivision and could create safety issues.

“It’s curvy, hilly and pretty significantly degraded,” said Hall. “I don’t believe this road meets any standard that is currently applicable.”

John Joseph of Coats Rose Yale Ryman and Lee, P.C., spoke on behalf of developers, explaining that the property itself was outside of the city, though some of the nearby roads were not. He came to the commission ready with a number of terms that they were willing to agree to, including privacy buffers, height limitations, road maintenance and the gating of the community.

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