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old bee caves road

Landowner offers environmental concessions, gets commission approval for restricted covenant updates

Monday, October 22, 2018 by Jessi Devenyns

Down in Southwest Austin, behind the Oak Hill HEB, is an undeveloped 18-acre parcel of land that is subject to a 1987 restrictive covenant.

Currently, the undeveloped land at 6901 Old Bee Caves Road is zoned for commercial use, but because the landowner wants to change the zoning to mixed-use and increase building height from 35 to 60 feet, they decided to give a little to get a little. As a concession, they are offering multiple environmental benefits to bring development restrictions a little closer to current code.

“The applicant has come to us to make this offer,” the Watershed Protection Department’s Chris Herrington told the Environmental Commission at its Oct. 17 meeting. According to him, “With the current restrictive covenant, there would be 5 to 30 times more (pollution)” than under the current code. With the compromises that the landowner is making, the figure is reduced to only 1 to 6 times more pollution.

According to Amanda Swor, who was representing the applicant with the Drenner Group, the renegotiation of this restrictive covenant is a “win-win.” When the project is considered in its full context, not only does it reduce potential pollution, but it reduces impervious cover from 65 percent to 35 percent on the site and donates 6.71 acres to the Parks and Recreation Department as well as a trail easement to the public. Furthermore, outside of the property, the landowner has worked with neighbors to fund and construct a signal light at the edge of Old Bee Caves Road and U.S. Highway 290. Both the Texas Department of Public Transportation and the city have signed off on the light.

“It’s extremely important to us that the developer and the city continue on their promise to install this signal light,” said Robert Tobiansky, a resident of the adjacent Aviara neighborhood.

Due to the multitude of changes that were listed in conjunction with the amendments to this restricted covenant, Commissioner Marisa Perales wondered why the landowner wouldn’t just terminate and replace the existing covenant instead of amending it.

Swor clarified that by adding in the requested amendments, the covenant will be effectively renegotiated, and if it is approved by City Council, there will be a brand-new restrictive covenant that contains all the new recommendations.

Herrington added that development under a new covenant would only be allowed to occur once. Afterward, all redevelopment would be subject to the current code of the day.

“If you’re going to do it, you may as well do it the right way,” said Jesus Hidalgo, the president of the Aviara neighborhood homeowners association.

With little discussion on the part of the commissioners, they voted unanimously to approve the recommendation for the requested variances. Commissioner Katie Coyne was off the dais and Chair Linda Guerrero and Commissioner Mary Ann Neely were absent.

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