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ZAP favors half of zoning case

Tuesday, October 23, 2018 by Alyx Wilson

In the end, the Zoning and Platting Commission approved a rezoning for 200 feet of a property just east of U.S. Highway 183 at 7712 FM 969. However, the approval was made not exactly at the recommendation of staff or at the request of the applicant, and not without an interruption from a neighbor with concerns of possible items of archaeological value in the land.

Harley Hitchcock, a neighbor of the tract in question who owns a chunk of land east of Rogers Lane walked up to the dais after the public hearing had been closed to ask if he could speak.

The commissioners were glad to have civilian interest and told him he could speak when they asked him questions during the discussion period.

“There is archaeology in this land that dates back 3,000 or 4,000 years, and there was no archaeological work done,” Hitchcock said. “I think it would be remiss if we didn’t look at this.”

Commissioner Betsy Greenberg explained that the commission had heard previous concerns about the possibility of artifacts being on the land, but that the city had no authority to require that the land be examined.

“I’m a religious man,” said Hitchcock.”Our Heavenly Father told me that there was artifacts on our land: diamonds and rubies, and gold.”

The commissioners found that they were unable to make any motions to suggest that the city voice some concern with the issue of historical land, but Greenberg made a friendly suggestion to Chair Jolene Kiolbassa that she write a letter addressing the concerns of the commission to the Historic Preservation Office and to City Council.

“It sounds like if there has been things that have been found on his land, then he wants to make sure that if they’re found on this land, then they are handled appropriately,” she said.

“I am going to reach out to the historical commission and see if there is anything they can tell me with regards to information about this property,” said Heather Chaffin with the Planning and Zoning Department.

The commissioners voted to recommend rezoning only the front 200 feet of the land to Neighborhood Commercial-Mixed Use (LR-MU) zoning for commercial, retail, and office purposes as opposed to staff’s recommendation of the front 350 feet. The commission chose to leave the rest of the tract as Single Family Residence-Standard Lot (SF-2) instead of the requested and recommended Townhouse & Condominium Residence (SF-6) zoning.

Owner Saqib Ali holds the 22.48 acres of land in Northeast Austin and is hoping to turn the front 10.4 acres into a retail and commercial use area, while reserving the back half of the property for possible townhomes and condominiums.

“This property has a lot of trees and creeks. It’s really hard to lay a subdivision out on a property like that because you can’t cluster the homes like you could with SF-6 zoning that would allow for townhomes and condominiums,” said Chaffin.

Regardless of the reasoning, the commission decided to stick with the SF-2 zoning in order to stay homogeneous with the surrounding neighborhoods. According to Chaffin, the surrounding neighbors have also formed a valid petition that would force the vote at the third reading at Council to pass at a supermajority rather than a simple majority for whatever the final zoning is at that time.

The motion passed 7-1 with Commissioner Bruce Evans opposed.

Map courtesy of the city of Austin.

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