Tuesday, September 3, 2019 by Jessi Devenyns

Despite reduction in size, subdivision still troubles neighbors and ZAP

After failing to get his 82-lot subdivision at 9406 Morninghill Drive approved last fall, David Knapp refiled a subdivision application for his 51-acre ranch late last year. But this time he requested the approval of a plan that would include only 30 homes and would not require a variance to forgo a second entrance to the subdivision. The zoning allows for 30 lots with one access point.

“At this point, I still don’t know if there are any (concerns),” Knapp told the Zoning and Platting Commission at its Aug. 20 meeting. However, the neighborhood felt otherwise.

“Thirty homes is what he’s proposing, but it’s not really 30 homes,” said Diane Chapa, a neighbor. “You know it, we know it.”

In the original plan for the subdivision, the developer presented a plan with 82 single-family lots. However, the new preliminary plan includes a restrictive covenant that prohibits future development of the land south of the creek that runs through Knapp’s property and would limit the number of homes to 30. The creek previously presented a hurdle for the development because it necessitated building a bridge to access both sides of the property as well as a second entrance to the subdivision – an addition to the landscape that would have required a variance.

Lauren Ice, who is representing the neighborhood on the case, explained that the wording of the covenant is precisely what concerns her. She said what was submitted officially was “significantly different” than the draft she had worked on with the owner. In order to review the language and ensure that it is restricting the future development of the property past the 30 planned homes, she requested a postponement to Sept. 17.

The commissioners agreed that more time was needed, but were hesitant to drag on a project that has already been in the works for five years. Accordingly, the case was postponed for two weeks until today, Sept. 3, with the commission voting 6-1-1. Commissioner Bruce Evans voted against the motion and Commissioner Abigail Tatkow abstained.

Commissioner Hank Smith, who voted in favor of the postponement, nevertheless explained that when it comes to the restrictive covenant, the discussion should occur between the neighbors, the Travis County Commissioners Court and the property owner. “I’d just as soon it would play out in the Commissioners Court … and us not try and interpret an agreement between a neighborhood association and the county since we’re not a party to that,” he said.

Don Perryman from the Development Services Department concurred, saying that the restrictive covenant for a property within the two-mile extraterritorial jurisdiction is not within the city’s jurisdiction.

City staff approved the proposed plat as it meets all applicable state and city code requirements. The plat has also been approved for adequate fire flow by the Travis County Fire Marshal’s Office.

Knapp, who said he had to fly out for the meeting, was opposed to any sort of postponement. “I just don’t understand why the neighbors need four more weeks to re-review this simple document,” he said.

Photo courtesy of the Google Maps.

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City of Austin Zoning and Platting Commission: The City of Austin's Zoning and Platting Commission addresses issues of land use as assigned to it by Austin's City Code. It has sovereign authority, or the right to make final decisions on certain cases.

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