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Cooper Lane condo zoning wins initial approval

Wednesday, October 23, 2019 by Jo Clifton

After a long and contentious day dealing with questions of where the homeless may sit or lie down, and following the final vote on an equally contentious rezoning of property on East Riverside Dr., last Thursday Council  gave first round approval to rezoning for an unplatted tract in far South Austin.

The property at 7410 Cooper Lane sits on a narrow road south of Dittmar and east of South First Street. Ron Thrower represented the property owners, who are seeking townhouse and condominium residence (SF-6) district zoning. Staff recommended the zoning change from development reserve, noting that SF-6 condominiums can look more like single-family residences and Cooper Lane already has new condos, as well as other property zoned for the same type of development.

Two neighbors, on the other hand, expressed their opposition to the changes, noting likely problems with traffic and flooding.

Council received a letter from the Matthews Lane Neighborhood Association requesting single-family-2 zoning rather than the denser condominium zoning the property owners had requested.

Two neighbors, Michelle Sides and Rosy Torres, also stuck it out through the long meeting in order to speak against the zoning change. Sides told Council she lives on Cooper Lane within 500 feet of the proposed development. She said her first concern was increased flooding in an area already prone to flooding during heavy rains.

“The earth acts as a sponge, absorbing a great deal of rainfall, and if these DR (development reserve) districts … are rezoned to SF-6 zoning, “a lot of that sponge will be replaced with concrete.” But, she explained, that sponge represents the neighborhood’s “only flood prevention plan.” Sides concluded, “If we continue to rezone without making prior improvements to the rainwater drainage system, we’re inviting the predictable increased risk of flooding.”

Thrower told Council, “I just want to point out that the development of this property is going to comply with current regulations in place today and increased by the adoption of Atlas 14, which would be before y’all within a month. So we’re going to be obviously mitigating any sort of drainage impacts that we’re going to have off of this property.”

Sides said she was also concerned that Cooper Lane, a narrow road, “was built as a country road and was not built to accommodate housing developments, nor the increase of traffic that would come with rezoning the property or any properties on the southern half” of the street. However, both staff and the Zoning and Platting Commission recommended the change.

According to a report from staff, the developer of the Cooper Lane Condominiums, directly across the street from the property being considered last week, “was required to widen the pavement to accommodate a dedicated left-turn lane into that property.”

Council Member Ann Kitchen expressed her concern about the traffic and the fact that the city had not required a transportation impact analysis at this point.

Thrower said, “We suppose at the time of the site plan there would be some transportation mitigation to improve Cooper Lane, but to what extent we have not checked it yet.”

Prior to Thursday’s meeting, neighbors had gathered enough signatures – in this case, just two – for a valid petition against the zoning change. However, Thrower said both of those neighbors had withdrawn their names from the petition. Jerry Rusthoven, director of the Planning and Zoning Department, confirmed to the Austin Monitor on Monday that Thrower was correct and there was no longer a valid petition.

Council Member Kathie Tovo and Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza had already gone home by the time they voted Thursday night. The remaining nine members of Council also voted in favor of the zoning change on first reading. However, Kitchen told Thrower she wanted to make sure he met with the neighbors again to discuss their concerns about traffic.

Map courtesy of the city of Austin.

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