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Commission postpones South Austin rezoning case

Tuesday, July 21, 2015 by Tyler Whitson

A handful of lots at the corner of I-35 and Chaparral Road may become a set of multifamily developments with retail and office space in the near future. But not just yet.

After much deliberation, the Zoning and Platting Commission voted 8-1 on July 7 to postpone making recommendations to City Council on two requests to rezone the lots to allow for greater density and use. Commissioners expressed hope that the developer and the neighborhood would be able to work out a compromise by the time ZAP reopens the cases on Aug. 4.

Chair Gabriel Rojas was the only commissioner who voted against the motion, having crafted his own rezoning recommendations based on comments from neighbors and Jim Wittliff, who represents the property owner.

“I’m not sure if too much more discussion would bring us any closer, but I think we have some good compromises here today,” Rojas said.

Property owner Long Real Estate Holdings LLC has asked to rezone two properties that are each composed of two or more lots. One property lies north of Chaparral Road and the other to the south. Both have eastern lots directly adjacent to the southbound I-35 service road and western lots directly adjacent to existing single-family lots.

The property owner’s intent, according to staff backup material, is to create a total of 286 multifamily residential units – 200 on the north side of Chaparral and 86 to the south – along with office and commercial units.

Long Real Estate has also proposed not to allow any vehicle access from the development to Chaparral Road, in order to decrease traffic impacts and to limit the number of vehicle trips to 2,000 per day.

Rojas proposed rezoning the lots in order to maintain less density on the two that are directly adjacent to single-family lots – thereby creating a buffer for current residents – and rezoning for more flexible density elsewhere to varying degrees. He also recommended setting height limits for certain lots in addition to the traffic-limiting proposals.

Will Larson of the Circle S Ridge Neighborhood Association said that the association’s strongest opposition to the project is the impact that it could have on traffic in the area.

“We already have a serious problem with traffic, and it is already very congested with cars. The amounts of the units they’re proposing to put on these spots would only exacerbate a very serious problem with our roads,” Larson said. He also argued that cutting off access to Chaparral Road would not be an adequate solution.

Larson added, however, that residents are not completely opposed to development of the area. “We’re always open to listen to any good idea,” he said. “We wouldn’t mind something that’s low-impact apartment housing in this area – no one has been in disagreement about that. We just don’t want two- or three-story buildings right up next to cottage houses.”

Other residents said they were worried about the development bringing additional crime to their neighborhood, as well as new neighbors looking into their windows from the development.

Though Wittliff did not respond directly to Rojas’ proposal, he said during discussion that he hopes to obtain “reasonable density” and that he would discuss compromises with residents to ensure that those living adjacent to the development do not feel exposed, among other issues.

According to staff backup material, the easternmost lots are currently developed with “auto-related uses,” and the other lots are developed with residential structures, some of which are used as offices for the existing businesses.

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