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Zyle Road residents still have doubts about development

Friday, October 11, 2019 by Jack Craver

Residents of rural southwest Travis County have succeeded in getting a neighboring landowner to significantly reduce a proposed development they feared would cause safety issues in their isolated community. However, they continue to worry that a major development with inadequate safety provisions will eventually become a reality.

Artek Investments, the owner of 164 acres west of Zyle Road, has been planning to build a subdivision on the property since 2014. Its original plan was for the subdivision to include 82 homes. The developer proposed an outlet onto Morningside Drive. From there, motorists would turn onto Zyle Road, a dead-end street that connects to FM 1826.

City code generally requires new subdivisions to access two separate streets but gives staff broad discretion to grant exceptions. While staff granted the exception, neighbors furiously protested the development and the Travis County Commissioners Court agreed that the access was insufficient.

After negotiations with residents of Zyle Road, Artek filed a new plan last November that dramatically reduced the scale of the project to 30 homes.

However, at a Tuesday meeting of the Commissioners Court, a number of Zyle Road residents said they worried 30 homes is just the first phase of a larger, long-term project. Their greatest fear is that a bigger project will be built that either does not provide a second access point or provides access onto Zyle Road.

Residents urged the court to delay approving the preliminary plan for the development, which is recommended by county staff, until their concerns are addressed.

“We’re immensely concerned about our street, our safety, our kids,” resident Jim Cubberley said. “It’s very important to us that we have these things secured before we move forward. We are not immune to compromise.”

Zyle is simply not equipped to deal with the addition of significantly more vehicles, argued the residents. The 21-foot-wide road lacks sidewalks and shoulders, and has bar ditches on the side, explained Lauren Ice, an attorney hired by Friends of Zyle Road, a neighborhood group formed in response to the development.

Ice said the residents want to make sure a restrictive covenant that has been proposed between the developer and the county prohibits more than 30 homes from being built until there is a second access.

“The neighbors are not asking for a limit forever … they’re asking for that limit until a second access point is provided and with an assurance that that access point will not be Zyle Road,” she said.

“We’re really, really close to having something that everybody can live with,” she added later.

Commissioner Gerald Daugherty, who represents the area, agreed with the residents’ position and said he wanted absolute assurance from county staff that the restrictive covenant would prevent the applicant from exceeding the cap without an additional access point.

Terry Irion, an attorney representing Artek, said that was the case. For the time being, he was unsure of where the second street access would come from, but no further development will proceed without it, he said.

“I want absolutely no wiggle room on deviating from anything beyond 30 houses. I don’t care if it’s a birdhouse,” Daugherty said.

The court opted to delay action on the matter and plans to take up the issue again in two weeks.

Map courtesy of Travis County

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