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Without paperwork, commissioners hear testimony on rezoning, but hold off on decision

Tuesday, January 7, 2020 by Jessi Devenyns

It’s unusual for the Zoning and Platting Commission to postpone a final plat but hear a preliminary plan for a zoning case. Yet that is exactly what commissioners did at their Dec. 17 meeting, before discovering that they could not make any final decision for the subdivision at 12001 South Interstate 35 Service Road as the backup had been scrambled.

Commissioner Hank Smith pointed out that the backup for the preliminary plan was identical to what staff had posted for the final plat approval. In both cases, the plans pertained to rezoning the South Austin property from multifamily to multifamily with right of way access and parkland. Staffers had requested a postponement of the final plat hearing to gather further information and resolve several discrepancies.

Approval of the final plat is contingent upon the commission’s initial approval of the preliminary plan.

“It’s actually a little unusual to see one postponement, not both,” noted Chair Jolene Kiolbassa.

Following the revelation that the backup did not correspond to the case at hand, staff members approached the commission to request postponement of both plans to today’s date.

“I think that’s appropriate,” said Commissioner Smith. While the commission unanimously postponed the case, it did agree to hear testimony from citizens who attended the meeting.

Carl Irvin, whose family owns the property adjoining the 58-acre parcel, told the commission he was in favor of growth in the southern reaches of Austin. However, due to lack of communication on the part of the city, his family was left out of negotiations for a joint entry agreement between the properties. Development without the involvement of all interested parties, he explained, will lead to a less favorable design in the long run.

“We even made a late offer to amend some of (the proposed plan) for access. But I guess it was too late in the program,” he said.

The result of not being looped into communications between the developers and the city, he said, is the loss of 40 percent, or 320 feet, of his property frontage to a deceleration lane. Since the family was made aware of the final plat plans, there has been some compromise worked out between the property owners. “The applicant has tried to make an adjustment with some kind of stub-out,” said Irvin. “It doesn’t really give direct access, but it is a step in the right direction.”

Another nearby neighbor, Justin Spillman, spoke against the project, saying that without direct exit access to the highway, there was a potential safety hazard in case of fire. Additionally, he noted that treating development in a piecemeal fashion would not lead to a comprehensive, regionally planned approach that would benefit the area.

“This (development) abuts one of the most complicated intersections in the city,” said Commissioner Jim Duncan, who asked commissioners and staff to further consider if the subdivision was designed in the appropriate context with the necessary facilities and considerations to encourage future development in the area.

One of these considerations, according to Commissioner Nadia Barrera-Ramirez, is access management and safety. Although the final plat is on its way before the commission today, she encouraged the developer to consider an option to consolidate driveways for long-term ease of access.

Without the correct plans at hand, the commission voted to postpone a vote on the case. Commissioner Ann Denkler was absent.

Map courtesy of Google Maps.

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