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Gated neighbors ask Crestview for a change

Wednesday, March 4, 2015 by Elizabeth Pagano

Neighborhoods and developers strike deals all the time. But what happens when people move into those compromises? One group of Crestview residents says that the time has come for the newcomers to be seen as neighbors, and they are asking that a gate barring access from their development to the neighborhood be removed.

Brian Gannon, who runs the website One Crestview, spoke with the Austin Monitor on Tuesday. His site recently made waves by imploring neighbors to join him, join the Crestview Neighborhood Association and work to remove a gate that keeps residents in Crestview Station from accessing their neighborhood.

As stated on the One Crestview site, “We don’t consider ourselves to be New Crestview or Crestview II. Just Crestview. We understand that there has been a long battle to keep ‘cut-through traffic’ off neighborhood streets. But we aren’t cut-through traffic. We are your neighbors, who are unable to reach you easily because of a gate at Morrow and Easy Wind Drive. Is it ‘cut-through traffic’ when a neighbor who lives on Morrow drives to Little Deli to pick up a pizza? Of course not. It also isn’t ‘cut-through traffic’ if a neighbor south of Morrow needs to pick up a pizza at Little Deli.”

The crash gate in question is to be used in cases of emergency. It has been closed at Crestview Station, which is located at Morrow Street and Lamar Boulevard, just north of the Black Star Co-op. Gannon explained that the road wasn’t actually built until this past November, and neighbors have only really started to move into the new houses in the last few months.

Just over three years ago, the gate was a crucial point of negotiation in a zoning case. In October 2011, the Planning Commission was sympathetic to the preservation of Morrow Street, but questioned whether access to Morrow could help create a cohesive neighborhood with old and new development. In the end, commissioners recommended the rezoning unanimously — with the gate — and stipulated that the gate allow pedestrian and bicycle access.

At the time, Crestview resident Chip Harris argued in favor of restricting access, saying that otherwise the development would create unfettered access from Lamar to the neighborhood via Morrow. He warned that the last time that was allowed, traffic on Morrow rivaled that of Anderson Lane. He asked commissioners to help so that the neighborhood would “not relive that horror.”

“There is no way, physically, to control the excessive traffic on Morrow. It is too appealing,” said Harris.

However, Harris supported the fact that some houses would front Morrow Street, saying it would help make the development a part of the existing community. Gannon told the Monitor that this arrangement has proved absurd. Though the houses face Morrow, in order for residents to access their garages, they have to drive around the block and enter their garages via Lamar Boulevard. Vehicular access to their own front yards has been restricted.

There was also a skirmish over who had a say over the development during the zoning case. Highland Neighborhood Association, arguing for connectivity, claimed that it had jurisdiction over the development. The Crestview Neighborhood Association, arguing against, said this was not true, and it had always been a part of their neighborhood.

Deanna McMillan, who was then the president of the Crestview Neighborhood Association, explained her position to the commission, arguing for the gate and for community.

“I do not believe that people driving in cars is what makes the neighborhood fabric. People meeting each other and waving across the street is what creates your neighborhood,” said McMillan.

However, the situation that Gannon described was one disconnected from Crestview.

“I’m looking at Lamar right now, and it’s not moving,” said Gannon. “Basically, we can only exit via Lamar.”

Gannon further explained that there are three roads that exit to Lamar, but only one — St. John’s Avenue — has a light. And it does not have a light for left turns, so commuters have to sit through multiple light changes in order to turn left during rush hour.

“We want connectivity to make Crestview one community,” said Gannon. “I have friends that live on Pasadena and Arroyo Seco. It’s really difficult for me to get there, and for them to get here.”

Gannon told the Monitor that Morrow has several traffic-calming devices already in place, as well as sidewalks. He said the crash gate, as installed, is difficult to maneuver a bicycle around.

At this point, following the advice of City Council Member Leslie Pool’s office, Gannon is attempting to work through the Crestview Neighborhood Association. With its support, he hopes to bring a request to remove the gate back to City Hall.

This story has been modified for clarity.

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